Felting Wool: An introduction to Batts, Roving, Tops, Carded, Combed, Locks, Curls
Felting Wool has many names - here is a quick guide to what each means and their uses. Further notes to follow...
Batts / Carded
|The fleece is washed, teased out, and carded into batts (large thick sheets of wool). The short fibres go in different directions and the wool can be broken off in handfuls, thin sheets, or a long strip.||
Great for 3d shaping, 2d (pictures / butterflies / flowers), a good all rounder!
Can also be wet felted.
Super quick to felt down!
|This tends to be a cheaper and not necessarily such nice looking wool which shapes quickly and easily, so that you can make the inside of the project from core wool, and then use your nice wools for the top coat.||
Our Shetland: a light white which shapes quickly and easily and is nice enough to leave showing for a top coat.
Our Basic Core wool: A cheaper alternative, good for adding bulk.
Our Lanolin Rich Core Wool: A brilliant sticky wool, great for quckly making shapes, wrapping armature, and good for your hands! Plus it is organic!
Tops / Roving / Pencil Roving / Combed
|The fleece is washed, carded, and then combed to align the fibres into the same direction (they look like combed hair) and remove shorter fibres. The wool looks like a long snake or rope and is broken off in lengths, which can then be split apart into thinner lengths. This is most commonly found as Merino wool which is a very straight, fine fibre, but could be any breed.||
Merino Tops: Great for wet felting (with soap and water), surface colouring, our needle felted water soluble paper flowers (free flower tutorial here)
Ryeland / Texel Roving: We get this from our local farmer and is amazing for wrapping armatures (free tutorial here), we have found nothing better!!
Curls / Locks / Fleece
|This may be washed or unwashed. Some breeds such as Cotswold, Teesdale, Blue Faced Leicester have beautiful big long lustrous curls or locks, while others have a more frizzy-looking fleece. A whole fleece refers to the entire fleece as shorn from the sheep and can weigh a few kilos.||
Long curls / locks: great for fairy hair, unicorn manes, gnome / santa beards.
Curls add texture to a picture and make great clouds, waves, sheep etc.
Our Leicester Curls are tiny little curls and great for little sheep.
|Raw / Unwashed||This fleece is 'straight off the sheep' and will contain lanolin which feels 'greasy' and is great for your hands and may give the wool a darker yellow colour (lightens when washed). It may also contain slightly more vegetable matter than washed / carded / combed wool. There is more bacteria in raw wool, so it is recommended to take extra precautions (if not washing the fleece) such as using finger protectors and washing hands after use.||The lanolin in the wool helps things to stick, so some spinners love it, it holds beautiful curls / locks well, and we have our Lanolin rich core wool which is cold washed to keep as much lanolin in as possible, meaning it sticks amazingly to itself and is great for quick shaping and wrapping armatures.|
|Other Fibres||There are many other fibres used for needle felting, both synthetic and natural. Alpaca, llama, even dog hair can be felted but none have the 'velcro-like' properties of wool. Synthetic fibres tend to be very slippy. It helps to mix either of these with a bit of wool.||
We also use recycled sari silk mixed with wool to add richness and depth to the colour.
The Myths about Merino - do not be fooled!
Merino is just a breed of sheep! It depends where the sheep were raised (mostly over generations!). Our New Zealand Merino is processed into Batts with shorter coarser fibres and felts super quick into 3d shapes. It is not to be confused with South American or Australian Merino which is usually processed into tops (or the Americans call them roving). This wool is long and the fibres are all along side by side. It is ok for surface cover but best used for spinning, wet felting and weaving and 2d needle felting though our Batts work just as well for the latter. We also have German and Portuguese Merino. Both are great for 3d sculpting. After nearly 15 years of needle felting I stopped using the soft Merino tops about 10 years ago when I discovered Batts. Tops work for 3d needle felting, no doubt. but it takes a long time and can be very disheartening! It was hard to get hold of Batts but luckily much more available now. Some tops, such as our Ryeland, can be used for both and we love it for its lofty, springy texture. It is great for wrapping pipe cleaner/wire and many a mouse has been made with it!