"Imagine what you can create, create what you can imagine."
Nuno Felting How To - About Basic Nuno Felting Techniques
Preparation for Design Layout
Work Area Preparation & Gathering Supplies
A waterproof work surface on which to lay out nuno felting projects. (Tip: A heavy plastic sheet, about 4 mil thick, can be used to protect the table and floor from water.) Gather necessary materials and tools for project.
Create a Template
(Note: Only needed if fiber is being felted to both sides of the fabric, so the edges of nuno felting projects can be identified.)
Mark the outline of the nuno felting project on the work surface with painter's masking tape.
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Mark the outline of the nuno felting project on plastic sheeting with a waterproof marker, the plastic sheeting should be 4-5" larger than nuno felting projects.
Set Up Base for Project
Place rolling mat (bubbles up or down as desired) on the work surface. Rolling mat should be about 4-5" larger than nuno felting projects on all sides. If a plastic sheeting template is being used, place this on top of the rolling mat.
Variations: If a plastic sheeting template is not being used, plastic sheeting can be placed on top of the rolling mat if desired. A protective layer can also be used if desired, place it on top of the rolling mat (or plastic sheeting if it is being used).
One layer of fiber & One layer of fabric
Lay out the fabric, and then lay out the fiber on top of the fabric.
Two layers of fiber & One layer of fabric
To help know where the edges are use a template. Lay out one layer of fiber. Lay out the fabric. Then lay out the second layer of fiber on top of the fabric.
One layer of fiber & Two layers of fabric
Lay out one layer of fabric. Lay out the layer of fiber. Then lay out the second layer of fabric on top of the fiber.
Laying out Fiber
◊ For nuno felting a single thin layer of fiber is desirable. When using roving: untwist the roving before using. Pull off a length of roving. Split this in half lengthwise. Pull off small pieces of roving in a thin layer using the fingers and palm of one hand to grasp the edges of roving and the other hand to hold the rope of roving. Place the wisps of roving creating a single thin layer. When using prefelt: place as desired.
◊ For larger nuno felting projects or two sided nuno felting projects, split the area to be covered equally, and measure out equal amounts of roving for each section. This will create a more uniform result. The roving can be measured by eye or use a scale for more accurate results.
◊ Fibers shrink most along their length. When laying out roving take this into consideration.
◊ With roving, be very careful not to disturb the design. Avoid breezes from air conditioning/heating forced air vents, moving around the layout quickly, etc.
◊ If you decide to experiment with more than one layer of roving, additional layers should be laid perpendicular to each other.
◊ Two perpendicular layers will shrink more evenly. Three layers will shrink more in the direction in which the most fibers were laid.
◊ The less wool used (the less layers) means more shrinkage.
◊ Sheer light weight readymade prefelts are ideal for nuno felting. Or, make your own prefelt by laying down a minimum of two perpendicular layers of roving on a rolling mat and following the Preparation for Felting and Felting steps.
◊ In general, using prefelts will produce less shrinkage than roving.
Laying out Fabric
Be careful not to disturb the design when placing fabric over a layer of fiber.
Laying out Embellishments
◊ Other fibers, pieces of fabric, and prefelt cutouts can be used to embellish nuno felting projects. These should be added to the fiber layer.
◊ Remember that wool is what holds everything together. If embellishments that don't felt are used, make sure wisps of roving will hold the embellishment in place.
◊ If a template is being used, lay out embellishments first remembering that what faces the template is what will show, and then layout the fiber.
Laying out Edges
If a finished edge is desired, be careful to make sure the raw edges of fabric are covered with fiber, or start with fabric with finished edges.
◊ Lay the roving fibers parallel to the edge of the material.
◊ Lay roving fibers horizontal to the edge of nuno felting projects (centered on the edge), place the fabric, and wrap the fibers over the edge of the fabric. This envelopes the edge of the fabric, with fibers on both sides of the fabric, creating a feathered effect.
