Super non-scientific fire testing felted wool

After a fun trip to Pennsylvania, we are back home once again. We are settling in and I am cleaning a bunch because upon my return from a trip, I tend to see my house through new eyes and things were getting a bit cluttered and shabby around here. We have already cleaned up and packed away the Christmas things and the weather here is warming for a few days, a nice break from the cold.

While I was away, a couple folks left comments regarding the safety of a wool candle holder. I deleted one comment because it was alarmist and rude, but I do want to address those concerns here. The candle string that I made is on my dining table and we light the candles when we are eating. We keep an eye on it and have never had any issues with it. I guess for longer use it might be prudent to use a glass candleholder inside the wool. In the pattern introduction, I do remind folks to keep watch over any candle while it is burning, including these. When I thought about it, I remembered that Laura and I have a history of making lanterns from things that are flammable. I guess it's also a comfort level thing.

I have made a new design for a pan handle cozy for use on my new gas stove and while I have been using it with much success, I was curious about how flame resistent the felted wool would be, as I would also like to post it as a free pattern but don't want to put something out into the world that is dangerous. I already knew that wool is an awesome fiber that resists flame. Natural mattresses are made from wool and must pass stringent fire retardent guidelines to be sold in the US, but I didn't know how the felted wool would behave when subjected to a flame. I decided to conduct a quick non-scientific test. I thought I would light the pan handle cozy on fire to see how it burned.

So I lit the match and held it to the wool.

And I held the match in the same place until it burned down to my fingers. Here's what it looks like after three matches.

I couldn't get the wool to ignite, it bubbles up and forms black ash. This seems to protect the material underneath. I continued with more matches, but the best I could do was make the rest of the rim look black and puffy. It never did ignite and burn. 

My experience is consistent with how wool usually behaves when subjected to flame. Here's an excerpt from a paper I found-

"Of the normally encountered textile fibres, wool is the most flame resistant. Wool has the most complex fibre structure optimised through evolution to provide thermal protection to mammals. Several factors in this structure are also responsible for wool's natural flame resistance. Specifically, compared with other common fibres, wool: 

  • has high ignition temperature (570 -600 C), 
  • has high limiting oxygen index (25 -26% ), 
  • has low heat of combustion and low heat release,
  • has high nitrogen content (14%), 
  • has high moisture content, does not melt or drip, 
  • and forms a self-insulating char that prevents further flame spread."


Cool, huh? So, I am comfortable offering the patterns for the candle holder and the pan cozy. I hope people use common sense. Of course, if the projects don't feel safe to you, please don't make and use them.

Tomorrow I'll share some good thrifting finds (more wool!) and show you my favorite Christmas gifts!