How to nuno-felt a scarf

Here we are, Carrie and I at “Saviour of the Lost Arts” about to begin our Nuno Felting scarf workshop.
Our teacher was Julie of The Mountain Spinnery.  Julie teaches classes in Woolloongabba.  Visit her website for details.
Why not make one for yourself?
The art of Nuno felting was created by Polly Stirling and her neighbour and artist, Sachiko Kotaka.
These ladies were living in Australia, where the warm climate inspired them to work with wool in a new way.  Nuno uses a small amount fibre and is light in its application, combining wool fibre with larger pieces of pure cloth such as silk or muslin.  They named it ‘Nuno”, which means ‘cloth’ in Japanese.
Cloth felting”
Polly and Sachiko are staunch in their belief that “there is no rule or limitation to Nuno felt“.
(Thank you to  Living Crafts magazine, Fall 2010, p. 79)
Follow these easy steps to create your own nuno masterpiece.
Firstly, lay out your piece of silk on a length of bubble wrap slightly longer than the silk.
We used silk chiffon, about 30cm in width, remembering that the silk will appear to shrink both lengthways and widthways with the application of the wool.
So, if you like wide scarfs, maybe start with a piece of silk 50 or 60cm in width.
I was surprised to find that chiffon (from the french word for cloth, or rag) could be made of pure silk.
If you seek a lightweight, lustrous yet sheer scarf, chiffon might be a cheaper alternative than silk pongee or charmeuse.
Then it is time to decorate and embellish.
Take a 50cm length of carded and dyed wool fibre (merino is a good choice for this, as it is fine and more easily able to be melded to the silk).  Carefully, tease out and lengthen the fibres by pulling gently on both ends of the wool until it begins to separate.  You can also stretch the wool across the width too.
You can lay the wool fleece in any direction, but three tips to remember.
1. Less is more.  You want the wool fibres to crinkle the silk fabric but if there is too much decoration, there is not much fabric between designs to crinkle and crunch in.
2.  The fibres must be laid FLAT.  If you look at my arch, the middle of the arch wants to curl and tip onto its side.  We had to work against the natural inclination of the fleece to ensure it would sit flat by stretching it out or altering the shape of our design slightly to compensate.
You can do anything- spirals, stripes, polka dots, flowers, hearts, waves, rainbows, circles… anything!
3.  It is important to plan the direction of the fibres you position on your silk.  Take a close look at the carded fibres.  The fibres will all run in one direction, as if they have been ‘combed’ with a hairbrush.
*If you lay these fibres so they run parallel to the silk (eg along the entire length of the scarf), the silk scarf will narrow along the width.
*If the fibres are laid across the short width, (eg in 30cm strand ‘tiger stripes’, spaced 20cm apart, down the length of the scarf)  the scarf will shorten in length.
To make a flower, you just hold the fibre in your hand, place one end onto the silk, hold it down with your thumb and pull at the end of the silk to separate a 5cm piece of fibre.  Repeat 5 times, each time overlapping the fleece on the centre point as above.
Here are some design ideas.
The more wool you lay out, the longer it will take you to felt.
Fill a water or soft-drink bottle with warm water and a squirt of detergent. Poke a few holes in the lid to allow the water to dribble out.
(Spray bottles work well too)
Wet down the fleece on your design.  (They should be wet to touch)
Then, gently use your fingertips to rub over the designs only to begin the process.
This is the delicate part of the action, designed to ‘set’ your picture or symbols.
Be careful not to rub too hard or you will shift your design.
After about 10 minutes rubbing preparation, cover the silk with glad wrap.
Dribble some more water on top of the gladwrap, and add a squirt of detergent.
This helps to keep your hands smooth over the surface and enable you to work the scarf without pulling or tugging on the design.
Now, you can be quite vigorous in your actions!
Use the palm of your hands to PUSH the fibres into, and through, the silk.
Do this, again and again over your design, for at least 10-15 minutes.
I’ll repeat!!
Use the palm of your hands to PUSH the fibres into, and through, the silk.
Check your progress every now and then by lifting the gladwrap and gently pulling up on a section of fleece with your fingertips. When the silk scarf comes up with the wool fleece, you are ready to move on.  If not, continue for another 10 minutes and check again.
When you are ready, it is time to roll up the scarf.
Begin at one end, and roll it up like piece of sushi in nori.
Some people like to place a piece of dowel at one end, and roll it up around that for extra grip.
Otherwise, sit the completed roll on a dry towel. Throw one end of the towel over it, and roll it up into the towel for extra grip.
Our goal in rolling is to ROLL, not flatten the felt.
If it comes undone, or begins to flatten, unravel it and roll up again.
The rolling (after the rubbing) helps to knit the wool fibres to the silk and felt the wool.
The felting of the wool pulls in the silk threads around it, and begins to create undulations and scrunching in the silk.
Roll for about 15-20 minutes, or until you begin to see the silk scarf begin to shrink or narrow around the  wool designs.
At any time during, or after the rolling, you can begin to stretch and pull out the length or width of the scarf and your design as you see fit.
Then comes the fun part!
Throwing!!
Unwrap your scarf from the bubble wrap and gladwrap, and begin throwing it down with a whompah! onto a clean table or floor.  Again and again and again and again!!
Throw with gusto!
The throwing ‘shocks’ the fibres and silk into shrinking and is a very quick way of working the fibres down to size.  If not much is happening (and it should, quite quickly), the scarf might have dried out and be too lightweight to work.  Soak your scarf with water (not dripping, just wet through) and begin throwing again.
Feeling angry? Upset?  What a marvellous remedy!
Silk scarf therapy!!
Tassels are simply bits of fleece you let hang over the edge of your silk.
Twist or shape them a little after the first rubbing, then situate them so they don’t touch any of the other fibres or they’ll stick to them.  Wind them up into your roll and they’ll felt along.
When you are done, you can hang it out to dry.
It really was my lucky day!
There were only two red scarfs given out, and one was given to me 🙂
I love it!
Happy Nuno Felting!
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