Felt, a fabric of wool or fur, separate or mixed, manufactured by matting the fibres together without spinning or weaving. The fur of the beaver, hare, rabbit, and seal, camel's and goat's hair, and the wool of the sheep, arc well adapted for this process. Felt is an ancient manufacture, supposed by Pliny to have been produced before woven cloth. It is probably the same as the lana coacta anciently used for the cloaks of soldiers, and by the La-ceda?monians for hats. Early in the present century a piece of ancient felt was discovered with some other stuffs in a tomb at St. Germain des Pres, and a paper relating to them was presented by Desmarest in 1800 to the academy of sciences.-The production of a fabric from the loose fibres results from the tendency these have from their barbed structure to work together when rubbed, each fibre moving forward in the direction of its larger end without a possibility of moving in the other direction. This peculiar structure of the animal fibre, so different from that of the smooth vegetable fibres, is readily perceived on drawing a filament of wool through the fingers, holding it first by one end and then by the other.
Examined through a powerful microscope, the short fibre exhibits the appearance of a continuous vegetable growth with numerous sprouts, all pointing toward the smaller end. In a filament of merino wool as many as 2,400 of these projections or teeth have been found in a single inch; and in one of Saxon wool of superior felting quality there were 2,700 serrations in the same space. Southdown wool, which is not so much esteemed for this use, contained only 2,080 serrations in one inch; and Leicester wool, which is not at all adapted for felting, only 1,860. The short curly fibres of wool, freed from grease and brought together, intertwine at once very closely and form a compact mat. By rubbing this with the hands, and moistening it with some soapy liquid, the matter is made more dense according to the pressure with which it is rubbed. At last the fibres can go no further without danger of fracture, and the fabric becomes hard and stiff. It may, however, be made thicker to any desired extent by adding more fibres and rubbing these in by separate layers. Drugget is a variety of felt in which machinery is made to agitate and work the fibres of wool together.
A coarse variety of felt cloth has of late years been introduced, in the manufacture of which, improvements have been made greatly facilitating the process.-The method of making felt will be more particularly noticed in the article Hat.