Batts vs roving vs tops

I’ve just taken delivery of some delicious short fibre merino batts from New England Felting Supply – very exciting! But why am I going to the trouble and expense of ordering wool from abroad when we have some great suppliers in the UK?

new england batts

The reason is that I’m attending a workshop on felting pods with Andrea Graham at Atelier Fiberfusing in a couple of weeks’ time. And in the list of materials she specifies “wool batt – not combed roving”.

I’ve never felted with wool batt – I’ve always used roving (or tops). And I now realise that this is because batts are not very easy to get hold of in the UK – most suppliers sell only tops.

(Quick digression: While  writing this piece I also discovered there is another whole discussion about the difference between roving and tops. It seems to depend on how well the fibres are aligned, which I guess is of huge importance for spinners, as it could make the difference between a smooth yarn and a lumpy yarn. As a felter, I need the fibres to be aligned differently to encourage felting.)

I rang World of Wool, my usual supplier, to ask whether they did batts, and the answer was no, though they said they are planning to introduce some this summer.

I found some Etsy sellers offering hand carded batts for spinning, but they tended to include other fibres such as alpaca and angelina, and they seemed quite small.

So what is the advantage of felting with batts rather than roving/tops? Coincidentally, Fiona Duthie recently published a post about this. It’s quicker to lay out flat projects with batts, as there are already several layers of fibres in different directions. By contrast, using tops gives you more control over the size and shape of your felt, as you can make it thicker or lay out fibres in a particular direction to influence shrinkage.

But if you use the same weight and type of wool and lay out the fibres to the same size, the end result should be the same, whether you use batts or tops. I’ll let you know how I get on!

And do let me know of any wool batt suppliers in the UK. Interestingly, Fiona’s list of suppliers were all outside the UK. Given the current exchange and postal rates, it was cheaper to order from the US than from Europe!