Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wool Felt & Felted Wool <—What’s the Difference??

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 Sheep!  Well, wool can come from other animals too … camels and llamas for example but sheep are the most commonly used.

Sheep are sheered which creates the wool fiber.

The wool fiber is cleaned and combed to create the wool roving…

il_570xN_12390466 It’s at this point where the differences between Wool Felt and Felted Wool are created.


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.

That process shrinks the fabric to make it thick and soft.wool-stack

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!


Michelle~Sugar House Creations said...

Great post. I think you explained it very well. :) I started with a wool blend felt from Wool Felt Central and have since started to use 100% wool as it's just so nice to work with. I will still play around with the felt as it's great to try out new ideas with it, but I am in love with 100% wool! :)

Shakerwood said...

Excellent answer, Cathy. People ask me the same question while I am at shows. I have them feel my hand-dyed wool and then visit another vendor that sell the Wool Felt. Doesn't take long for them to figure out the difference (and the difference in price).

Anne said...

Great explanation. Would you mind if I posted something on my blog about it and linked them to you?

Susan said...

This is a wonderful post, one I really needed to read. I am starting to collect a wool stash and I've found a local quilt shop with a very nice supply of both. Now I know what to look for even at JoAnn's...thanks.

Anonymous said...

sing along with me....
Bah, Bah black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. Woops, make that 2 bags- Cathy just bought some more!

Casserole Carol

Gert said...

Very interesting...thanks for sharing!!

xoxo Gert

HighSteamCC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shirlene Hinsey said...

Very well presented! But which do you think gives more warmth, the felt or the felted one? My best friend normally use felt wool carpet in her flat in Indianapolis but I’m sure she does not know the difference of the two, neither. Do they also have different cleaning process?

gail said...

I bought 100% wool fabric at JoAnn Fabric and could not for the life of me get it to felt. Thanks so much for the post. I will keep looking at our small thrift shop for a wool coat to work on.

Caths Pennies said...

Gail, try soaking that 100% wool from Joann's in some hot soapy water. Use shampoo and let it soak for about an hour. Rinse it out and then throw it in your washer. You should notice some felting. Depending on the wool, sometimes it does take 3 sometimes 4 wash cycles to get it to felt well.
I've never used Joann Fabrics wool but someone once told me that it's imported from another country. Not sure if that's true or not but the quality might be different because of it. I'm happy with wool from American sheep.

gail said...

I love your post and have felted several pieces since reading it. I am still learning about choosing the right thicknesses of fabric to use. Do you know if you can felt camel fabric? I bought a nice jacket at a resell shop and I hate to ruin it if there is no chance of it felting.

Caths Pennies said...

Hi Gail, I've felted Camel hair wool and it felted wonderfully! It's exceptionally soft and it's like stitching through butter!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post with really helpful info. i spent hours and hours stitching a tablerunner using wool felt. when it was finished i set a vase in the center of it. i moved the vase about three days later and found that the felt was dented from the vase. the dent wouldn't come out. all that time i spent making it only to have it with a permanant dent. I only use real wool now no more cheep wool felt.
wool felt is hamburger. felted wool is steak.
I'm Beverly. I'm the one that ordered 2 of the same patterns by mistake from you and you kindly refunded me. i bought your floral beauty pattern and i love it.

Donna said...

I've been looking for the felted wool I think. Is it very soft and pliable? How thick is it??
Thanks, Donna

Caths Pennies said...

Felted wool is fluffy & soft. The thickness of the felted wool depends on the type of wool. Coat weight/blanket weight wool is the thickest type. Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just email me so that I can respond to you by email.

Mrschief28 said...

My mother has a 50 year old loden cape with which she refuses to part. It has several small holes from insects. Is there a way to repair this cloak?

Maxine Fischer said...

Gail, some wool will not felt, Even if it is 100%. Stay away from crepes, worsted, gabardines and anything labeled as washable.

Carpet cleaning in Epsom said...

Wow! I didn't know the difference before. Thanks for posting, I learned a lot from this.

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Anonymous said...

It takes a washer with an agitator to felt wool. Modern front loaders just won't work. Go to a laundry mat. Be careful not to let it go too long in the washer or dryer or it will shrink too much. Thrift store wool suits, blazers and even men's ties felt nicely and add texture and pattern to your stash. Use the wool fibers they produce in a pin cushion to keeps needles and pins from rusting.

Anonymous said...

I have a wool stash larger then some stores....grinnn. I am a rug hooker, so my stash is 100% wool & so is my yarn. I decided to tak e a one on one class to do wool applique. I needed to do something else with all this wool besides rugs. I am 70 years old, so my stash will outlive me its so big.....LOL I discovered Cath's on line and am ordering a couple candle matt patterns to give it a whirl. I'm in Canada and it was so nice to see a place that will ship at no charge to me as well as in the USA.....thanks for that Cath......that alone will make me a repeat cutomer one Iv'e done a project. Im sure the ladies at my rug hooking club will jump on the band wagon too.....LOL

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