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Baize or Felt? A Brief Guide

Baize or Felt? A Brief Guide

We feel passionately that consumers should be given clear and accurate information about products and it frustrates us that members of the public are regularly being sold ‘quality baize’ when they’re actually buying a fabric which is inferior and in most cases, not even baize. So, we’ve compiled this brief guide to help you shop wisely for your baize.

Are Felt and Baize the Same?

Absolutely not! They’re different types of fabric, made in a different way, and their unique properties mean they’re used for different purposes. The terms should not be used interchangeably. There is a lot of confusion about the difference between baize and felt, not only amongst consumers but also retailers. This isn’t surprising when you search online and find many suppliers describing felt as baize, or a fabric as ‘baize felt’, ‘felt baize’ or even felt/baize as if the two fabrics are the same. They’re not!

Differences Between Baize and Felt

Felt

Felt is made from matted or compressed fibres of either wool or a synthetic material. If, like me, you’ve put a wool garment in the washing machine on anything other than a cold cycle, you will have experienced wool’s marvellous property of felting! The fibres shrink and knit together when exposed to heat and moisture, forming felt. Synthetic fibres are also used to make felt, but as they’re petroleum based, they lack wool’s inherent felting property. Instead, the fibres are interlocked together during the manufacturing process. Synthetic felts are very cheap to produce and are readily available. Blended felts are a hybrid of the two: they’re made from synthetic fibres mixed with wool.

The drawback of felt is that the fibres can easily fluff up or ‘pill’ if rubbed. The synthetic felts are the worst for pilling, and aren’t suitable for any application where the felt will be handled or touched. The higher the percentage of synthetic fibres, the worse the pilling problem will be. Also, thin felt can tear easily if sewn. 100% wool felt, if it’s made properly, can be hardwearing and non-pilling. Top-quality 100% wool felt is not cheap though.

Baize

Baize is a woven fabric with a warp and weft. It’s made from wool or a wool blend, and the higher the wool content, the better the quality of the baize. A top-quality baize is a strong, dense and hard-wearing fabric that doesn’t pill. It will look great and last for many years. We only stock top-quality baize, with a wool content of at least 95%. Baize is available in a range of weights, widths and colours to suit a whole host of applications. Because it’s woven, it’s ideal for sewing projects and can be used for fashion, millinery, soft furnishings, upholstery, curtains, car interiors, sound proofing and wall coverings. It’s also used to cover card tables and desks. The finer baizes with a very high wool content are used for covering snooker, pool and billiard tables. Some baizes are made with Merino wool, and these tend to be faced which means that one side has a beautiful sheen. We’re big fans of baize, as you would expect!

Properties of Wool

As mentioned above, baize (and some felt) is made from wool, which is a natural fibre that has a host of really useful properties.  Firstly, it’s fire-resistant, and baize has been used for many, many years for military and fire-service uniforms. It’s also naturally odour resistant, so makes great clothing. It’s also synonymous with ceremonial wear. Wool is hard-wearing and long lasting; if you cover your card table with felt, it’ll need replacing in 6 months or sooner; if you cover it with baize, it should still look good in 20 years! Furthermore, wool is a natural, renewable resource and it won’t give off toxic fumes in your home. Finally, and importantly, it’s biodegradable and can be composted at the end of its useful life.

Not All Baizes Are Equal

Just as felt can be made from wool or synthetic fibres giving very different fabrics, baizes can differ wildly in quality too. We’ve seen baize produced in the Far East which was a woven fabric but it was very thin and had a loose weave. We ran tests on it and found that it shed a lot of fibres quite quickly and was poor quality. Also, there are lots of suppliers selling baize that is 80% wool and 20% nylon which sounds like a high wool content, but the sample we’ve seen had lots of unsightly coarse white fibres in it.

Confusing, isn’t it?!!

As a rule of thumb, if you find a supplier selling cheap baize it’s most likely to be either synthetic felt or poor quality baize with a low wool content. The nub of it is that top-quality baize is not a cheap fabric, and top quality 100% felt is not cheap either. So if you’re faced with not much information about the fabric, let the price be your guide.

We Supply the Highest Quality Baize

If you need baize for your upholstery, sewing or craft project, you will soon be able to purchase baize from us. We are selling it off the roll for your larger fashion and interiors projects (available in 10cm lengths, minimum of 1m), and as baize remnants / offcuts, in a variety of stock colours for your craft projects. Sign up to our email list and be one of the first to know when we’ve launched!

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