felt, fabric made by matting or felting together wool, hair, or fur, most of which have a natural tendency to snarl or cling together owing to their notched or scaly surfaces. Processes of manufacture vary according to fibers used and purpose intended. Woven felt is first made into coarse cloth, given a heavy nap by teaseling, then ironed down. True felt is made by placing the cleaned fibers in the shape or mass desired, then beating, steaming, pressing, fulling, or otherwise compacting them to the required thickness. Impregnated felts, designed for industrial uses such as roofing and sheathing, are made from waste and sometimes from paper treated with a stiffening or waterproofing substance. As an art, felt making probably preceded spinning. Felt was used in N Asia for clothing and tents, and the felt hat was known in ancient Greece and Rome. The invention (1846) of a machine for making felt first brought about the great popularity of the felt hat for men.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.