You hear me talk about nunofelting or wet felting in my product descriptions and on social media. It may be a term you know or it may be something you don’t fully understand. I know I had never heard of it before I saw a beautiful, textured handbag hanging in the gallery at Moore College of Art about 15 years ago.
At that time, I had a line of hand dyed silk scarves that I sold to family, friends, and in a few specialty boutiques around Philadelphia. I had gotten a bit bored of the techniques I had been doing and production started to slow down. I was really trying to achieve texture with the dye techniques and I did but something was still lacking. When I walked into the gallery at Moore and saw that handbag, a light turned on and I became obsessed. I looked up the artist and read about this technique, nunofelting.
I started looking around Philly for a workshop and the closest one I found was a felting workshop at the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers. The woman teaching the workshop showed us how to do traditional felting. Traditional felting is combining wool on wool fibers and is what you think of when someone says felted wool. After voicing my confusion, my instructor told me that I was actually interested in nunofelting or wet felting. Nuno and wet felting are the same thing which can be a little confusing when you’re first starting to learn. For the rest of this blog post I’m just going to say nunofelting.
Nunofelting is the process of combining wool fibers into the weave of a base fabric. To combine the two, you lay the wisps of wool fibers on top of your base fabric. Everything is wet down with soap and water and wrapped in layers of bubble wrap. Next the agitation begins by rolling the layered bubble wrap/wool fibers/base fabric around a pool noodle and tying it into a neat package. Then the package is rolled back and forth over and over to convince the wool fibers to travel down into the weave of the base fabric. Once the fibers have migrated down, heat is introduced causing the wool fibers to shrink up into the weave of the base fabric. The shrinking results in a beautifully textured new fabric that is a combination of the base fabric and the wool fibers.
Why nunofelting? I’m a texture girl and I became obsessed with the realization that I could add texture to the fabrics I was dyeing. The combination of hand dyed colors with the texture of the wool opened up a new line of work. I worked endlessly to perfect my techniques and understand the relationship between the base fabric and the wool. Nunofelting also requires little to no sewing. Since I was a child sitting in my Grandma’s living room, I’ve been trying to figure out alternative sewing techniques. Nunofelting is tactile, hands on, and you almost sculpt the clothes instead of tediously sewing them. I like the physical act of combing the materials and the creative process of choosing what materials work well together.
My description of the nunofelting process above is a very condensed version. I’m currently working on an educational series focusing on Nunofelted garments. Creating garments with this technique requires a pattern like any other clothing design. The problem is, no one makes patterns for nunofelting. They show you how to make your own patterns or a download of a pdf file to print out but not the actual pattern. When you’re first learning, it can be frustrating and confusing to learn how to create Nunofelted clothing. This is the problem I’m going to solve.
Stay tuned for updates on my nunofelt educational series!