FLOCK

felted wool as a poly-quality mono-material

Non-wovens are neither woven or knitted fabrics as they are formed through mechanically, thermally or chemically bonded fibres.

History

Market today

Felting is considered the oldest textile manufacturing technique and is deeply rooted in European culture, as felt was historically used by shepherds for weather-resistant coats and by soldiers for fire-resistant armour. Felt caps symbolised freedom for freed slaves in Rome and were adopted during the French Revolution. Today, manual felt production has largely declined in Europe due to the rise of industrial felt production. The nonwovens market today is dominated by synthetic fibres and few large companies. Thus, 99% of the nonwovens are made from synthetic fibres mostly used for short-lived hygiene-wipes.

Properties

Advantages of The Felting Process

Woollen felt possess several fundamental advantages: it is highly resistant to tearing and abrasion as well as easily repairable through mechanical re-felting. The material does not require additional steps like sewing seams, as the felting process integrates them directly, saving costs, time, and machinery. Felt does not fray at cut edges, eliminating the need for extra seams to prevent fraying. Unlike other textile manufacturing processes, the felting process is a direct fibre-to-textile process, bypassing spinning and weaving. This simplifies and shortens the manufacturing process, making it more cost-effective. One of the greatest advantages of woollen felt is its ability to be adapted through purely mechanical means, without any additives or binding agents. This makes woollen felt a highly customizable mono-material with various qualities.

Technique

Needle Felting

In this case wool is felted purely mechanically by the needle felting process. The felting needle is equipped with barbs on its shaft, which interlock the individual wool fibres when pushed into the wool and pulled out again. A widely branched and dense network of wool fibres is created – the felt.

between Craft and industry

This process can be used on both small and large scales. In crafting, a few needles at a time are inserted into the wool by hand, allowing for high flexibility and customization and creating diverse two-dimensional and three-dimensional geometries. On an industrial scale, two-dimensional felting is created by passing wool fleece through a wide, electrically operated comb of felting needles. Generally industrial felt is often made with synthetic fibres, which are shaped under heat to create both two-dimensional fabrics and three-dimensional objects. The process presses various synthetic fibres together, creating an inseparable mass that complicates recycling. This creates a dilemma in felt production: the flexible, detailed, but labour-intensive three-dimensional hand processing versus the faster, uniform, but less accessible two-dimensional processing with synthetic fibres.

new tools - new possibilities

A smaller, more flexible felting machine with the possibility for modifications in combination with a robotic arm offers flexibility and repeatability in the manufacturing process, less physical labour, as well as the creation of three-dimensional structures from wool without other support structures. This includes processing wool homogeneously for consistent properties and creating precisely smooth transitions between qualities, allowing for customizable patterns with contrasting material properties.