◊ Lay a thin strip of prefelt around the edge of the project. Place the fabric so that the edge of the fabric is centered on the strip of prefelt. Place a second strip of prefelt around the edge of the fabric so that the raw edge of the fabric is covered. (i.e. Sandwich the edge of the fabric between two strips of prefelt.)
◊ Edges are not a concern if the fabric is hemmed. The fabric can be hemmed before or after nuno felting, for effect as desired.
◊ Or use a silk scarf or shawl with a rolled edge hem as the fabric; the rolled edge hem can be used as a design element.
Once the design is laid out, cover it with a protective layer. Be very careful not to disturb the design.
Wetting the Project
For nuno felting, in the felting stage, the soapy water mixture should be cool.
Be gentle, place one hand on the project, using a ladle pour some of the soapy water mixture over the hand on the nuno felting project being careful not to disturb the design. Gently press the project with your hands to wet dry fibers and press out air bubbles. Continue until the whole nuno felting project is wet. Nuno felting projects should be moist, they should not be dripping or soaking wet. A sponge or towel can be used to sop up excess water.
Alternatives: Use a spray bottle, squirt bottle or sponge to wet down nuno felting projects.
Check the edges of nuno felting projects. Make sure the raw fabric edges are covered with fibers. If straight edges are desired, make sure no fibers are hanging out from the edges.
Tip: If a protective layer was used under the nuno felting project, fold this over the edges before rolling to help keep the edges straight.
Rolling Up the Project
Place the rolling bar at one edge of the nuno felting project, and roll up all the layers of the project. Secure the roll with stretch ties.
Wrap a towel around rolled nuno felting projects and secure with stretch ties. This creates a softer less abrasive surface that touches your body when rolling nuno felting projects. It also helps absorb leaks.
Tip: Use a bow, not a knot, when securing rolled nuno felting projects. This will make it easy to open the roll.
In nuno felting, in the felting stage, the focus is to get the fibers to attach to the fabric (work their way through the weave of the fabric) and then begin to entangle. In nuno felting a light touch is best for the felting stage.
In general, the usual technique of rubbing with your hands (or a tool) used for felting would be too rough for the felting stage of nuno felting.
Rolling the Project
Literally roll nuno felting projects. This is done on the work surface. Stand with one foot forward and one foot back to reduce strain on the back. Use your forearms, from elbow to wrist, to roll nuno felting projects back and forth on the work surface. Alternatively, sit in a chair and use your feet to roll nuno felting projects back and forth on the floor.
Do this for about five minutes and check the nuno felting project (see below). Nuno felting projects will most likely not be done at the first check. Repeat this process as necessary until the felting stage is done.
The time it takes to roll nuno felting projects to the completion of the felting stage varies based on so many factors, it is impossible to say how long this will take. However, nuno felting projects typically need to be rolled and checked at least four times.
Checking the Project
Open up and unroll nuno felting projects. Lift the protective covering from the nuno felting project (on both sides if applicable). Check to see if the felting stage is done (see below). If the nuno felting project requires more felting re-roll the project (alternating the starting side) and roll the project in a towel. And roll the nuno felting project again.
Some protective coverings like tulle may start to felt/stick to the nuno felting project, lift them gently by pulling back in a peeling motion, being careful not to disturb the design.
The direction the nuno felting project is rolled up will have more shrinkage. Alternate the direction the nuno felting project is rolled. For long projects, roll the project from opposite short sides. For smaller projects, to maintain the shape, roll the project up from each side.
As nuno felting projects progress and the fabric and fiber start to hold together, but the felting stage is not done, eliminate the protective layer from the roll.
Felting the Edges
Always check the edges of nuno felting projects. Make sure the raw fabric edges are covered with fibers. If straight edges are desired, make sure no fibers are hanging out from the edges.
Felting Stage is Done
Test to see if the felting stage is done. Use a towel to blot/dry off a section of the nuno felting project. Looking at the back side of the nuno felting project (the fabric side), hold the blotted area up to a light and look at the surface of the project. The felting stage is done when you see tiny hairs of wool coming through the fabric.
