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What do these cute merino lambs (or rather their mum)…. and these not-so-cute silk worms… and I…   have in common?       We all put a lot of time, love and effort into creating this nuno felted silk scarf:

"Silver Lining" - a nuno-felted silk scarf.

   

What is felt?

Making felt is a pretty magical process. How cool is it that this (merino wool roving):

Creamy white merino wool - great for wet felting and nuno felting.

with just some soap, water, agitation and compression, transforms into a fabric like this (in a process called wet felting or traditional felting)?!:

"The Irises" a felted scarf

But, when wool fibers are coaxed to felt with silk, (in a process known as nuno-felting) something truly breathtaking happens as a feather-light wearable work of felt art is created! For example, when “Silver Lining” was first laid out, the silk gauze fabric was much longer.   BEFORE:

White silk gauze and merino wool - laid out before nuno felting.

 

Close up of wool roving laid on the white silk gauze

Fine layers of merino wool were laid on top of the silk, leaving some of the silk bare.  The scarf was covered with protective netting, soapy water was added and the bundle was rolled up and tied. Then the rolling began….

The nuno bundle

    Nuno felting involves a LOT of rolling!   I rolled…… and rolled….. and rolled some more. Then I rolled again for good measure, repeatedly checking the progress of the nuno felting process.During about 40 minutes of rolling the wool fibers wiggled their way through the silk gauze and got tangled on the other side. A fabric was formed but it was weak. It needed to be ‘shocked’ to get strong. No, there was no creeping up behind it…instead the delicate bundle was plunged into hot, then cold water, and ‘kneaded’ like bread to make the fibers tangle, shrink and lock irreversibly. Then it was flung…..HARD…. at a surface (I see a workshop for divorcees in my future as cathartic flinging on serves only to improve the strength of the fabric!). As the roving felted, it shrank, grasping the silk gauze and taking it along for the ride, resulting in beautiful, delicate ruffling.   AFTER:

"Silver Lining" Close-up of the ruffled silk

 

"Silver Lining" - a piece of wearable art.

The finished nuno felted silk scarf.   And some more magic! Even though the felting procedures are defined, there is never complete control over the process. The thickness of wool used, the amount of rolling, the pressure applied, the heat of the water, the vigor with which the felt is shocked and thrown, all impact the felting and create a truly one-of-a-kind piece of wearable felt art. Felt, the oldest fabric known to man, serves as a metaphor for life; the wool fibers that tangle irreversibly and become transformed into felt fabric, represent the interwoven relationships that bind us (humans, or in this case, the sheep, the silkworm and me!) together and shape our lives. Hard to believe isn’t it, that a collaboration with a worm and a sheep could produce something so delicate?  Just as I said – magical! This nuno felted silk scarf is available for purchase at www.FeltEvolution.com.
  • Have you ever tried felting?
  1. - Would you like to learn how to make felt, or how to nuno felt?
  2. - Check out how you can get started by doing one of the workshops available at FeltEvolution.com
 
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about the author

Sara
Born and raised in England, I moved to Southern California for two years… in 1998… and never left! Despite having a successful career as an immunologist, my creative side has always competed for attention and I have been an avid fiber arts fan since childhood. My mission with Felt Evolution is to give the oldest textile known to man the spotlight it deserves, creating as many new felters as possible along the way!

5 comments

  1. Tea Silvestre

    Loved the description of your process and how you found the metaphor tangled up in the process, too. It’s beautiful!

  2. Gloria Miele

    Just beautiful! Love the pictures.

  3. Julia Hayes

    This is a delightful explanation of how to create with wool, silk and soap. A magical prcess indeed.The finished product looks ethereal. Did you make the flowers separately then place them before rolling the creation? Julia

  4. Sara
    FeltAdmin

    Hi Julia.
    Thanks so much for your comments. No the flowers were just designed using a darker color of wool roving and laid out on the silk. Everything was rolled together. I will soon be posting photos of some felted pictures and for them I did add some prefelted flowers – it gives a great 3D effect. with best wishes
    Sara

  5. Sylvia Smelt

    Wish I could be at your felting classes! I loved seeing the wool roving turn into a beautiful felted scarf at your demonstration at Christmas! My friends who also witnessed it still talk about it! I’ll have to wait until you open your UK branch of the business! Good luck with your latest venture (the felted pictures).

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