Learn the Art of Nuno Felting with wool and silk in this complete step by step felting tutorial
Welcome to Part 3 of my Wet Felting Wool Techniques Series. This tutorial will show you how to felt wool or fiber into an open weave fabric such as silk chiffon or silk gauze to create a unique, lightweight felted scarf or shawl.
In This Article
- What is Nuno Felting?
- Nuno Felting Supplies
- What Kind of Wool Do I Need?
- What Kind of Silk is Used in Nuno Felting?
- Nuno Felting Instructions
- Drafting the Wool Roving
- Add the Silk Sliver Decoration
- Wet the Wool Roving
- Rolling the Nuno Felt
- Testing the Felt: Pinch Test
- Fulling the Felted Wool
- Finishing the Nuno Felted Shawl
What is Nuno Felting?
Nuno Felting is a wet felting technique developed by fiber artist Polly Stirling where wool or fiber is felted or entangled with and through an open weave fabric such as silk chiffon or silk gauze.
The felting is accomplished by applying water, heat and friction to the sheep wool or alpaca fiber.
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Nuno Felting Supplies
- Wool Roving
- Silk Chiffon or Silk Gauze *
- Silk Roving or Sliver for Decoration (optional)
- Matchstick Blind or Bubble Wrap **
- Olive Oil Soap or Dish Detergent ***
- Spray Bottle
- Plastic Table Cover
- Nylon Hose or Scrap Yarn
- Old Towels
Notes on Nuno Felt Supplies:
If you are a new nuno felter or you don’t plan on making a lot of felted piece, there is no need to spend a ton of money on supplies.
The two main items you need are the wool and the silk fabric. Everything else is optional or can be found for little or no money.
Silk Chiffon or Silk Gauze *
Make sure that the silk you buy is 100% Silk such as this Silk Chiffon and not a synthetic fabric. While a polyester fabric may work, it would be much more difficult and frustrating for a beginning nuno felter.
Matchstick Blind or Bubble Wrap **
If you are a beginning felter, go ahead and use the bubble wrap. It is cheap and easy to find at any box store or you can order it here.
If, however, you plan on making a lot of nuno felt or you want to make larger pieces, you really should get a Matchstick Blind. They are inexpensive and durable. Just make sure your blind is all natural wood or bamboo and has not been stained or dyed.
Olive Oil Soap or Dish Detergent ***
Many wool felters swear that Olive Oil Soap is best for felting. Personally, I have always used plain dish detergent such as Ivory Liquid Soap. Just make sure that your detergent is clear or white in color so it won’t stain your wool.
What Kind of Wool Do I Need?
The fiber or wool you use needs to be a protein fiber which simply means animal fiber. Animal wool (just like human hair) is not smooth. Rather, each fiber has notches along the sides of the hair shaft which allow the wool to felt.
Synthetic wool such as nylon or polyester will not felt. (Note: it is possible to use this type of wool for needle felting, however).
How much wool fiber or roving you need obviously depends on how large and elaborate your nuno felt piece will be. I used about 2 ounces.
If you plan to cover your entire piece of chiffon, you will need more wool. This was a large shawl so my piece of silk chiffon fabric was approximately 8′ x 28″.
Since this is a large project, I will use the bamboo Matchstick Blind for rolling. If you don’t have one, no worries, bubble wrap works just fine. It’s just a bit fussier since the plastic tends to slip and slide.
What Kind of Silk is Used in Nuno Felting?
Almost any open weave fabric will work for nuno felting but obviously, the heavier the fabric, the heavier your final felt fabric will be. I usually use silk gauze or chiffon which yields a lightweight fabric that drapes well.
As I mentioned above, just make sure your fabric is made of 100% Silk and not a synthetic like polyester.
Nuno Felting Instructions:
Before you begin, you will want to cover your table with the plastic. Nuno Felting uses water so you may also need to cover the floor as well.
Now, spread out the matchstick blind (or bubble wrap – bubbles down) on the table and lay the silk chiffon on top.
Now you need to decide on a design for your nuno felt. Also, if the edges of your fabric are raw and not hemmed, you may want to cover them with wool on both sides. This is not necessary for raveling, but it looks more polished and neat.
Other than that, the rest is up to you. You can do swirls, straight lines, diamond shapes …whatever you want. There is no right or wrong here. Have fun with it.
