Nuno felting

Nuno felt making was started by Polly Stirling, in Australia around 1992.  The word nuno is Japanese, it means cloth.  The felt produced is light and fine, using mainly wool but also other natural and synthetic fibres and sometimes incorporating other material such as foil.   There are many examples of nuno felt on Pinterest Nuno felt fabric.

Laying out wool and other fibres
Laying out wool and other fibres

Generally people do not print directly on to nuno felt – it is too fine –  but I would like to incorporate pieces into other printed fabric work and experiment with stitching and over-printing.  I have just begun to make the felt and have not yet accumulated enough to make any printed work.

The process is simple, simpler than some web advocates seem to think. I have listed the things needed but this is not a comprehensive instruction.

Rolling up
Rolling up

The requirements:

  • wool tops – fine wool, available in a wide range of colours
  • bubble wrap – should be wider than the piece being made and twice as long
  • backing fabric – fine silk gauze, fine polyester and other sheer fabrics will yield good results
  • cool soapy water – I used detergent, others prefer natural soap, the idea is to allow the fibres to easily interact, to lubricate them, I use a spray bottle
  • a roller of some kind – a length of waste pipe longer than the fabric is wide works well, 5 to 10cm in diameter
  • a table that can withstand getting wet – I have not found the process to be mess making, some people seem to find it quite wet
  • other fibres – camel hair (very fine), threads, silk fibres, in fact anything which will tend to bond or can be bonded by layering
Wool tops
Wool tops

The process:

  • lay out the bubble wrap, bubbles side up, twice the length and about 10% to 20% wider than the backing fabric
  • lay the backing fabric on to the bubble wrap
  • lay out the fibres, as thinly as possible, making patterns if required, until the surface is covered. This process is the creative part, individual requirement will of course vary
  • when sufficient thickness is obtained thoroughly wet the fibres with the soapy water
  • fold over the rest of the bubble wrap
  • roll up around the roller and roll back and forth about 300 times
  • unroll, peel back the top layer of bubble wrap and check the felt. It should now have formed a layer bonded to the backing fabric, it will have shrunk
  • add more fibres if desired and roll again
  • when satisfied with the result peel the felt from the bubble wrap and rinse by hand to remove  the soap

I have found that the backing fabric can be peeled carefully from the wool fibres to leave a very fine felt. The backing fabric may then be used again.

Finished fabric
Finished fabric