Felt is as old as the world!
Well, as old as sheep, actually.
It is said to be the first type of fabric created by humans, and that makes sense. It is a simple discovery: if you rub the loose hairs from a sheep's coat repeatedly with water and soap, a piece of textile is formed.
The strongest quality is achieved by layering thin layers of wool in a staggered pattern, with all the fibers facing the same direction. Then, another layer of wool is placed on top, with the fibers perpendicular to the previous layer. This layering process can continue until the desired thickness is reached. Afterwards, the layers are moistened with water and soap, and the lengthy process of rubbing and rolling begins. By using warm to hot water (which also causes wool to shrink), the process can be accelerated and the result becomes stronger.
Finally, in the last step of the process, the felted fabric is vigorously treated by fulling. In this process, the felted fabric is repeatedly thrown forcefully onto a work surface. The strong impacts cause the fibers to intertwine even more tightly, resulting in a "fuller" fabric.
How was felt made and used in the past?
There are numerous known applications of felt from ancient times until now, such as for nomadic tents, carpets, clothing, and other useful items like bags and baby carriers. Because felt can be incredibly strong, it was also used in the early Middle Ages for protective clothing against arrows. For example, a type of breastplate was made from it, saving many lives. However, the felt had to be of excellent quality and thoroughly "fulled."
It is fascinating to see how this process was carried out in ancient cultures. A piece of felt was wrapped around a sawn-off tree trunk and tied behind a horse or camel. As they galloped, the felt would repeatedly strike the ground, achieving the "fulling" process without requiring human effort.
Another way to make felt with less effort, especially for large pieces, is to use feet and legs instead of hands and arms. Multiple people would stand in a row and simultaneously roll a round stick with an evolving felt fabric, alternating between their left and right feet. It is a beautiful group activity accompanied by singing to support the rhythm of the movements.
What are the advantages of felt?
Felt is a purely natural material made from 100% sheared wool. The sheep can continue to live happily and be sheared again the following year. Sheep are essential for grazing our landscapes and help maintain several unique plant species through simultaneous fertilization.
Felt can feel very hard and stiff or very soft and flexible, depending on the sheep breed, their habitat (climate), and how the wool is processed into felt.
It is well-known that wool objects are excellent at absorbing sound waves. Therefore, felt cushions and especially felt wall hangings are often used in spaces with poor acoustics. Zenza's cushions and wall hangings can be beautifully combined with each other, creating a pleasant effect on both the visual and auditory aspects of the interior.
Where are Zenza's felt cushions and felt wall tapestries made?
Zenza always ensures that the products it sells are produced fairly and sustainably. For our felt designs, we have partnered with a women's project in Nepal. We personally visited the project and taught the women how to make our cushions and wall hangings, which they had never done before. In their rural community, there are few opportunities for these women to find employment, so this project beautifully meets their needs.
What type of wool is used for the felt?
The wool chosen by Zenza for the felt cushions and wall hangings comes from the merino sheep. This particular breed produces very soft and non-itchy products while still being incredibly strong.
There are numerous sheep breeds worldwide, and each breed has a fleece with unique characteristics. Therefore, choosing the right type of fleece for the intended product is crucial.
Felt can also be made from other animal fibers, such as llama, camel, or even dog hair! However, no other fleece is as suitable for use as sheep's wool.