How to chose a fleece for felting

With more and more people interested in the fiber arts, especially with the 2020 lock downs, we have more people contacting us about felting their own fiber. Many have neighbors willing to "give" them free fiber, which is not always a great idea. We would suggest to read our page on selecting a wool fleece, not only for strength and soundness, but for the proper use for the fleece. Not all fleeces are created equal.

For the purpose of this writing, we will concentrate on fleeces for wet felting, but will touch on the 2 processes.

It is our opinion, at Spinderella's Creations,  that to actually create a finished fabric, the fiber needs to be wet felted to lock the fibers in place. Many people needle felt tiny critters , while most textiles are wet felted. 

WET FELTING

Wet Felt is the process involving soap, water, wool or other felt-able fibers, and friction. Moisture goes into the core of the fiber causing them to swell, pushing out the scales surrounding the core. The agitation of the fibers by your hands, or a rolling machine, help lock the fibers in place. 

 

​Fulling refers to the use of heat, moisture and extreme agitation to make a wool fabric becoming stronger. When a piece is being fulled, the fibers continue to move, or another word you will hear is migrate, and tangle on each other. Even though the size of the fiber diameter does not change, the air between the fibers is removed as they tangle around each other, and the  fabric "shrinks".

 

Not all wool can be wet felted.

workshop of manufacturing of felt for be

NEEDLE FELTING

Needle Felt is the process of interlocking fibers through a repeated "stabbing" motion with special barbed felting needle. A felting needle is designed with tiny barbs along the sides of its tapered point. When the needle is pushed into the wool, the fibers get caught on the barbs, tangling them to form a matted bond.

Because you’re stabbing the fibers over and over again, you will want to use a foam pad that protects the needles from breaking as well as giving you a firm surface to work on. Animals are a popular item to needle felt since it allows for real-life fuzziness of the critters.

 

Most fleeces can be needle felted

Process of felting a toy from a wool on

Understand that there are literally 100's of different breeds of sheep to chose from. All of these can be very different even within the breed itself. Many factors contribute to the quality of the fleeces, from nutrition to selective breeding. Many a sheep has come from a specific need, from clothing to rugs and everything in between.  

How do you figure it all out? In our opinion, it takes a lifetime. Yes, you can train your hands to feel the fleece and have an educated guess as to how it should be used, but often times you will be surprised at what can be accomplished. Remember .... we are fiber artists- there are general rules, but creativity is king- or queen. :-)

To make it easier, wool is grouped into categories of similar characteristics. In the fiber arts world - not everyone uses the same categories and some use no category at all. But again- there are general rules for a starting point. You will find that even within the breed there will be variations. This is where actually choosing your own fleece, by experience, will help.

We have compiled a list of breeds we have worked with over the 30+ years, and know these felt well. Lynn enjoys wet felting, and often a combination of long wools and fine downy fleece does the trick. Understand this is not an exhaustive list, but one to get you started on your way of understanding the wonderful world of wool fleeces available to us .

*DC = Duel Coat        *LW= Long Wool

Fine Fleece 

  • Merino                         18 - 22 microns                60 - 80's Bradford Count 

  • Rambouilette              19 - 25 microns                64 - 80's Bradford Count

  • Delaine                        19 - 25 microns                62 - 80's Bradford Count

  • Debouilette                 19 - 25 microns                60 - 64's Bradford Count

  • CVM & Bond               19 - 25 microns                60 - 80's Bradford Count

Medium Fine Fleece 

  • Cormo                         22 - 25 microns                58 - 64's Bradford Count 

  • Targhee                       23 - 26 microns                58 - 64's Bradford Count

  • Polwarth                      22 - 26 microns                50 - 60's Bradford Count

  • Finn                              25 -32 microns                 50 - 60's Bradford Count

Medium Fleece 

  • Columbia                                    24 - 31 microns                54 - 58's Bradford Count 

  • Shetland (DC)                             26 - 27 microns                54 - 58s Bradford Count 

  • Corriedale                                   26 - 34 microns                46 - 58's Bradford Count

  • Icelandic (DC)                     

    • Tog ( outer)                           27- 30 microns                  56 - 60's Bradford Count

    • Thel ( under)                         19 -22 microns                  64 - 70's Bradford Count  ( fine)

  • Blue Face Leicester  (LW)           27 - 30 microns                 56 - 60's Bradford Count 

  • Polypay  (LW)                               26 - 32 microns                 48 - 58's Bradford Count 

Medium -Course Fleece 

  • Gotland                               28 - 32 microns                 48 - 52's Bradford Count 

  • Perendale                            28 - 34 microns                 46 - 52's Bradford Count

  • Jacob                                   32 - 36 microns                 44 - 52's Bradford Count

  • Leicester Longwool            31 - 36 microns                 44 - 56's Bradford Count  (LW)

  • Romney                               31 - 36 microns                 40 - 46's Bradford Count  (LW)

  • Coopworth                          31 - 36 microns                 44 - 48's Bradford Count  (LW)

  • Wensleydale                        31 - 36 microns                 44 - 48's Bradford Count  (LW)

  • Border Leicester                 31 - 36 microns                 44 - 48's Bradford Count  (LW)

  • Lincoln                                 34 - 40 microns                 44 - 46's Bradford Count  (LW)

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