A difference between machine-made and handmade felt can be tricky, so I decided to write about it in the first place to dispel any doubts. But what is felt at all? Let’s start from the very beginning.
Once, when I was participating in a craft fair, my customer asked me, what my products were made of. I replied that they were made of wool. The customer said: “I thought it was felt!”. And, actually, we were both right.
Felt is a non-woven fabric of matted fibers. But, and this is what makes most people confused, there are two main types of it:
Machinemade technical felt
It is a mass-produced textile. It may consist of synthetic or natural fibers which are pressed and treated with steam or high temperatures. This kind of felt is used in many industries for gaskets, seals, tapes, etc. You can also buy it in many art supply stores in the form of colored sheets which are known as craft felt.
It is an artistic textile created by a feltmaker. It consists of wool fibers and neither pressure nor high temperatures are used to create it. Only muscle strength, soap and water. This kind of felt is natural, much softer, irregular and has much more artistic look. Hand-felted items are usually designed at the fiber level and do not require stitching.
With this piece of explanation you should be able to distinguish between these two types of felt easily. Of course, there are some tricky cases, such as felted clothes. They may have stitches, although the felt itself can be made by hand. Similarly, bags are created both of handmade felt and technical felt.
If you are still not sure whether you really understand the difference, you can browse through the pictures in my shop. It will give you a very good idea of what handmade felt looks like, as all my items are made by hand. And if you want to know how I create felt in my studio starting from wool fibers, you can read my description of wet felting technique, in which I explain this process step by step.