A soft, durable and fashionable fabric, felt has been featured in contemporary clothing collections, including those from London’s Stella McCartney and American designer Bill Blass. Although the fabric is a staple in accessories — it’s one of the key materials in making hats — felt is also popular in tops, jackets and outerwear. Available in many thicknesses, colors and prints, the fabric can be used for A-line tunics, sculptural blazers and loose-fitting swing coats.
One of the more notable attributes of felt is its warmth. Because the fibers are meshed and not woven together during the felting process, there are no small gaps between fibers, as is prevalent in weaving. Clothing made out of dense felt is resistant to the elements, including wind and cold. Felt is a great insulator, and the clothing tends to retain the heat generated by the body.
Felt clothing can last a long time with the proper garment care and pest prevention. Felt is wrinkle resistant, meaning clothing can look crisp even after frequent wear. Felt is more resistant to abrasion than other woolen fabrics, such as tweeds and twills, because it doesn’t fray or unravel. As a result, parts of a garment that receive a lot of stress, such as the elbow area, are less likely to erode with friction.
Disadvantage: Care Difficulties
Cleaning felt clothing is problematic. Felt clothing can’t be tossed into the washing machine, as it’s prone to shrink in warm or hot water. Moreover, the wet wool can become misshaped in the washing machine. As a result, most clothing manufacturers recommend dry cleaning the felt clothing or washing it by hand. When choosing the latter, use a detergent that’s formulated for wool fabrics and scrub stains gently with a soft bristle brush.
Like other woolen materials, clothing made from felt is susceptible to moth damage. When felt is worn close to the body, the wool absorbs sweat and moisture, which are the primary water sources for moths. As the pests feed on the clothing, they create holes in the fabric, which can ruin the garment. Investing in pest prevention — moth balls, cedar closets or insecticides — might be necessary to protect felt clothing.
References and ResourcesStyle.com: Stella McCartney
Felting Fashion: Creative and Inspirational Techniques for Feltmakers; Lizzie Houghton; 2009
Eco Fashion World: Fashioning Felt Fever
Felt Fashion: Couture Projects From Garments to Accessories; Jenne Giles; 2010