In nuno felting, in the fulling stage, when the fibers shrink a unique bubbly texture is created as the fabric is pulled in with the fibers.
Shock fulling is a quick and easy way to full nuno felt. This is because distortions due to the shock, fibers locking together quickly and unevenly, are unlikely in nuno felt which has thin layers of fibers and a fabric to stabilize the fibers. Shock fulling is not generally desirable in traditional felting.
In general, the usual techniques of fulling used for felting which require more time and care are not necessary for nuno felting.
Now is the time for shrinkage and to strengthen the nuno felt. A tight skin on nuno felting projects is desirable. The skin forms when the fibers entangle. Heat, moisture and agitation are the key.
There are many methods and combinations of methods to full a project. Some methods allow for more control than others.
In general, start fulling nuno felting projects gently and work up to more rugged fulling. Each method can be done gently or vigorously.
In general, the more vigorous the fulling the more shrinkage.
During fulling, no matter what the method, check nuno felting projects. Changes can happen quickly.
Open up nuno felting projects to check them. If a nuno felting project starts to felt to itself, gently pry it apart. Stretch and reshape nuno felting projects as necessary. Make sure to keep an eye on the edges.
Remove Cold Water
Remove as much of the cold soapy water mixture from nuno felting projects as possible by blotting with a sponge or towel. Do not wring or squeeze nuno felting projects.
Apply Hot Soapy Water Mixture
Apply the hot soapy water mixture using a ladle or other tool.
If nuno felting projects get cold during the fulling stage, remove the cold water and reapply the hot soapy water mixture.
Cold water will stop the fulling process. The hotter the water the faster the fulling will occur.
Fulling the Edges
First full the edges. Rubbing parallel to the edge will help to create a strong stabilized edge.
Remember to check the edges of nuno felting projects during fulling.
If corners are stretched and pointed and squared off corners are desired, rub from the point diagonally into the nuno felting project to pull the corners in.
Fulling by Rubbing (More controlled fulling approach.)
This is a good way to start fulling. With the nuno felting project lying flat on top of the rolling mat rub the entire surface of the nuno felting project with your hands. Repeat until the desired result is achieved, or combine with other fulling methods.
Nuno felting projects will shrink in the direction rubbed. If the direction of shrinkage is not a concern, rub randomly.
Fulling by Scrubbing (More random fulling approach.)
Lift the nuno felting project off the table (you may want to move to a sink), with different sections of the nuno felting project in each hand. Scrub the surfaces in each hand together. Repeat with different sections.
Fulling by Dropping/Tossing (More random fulling approach.)
The basic idea is to take nuno felting projects and drop or toss them on a surface (the sink or rolling mat). The random approach would be to scrunch nuno felting projects up and drop or toss. The controlled approach would be to fold nuno felting projects and drop or toss.
If nuno felting projects are folded for fulling remember to open and refold so a crease doesn't form.
Fulling by Rolling (More controlled fulling approach.)
Gently roll nuno felting projects into a log (no additional layers here). Now roll the log.
Fulling by Kneading (More random fulling approach.)
Knead nuno felting projects like kneading dough. The controlled approach would be to knead the rolled log. The random approach would be to scrunch nuno felting projects up and knead. Kneading can be done in the sink or on the rolling mat.
Fulling Stage is Done
The nuno felting project has shrunk and a skin has formed. How tight and hard the skin is and how much the nuno felting project shrinks is up to you.
Use water to rinse all soap out of nuno felting projects.
Soak finished nuno felting projects in an acidic bath. Use about 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice to 4 cups water. Soak nuno felting projects for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse with water.
Stretch and shape finished nuno felting projects and leave to dry.
If desired use a steam iron to help shape and set finished nuno felting projects before they dry. (Do not steam excessively - too much water and heat is not good at this stage.)