Working with wool is so amazing! If knitting and crocheting are fun, and spinning is more fun, these days, for me nothing is as enjoyable as using wool fibers as a jumping off place from which to create one of a kind pieces with the techniques of felting. In recent months, BG and I have explored felting soaps by hand, needle felting a group of ornaments which we gave to family as Christmas gifts, and creating felted hats and bags using the resist method.
Lately, though, our experiments in dyeing, as well as a few fiber orders that included some silk waste products, have inpired me to take up Nuno felting. Nuno is a felting technique that incorporates other fibers, oftentimes silk, with the wool, to create lightweight, textured fabrics that are unlike anything else. Of our recent projects, my favorites are a series of shawls and scarves that incorporate silk fiber, wool locks, vintage lace, and even some common cotton cheesecloth.
The raw materials can vary; I usually order my spinning fiber as undyed combed top, which I can then dye, blend the colors with hand cards or on my homemade blending board, or mix with other fibers. The below photos show the top as it arrives, and a few braids of it dyed by me with the help of my small “assistant”. We frequently use Kool-aid packets to dye, which is both easy and fun, as well as economical, since packets cost no more than 25 cents, and can often be had for even less if they are on sale. ( Given that I believe in limiting the amount of sugar and food coloring my kids ingest, I don’t usually let them drink the Kool-aid, which drives them a little crazy, but whatever…!)
I sometimes also order fibers from indie dyers on Etsy, which comes looking like this:
Laying out the fibers can take a while, since the wool needs to be laid in thin wisps, but layered enough for the individual fibers to “catch” one another to create the felt, and also to “trap” any add-ins. Dyed fiber can be used to achieve a multicolored effect, as shown here in this scarf layout done in silk waste, wool locks, and one of our dyed color ways, “BG’s Choice”, my assistant’s interpretation of a rainbow:
The process for Nuno felting is simple, if a bit labor-intensive. Bubble wrap, warm soapy water, nylon netting on top, then lots of rubbing, manipulating that fabric to create the desired textures, rolling with a rolling pin or pool noodle, flipping the whole thing over and wetting and rolling again, and finally a rinse in hot, then cold water and some tossing against a flat surface. Finally, when the piece has shrunk and felted together to the proper size, it’s dried either flat or on a hanger.
The great thing about this technique is that it’s easy and fun to include textured bits, such as sari silk ribbon, wool locks, even scraps of vintage lace. Some of the effects of these ” add-ins”, close up:
BG and I have had such a good time with these projects, we’ve got a few more in the works; I think felting is going to stay a regular part of our crafting repertoire.
You’ve probably heard that Craftsy is turning five this month –– but have you heard about their big birthday sale? For a very limited time, Craftsy is celebrating with major markdowns on best-selling kits and supplies. Check them out!