FELT ( OHG. fib!, Ger. Filz, OC'hurch Slay. idristi, felt ; probably connected with OIIG. falz, Ger. Pak:, fold). A fabric formed without weav ing by taking advantage of the natural of the fibres of hair and wool to interlace with and cling to each other. As to the origin of the knowledge of felt-nicking, its beginnings antedate by many centuries the Christian Era, and the fabric is mentioned by the earliest writers. On account of the greater simplicity of its structure. it is probable that it was made long before the art of prodneing cloth by spinning and weaving had been discovered.
The felting quality of fibres of hair or wool results from their structure. When examined by the microscope the hair of all animals is found to be more or less jagged or notched on its surface; in some animals it is distinctly barbed; and this structure is so directed that the teeth or barbs all point Inward the tip of the hair. I f a piece of human hair (in which this structure is less marked than in most animals) be held between the finger and thumb, and robbed in the dhwtinn of its length. it will invariably move between the fingers in the direction of its root ; for the skin. while toward the tip of the hair, slides freely upon it. but moving in the other direction, against the inclination of the barbs, it brings the hair with it. lt will be easily understood that when a number of hairs are pressed together those which lie in opposite directions to each other and in contact will interlock at these barbs or teeth, and thus resist any effort to tear them asunder. When once this close contact and interlocking is established any two or more hairs, they remain attached, but the others that are differ ently arranged, or not in contact, will still be free to move upon each other; and therefore, if subjected to continual blows, pushing, and pres sure, the unattached hairs will be continually shifting, until they reach others in suitable posi tions for clinging together, either by crossing obliquely or by lying in the same line, and over lapping at their ends or any other portion. When
the hair has a natural tendency to curl the felt ing is still more readily brought about by the additional interlacing. Although the felting property is possessed in a preeminent degree by wool, it belongs to the hair or fur of other including the goat, ox, bare, rabbit, mus quash, and beaver.
The first mechanical process for the production of felt was invented by Mr. J. R. Williams. an American, about 1S20. Many patents have since been taken out for the various details of felting machinery, but the main principle is the same in all. The wool is carded more or less perfectly into laps of the length and breadth of the web to be made. One layer of these laps is placed upon another to secure the desired thickness of the fabric, and the two outside layers are often of a finer quality than the interior. The bulky sheet is now passed between rollers which are partly immersed in water, and some of them are heated internally with steam. The material is subjected to a beating and oscillatory motion, as well as to pressure. The completed fahrie is dyed and fin ished like ordinary cloth. The details of manu facture are, at least in America, strictly guarded trade secrets. each factory having its own pro cesses and specially made machinery.
Felt is used for a very great variety of pur poses. It is employed as a covering for floors and as an upholsterer's material. It is made up not only into hats, but into cloaks and other garments. Carriage linings, polishing cloths, pianoforte hammers, and many other objects re quiring a soft, thick cloth are made from felt. The felt used for women's hats is cut from the piece, but that employed in the manufacture of men's hats is made in special shapes as a part of the hatter's trade. The material used for men's hats is usually the fur of raccoons, beavers, or rabbits, mixed with some good felting wool. See