There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t get a question for help or advice in my email.
By far, the most misunderstood subject and most asked question I get is about the differences between Wool Felt and Felted Wool.
For those of us who work with wool, we know that there is a difference. But those who are new to Penny Rugs and working with wool, it is confusing. Most who are just starting, think that it’s the same thing.
Wool Felt and Felted Wool are completely different. One is Felt material and the other is Wool fabric.
They look and feel different.
I’m going to attempt to explain the differences.
First, we start with the common factor, which is of course …
Sheep are sheered which creates the wool fiber.
The wool fiber is cleaned and combed to create the wool roving…
Wool Felt is tightly compressed wool fibers.
Using lots of moisture and heat, the fibers are rubbed and compacted together … much like the matted hair on a dog or cat or dreadlocks… the fibers are compressed tightly and that creates the felt.
Or if you’ve ever made handmade paper … the process is similar.
100% wool felt tends to be stiff and rough so to make the felt more pliable and soft, it is mixed with rayon fibers to create a blend.
Most wool felt that is used for penny rugs are a wool and rayon blend.
The wool felt blend is usually a 65% rayon/35% wool blend. This type of wool felt can easily be found in lots of assorted colors. Joann Fabrics has a nice selection of it. It’s found in the aisle with their bolts of regular craft felt. Once you actually see it and touch it, you’ll know the difference between it and regular Wool fabric.
The rayon blend of wool felt is ideal for penny rugs because when the fabric is washed, the little bit of wool that is in it shrinks, and the wool felt becomes soft and puffy when dried. It’s pretty important that it’s washed before using, otherwise the wool felt looks just like regular cheap craft felt. (that last sentence could possibly be my own opinion…some might like the look of the unshrunk woolfelt).
Once it’s washed and shrunk, it becomes … Felted wool felt.
The rayon blend of wool felt is a lot less expensive than 100% wool so your projects will still look nice, without that high expense of using 100% wool.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that wool felt can not be used for traditional rughooking. But for penny rugs, wool felt is a perfect substitute for 100% wool fabric.
Felted wool is wool fabric which has been washed and dried with heat.
To create felted wool, the wool fabric must be created first!
The wool roving/fiber must first be spun into thread …
The wool thread is then woven to create the fabric, much like any fabric is created. Cotton fabric is made the same way, only using cotton threads.
We buy the wool fabric, bring it home and then deliberately throw it into the washing machine, set the washer to “HOT” water wash and let the washer and dryer shrink our fabric. The shrinking condenses those fibers and that wool fabric become thick and soft and fluffy. The threads in the fiber won’t unravel, so it’s perfect for penny rugs or rughooking because unlike cotton, the edges stay intact without fraying.
Wool fabric from knitted or crocheted sweaters and scarves may also be washed and felted and used for penny rugs, but …
Knitted or crocheted items use wool yarn instead of wool thread.
The yarn, since it’s thicker than thread, creates a thicker felted wool. If it’s not felted enough, the yarns will pull away and unravel. Because the knitted/crocheted felted fabric is so thick, it can’t be used for rughooking and has limited use for penny rugs.
I hope that helps with the wool felt / felted wool confusion.
Since I don’t use wool felt, I have limited knowledge of it. If you do work with it and can think of anything else that should be mentioned about the differences, please write it in the comments … or email me and I’ll add it onto this entry.
(Note: all of the pictures shown in this entry, except for the cute little sheep, were found in Google Images. If you are the owner of one of these pictures and don’t wish it to be used, please let me know and I’ll remove it.)
Happy Day Everyone!