Drafting the Wool Roving
It’s much easier to felt thin layers than thick ones. Really thick bunches of wool may not felt at all. So, you want to begin by drafting (thinning out) your roving.
To do this, take a length of roving and firmly hold it with one hand. With your other hand, take a hold of the roving about 12″ away and gently pull to thin it out.
This takes a bit of practice to get it even. If it breaks, no problem, you can use small pieces, too. If it is too difficult to pull apart, try holding your hands further apart.
Now, lay the thinned out roving pieces on your fabric in whatever design you want. I prefer curves to straight lines so I made swirls but you can do whatever you like.
Add the Silk Sliver Decoration
If you are using the silk roving or sliver, you will repeat the drafting process. Thin out the silk and lay it on top of your wool.
This is completely optional but silk roving or sliver gives a nice sheen and luster to the finished nuno felt fabric.
Note, pure silk sliver will not felt by itself so you must lay it on top of the wool.
Wet the Wool Roving
Now the fun starts! First, fill your spray bottle with hot water and add a few squirts of soap. Begin by thoroughly spraying your wool with the soapy water.
Place your hands flat on the wool and carefully start working the water into the fiber. Small movements are all you need at first. Press down a bit to make contact between the silk and the wool.
Add more water, if needed. You want the fiber to be completely saturated with water. Dry fiber won’t felt. Just keep working the wool all across your shawl.
Next, place a piece of bubble wrap or plastic on top of the roving. With the flats of your hands, begin working the wool a little more firmly. Add more water as needed. Keep working the fiber all across your piece.
Rolling the Nuno Felt
If you’re using a matchstick blind, place a plastic sheet on top of your piece. Then, beginning at one end, tightly roll up your shawl. Tie in 2 or 3 places with the scrap yarn or nylon hose.
If you’re using the bubble wrap, place a second layer of bubble wrap on top of your shawl and roll it up from one end. Tie in 2 or 3 places with the scrap yarn or nylon hose.
Now place your hands on the rolled matchstick blind or bubble wrap and begin rolling back and forth, all the way from your fingertips to your elbows, gradually increasing pressure. Continue rolling your felt for a good 15 minutes or so.
Testing the Felt: Pinch Test
Unroll the package and check the felting progress by doing a pinch test. (I forgot to take a pic of the pinch test so here’s an old one.
With your thumb and forefinger, pinch a bit of fiber and gently pull up. Is it holding together? If yes, move on to the next step. If no, continue rolling.
Fulling the Felted Wool
The next step in making your nuno felt is the fulling or throwing stage. This will full your fiber, meaning it will shrink, harden and complete the felting process.
Note: Don’t start throwing your felt until your piece has passed the pinch test. Make sure all of the fiber is holding on to the fabric.
Pick up your shawl GENTLY, wad it up and let it fall on the table. No force here, just gently let it drop. Pick it up and drop it again.
Keep dropping your felt about 50 to 100 times. After a while, you’ll notice the fibers firming up so you can increase pressure.
Check your piece every now and then by carefully laying it out and tugging it. You’ll know it when you see it. Continue throwing your scarf until it starts to wrinkle and pucker.
At this point, your shawl is finished. If you want your felted piece to have more wrinkles, you can continue to throw it. Just make sure to check it every minute or so. It is very easy to over felt and end up with a hard piece of fabric.
Finishing the Nuno Felted Shawl
All that is left now is to thoroughly rinse out all of the soap with room temperature water. Smooth out and then hang your new shawl up to dry.
That’s all there’s to it! Make sure to only hand wash your nuno felt piece. It is unfortunately not machine washable.
Now you know how to felt wool with the Nuno Felting technique. It is not much different than the basic wet felting technique other than felting the wool onto a piece of fabric.
If any of these steps are unclear, please let me know. And if you try this tutorial, please send me a photo of your creation!
Related Wool Felting Tutorials:
- Wet Felting Basics for Beginners
- Cobweb Felting a Scarf
- Lattice Felting
- Resist Felting a Bowl
- DIY Felt Dryer Balls
- How to Needle Felt (for Beginners)
- What is Felting? A Beginner’s Guide
- DIY Wool Dryer Balls with Needle Felt Designs
Nuno Felting: New Tools, Tips & Special Techniques: Create better, more intricate nuno felt faster!