A couple of Fridays ago the Piedmont Silk Painters got together to learn a technique that was new to most of us - nuno felting. In our version, we were going to use pre-dyed silk chiffon scarves as a base, adding wool fibers (roving) to the scarves and felting the fibers together. In a nutshell, what happens in felting is that the silk and wool fibers interlock with each other, forming a new fabric. Sound intriguing? Read on!
Teaching us was Joanna White (at head of table), one of our members who has some nuno felting experience. We are in Marcia Ferris's studio, our usual meeting place.
This is one of Joanna's exquisite nuno felted chiffon scarves. The ruched (pleated) areas are where white and blue roving has been felted to the silk.
Now for a demo from Joanna ~
The silk is laid out on bubble wrap. Joanna shreds pieces of roving into wisps and lays them on the scarf. They are laid first in one direction and then the other, so they overlap.
This is my project at that stage. It's a chiffon scarf that I did a shibori design on ((the horizontal stripes) that I didn't like. Plus I accidentally cut a hole in it! It's been languishnig in my closet awaiting an idea of what to do with it. Nuno felting seemed like the perfect solution!
You can see wisps of teal and yellow roving criss-crossing each other. Crossing the fibers over each other over ensures better bonding.
This is Christie's scarf. She laid roving all around her edges (underneath and and top of the silk) because her silk had raw edges that she wanted to hide.
After all the roving is laid down, the scarf is covered with a mesh screen and warm soapy water made with olive oil soap is rubbed in. This causes initial bonding felting of wool fibers to themselves and to the silk. This is the basic felting process. The screen is then removed.
Next, scarf and bubble wrap are rolled together into a tube on a PVC rod. Here's Marcia rolling hers.
Now for the heavy action! The tubes are rolled back and forth 100 times. We're trying to maximise friction so our whole body is thrown into this. It's quite a workout! But we're not done yet - the tube is then unrolled, the scarf flipped and rubbed again with soapy water. Then rolled on the PVC rod again (this time from the opposite direction to the first time), and body-rolled again for another 100 times. Can you hear us panting? (That's Marcia's husband video taping)!
After this we unroll the tube and again wet it with hot soapy water and rub rub rub. By now the silk and wool are good and married, but to cement the union, we crumple the scarf and whack it. I mean we literally fling the crumpled scarf repeatedly into the sink as hard as we could to further agitate and interlock the fibers. This is called fulling. This was a good time to fling any frustration or anger away together with the silk! I couldn't get photos of this - it was too fast!
The final step is rinsing well to remove all soap then opening our poor, beat-up bundles to reveal our new creations.
And here are the results of our effort and sweat! The silk has shrunk and pleated where the wool and silk fibers bonded, forming folds and wrinkles. The frilly edges are areas where there was no roving and so no felting and shrinking. Very, very cool!
You can see the pleating better here. The pleats are permanent (I know - I tried pulling them apart just for fun but they wouldn't budge!) and there's no stitching, just fibers interlocked together. Magic!
A good time was had by all and here we are with our scarves to prove it!
Want to learn nuno felting from the pros? Check out these workshops offered at the SPIN (Silk Painters International) Festival in Santa Fe this July!