What is Wool Felting and Spinning?
Felting refers to the interlocking of of the scales of the wool fiber. Each individual fiber has scales. When we draw out fibers into a thread, it draws because the fibers catch one another and then as the spin is applied, they hold together in a thread. The catching or interlocking of the scales is called felting.
To make wool into felt, one needs moisture, heat, movement, and pressure. Wool scales open up with the application of moisture and heat. Then, with the movement under pressure, the scales deeply interlock, creating felt. 8,000 years ago, man began to capture herds of sheep and keep them until needed for meat. Natural pens of narrow ravines which could be blocked at one end were used to confine the sheep. The dense outer coating of hair and kemp would molt. While hair and kemp are ill-suited for spinning into yarn, they will produce felt. Sheep urine provided both moisture and heat. With the sheep in confinement providing the motion and pressure, the large clumps of molt could naturally become felt. Early man would find many uses for felt and begin to make felt themselves. I think it is obvious that the first floorcoverings made from sheep were most likely felt, which would have been used with reed mats.