As mentioned, the process of creating felt can be pretty labour intensive, involving various steps of blending the fibres, matting the material, shrinking and steam-pressing. However, the most straightforward method is simply to apply heat and moisture which causes the mix of fibres to merge and blend together. You can even do this yourself at home to any wool or knitted products – pop it in the washing machine for a process known as ‘felting’ or ‘fulling’ – the same thing that happens when you accidentally shrink that woollen jumper!
Wool felt is one of the oldest known textiles. The location of its origin is debated, with many cultures having their own origin legends for the process. However, it is thought to have been created over 5000 years ago in Asia. The method is still practised by Nomadic peoples in Asia to make tents, rugs and clothing, including traditional yurts and more tourist oriented items such as decorative slippers. One commonly told origin story is that during the Middle Ages, men lined their sandals with wool for comfort. Over time, the fibres in the wool became interlocked and felted as a result of the moisture, warmth and recurring pressure from being walked on.