Cathy’s Nuno Felt Projects

Cathy’s Nuno Felt Projects

We have a guest post today from Cathy (Luvswool on the forum) about Nuno Felting.



Following are my three attempts at nuno felting, none of which has been very successful.  I am posting here, hoping to get some recommendations.  Any advice offered will be welcome.  While I understand it’s difficult to compare processes–you will not know exactly what kind of wool I used, what temperature the water was, the quality of my silk–still I hope the photos will help explain.

After having watched numerous videos and studying books on nuno felting, I purchased some silk scarves (silk gauze) from an Etsy shop.  These scarves were approximately 12 x 57 inches and particularly recommended by the shop owner for nuno felting.  I wanted to make a scarf that looked light and lacy with some silk showing, so I used wisps of Merino wool and some silk hanky pieces which I lightly placed on top of the peachy/orange silk scarf, just one layer. (Sorry, no “before” photos)

photo 1bphoto 2After following the nuno felt instructions carefully, I ended up with some of the pieces felted and some not, as you can see from above photos.  Not a good start.  Figured it could be the silk quality or the water temperature?  Not enough wool?  I set the project aside.

Project #2 – I had some silk scraps from vintage Japanese kimonos, and thought I should do some samples before attempting another “real” project.  So I used white and red Merino wool on top of silk, lightly nuno felted to make “pre felts”.  Silk scraps literally peeled away when I lifted the corners to check on my progress.

photo 3photo 4Project #3 – I purchased a remnant of beige silk chiffon from a nearby shop, Vogue Fabrics, which has an amazing selection of fabric, including lots of gorgeous silks.  Huge remnant section so I did not need to break the bank.  Clerk did a “burn test’ so I was assured to be purchasing silk, not synthetic fabric.

photo 5I used three layers of wool, not being sure this was actually Merino, since I bought this on ebay and the seller was unsure what type of sheep’s wool.  It felt a bit rougher than the soft Merino I usually use, but nothing to lose, right?  Although I did not photograph my first go-around, there were approximately 20 “holes,” that is, I could see the beige chiffon through the wool (nickel to quarter size holes), and it did not look good. Underside after nuno felting:

photo 7Next I needle-felted the same wool, along with some light green Merino wool, onto the holes.

photo 8Then I wet-felted the entire piece. After rolling, I rinsed in hot and cold water, fulling (throwing in sink), vinegar dip & cold water rinse.

photo 9Now it looks better, but I still do not consider it to be a successful nuno felt project.

photo 10bProject #4 — Here is my piece of light green silk gauze (as purchased from Etsy shop mentioned in Project #1) ready to be nuno felted.  Awaiting your suggestions and comments!

photo 11

48 thoughts on “Cathy’s Nuno Felt Projects

  1. I have a question, is the silk a little stretchy? I find the chiffon (or maybe its georgette it is dull not shinny) I have with a little stretch harder to felt . I find it harder to get the silk to migrate through. The silk kimono fabric would need a lot of rubbing to get the wool to come through. It is a tight weave. I cover mine top and bottom with a shear and rub on top of that. it stops the wool and the silk from shifting and you only rub very lightly to start. when you lift the shear be careful that the wool isn’t sticking to the shear. lift it slowly and carefully. do your rubbing on the silk side like you are trig to pull the wool up through. I am curios to see what everyone else does.

    1. No stretch whatsoever in the silk but there is a slight “sheen” to it…Etsy shop owner calls it “silk gauze.” By “shear” do you mean one of those sheer curtains, usually made of polyester?

  2. This is an interesting direction for the blog, I am very interested to see everyone else’s tips for nunofelt and laminating. I don’t consider myself to be an expert by any means but here are my top tips:
    – always use new wool, old wool tends to be felting to itself already, if it is difficult to pull thin tufts it is going to be harder to persuade the fibres to migrate through your fabric
    – use cold soapy water to wet out, you can warm it up once the fibres have evenly migrated through the fabric, as before you don’t want the wool felting before it has migrated. I’m sure this is obvious but do check your wool and fabric are thoroughly wetted out, if there are any slightly dry spots they will not felt.
    – I like to very gently stroke my wetted fabric and wool from the fabric side, this seems to encourage the fibres to migrate through and knit to each other, then I seal in decorator’s plastic start rolling with bubble wrap for extra “massage” of the wool but I know others who just roll for anywhere between 5 and 30 min depending on the type of fabric
    – after rolling, GENTLY kneed your bundle with the wool on the inside, gradually increasing the pressure and temperature. For difficult to laminate fabrics I will kneed for a couple of minutes still between the layers of decorator’s plastic that I rolled it in, this helps keep the felt and fabric together while the wool fibres are knitting together on both sides of the fabric.
    – I have only ever used merino for laminating / nuno felting so can’t really speak to using other breeds but as we all know some breeds are easier to wet felt than others so making a small sample would seem like a wise move if trying out an unknown or new breed. I am a great believer in making small samples when trying out a new method / wool / fabric although I completely understand Cathy’s enthusiasm for diving in and creating a scarf!

    1. Teri, thanks for the nuno felt tips! I am definitely going to try samples first after everyone weighs in on their nuno felt techniques. BTW, what is “decorator’s plastic”?

    2. It’s a very thin plastic that comes in large sheets (very handy for making scarves), you will find it in the painting isle of any good DIY store. I think it is meant to be used as a protective covering but I think it would be too thin for that, the first time you step on it you would put a hole in it! But it is perfect for felting! :o)

  3. As I understand it, two of the keys for successful nuno are to use very fine micron merino in very thin, wispy layers, and not too much wool (depending on the intent of the finished fabric). also, the emphasis is on VERY GENTLY beginning to massage the wool fibers through the silk from the fabric side. It is very easy to get the wool to felt to itself before it integrates into the silk.

  4. Hello Cathy – decorator’s plastic is thin plastic sheeting used protect floors, furniture etc from being splashed with paint when a room is being decorated. There are many grades from industrial stuff that can be non-slip and very tough (used to cover carpets) down through to flimsy stuff from the pound shop (dollar store) that can be used to cover furniture etc at home.

    I can’t really add much to the advice given above. I always use tepid soapy water and start the agitation very, very gently. Give the wool fibres plenty of time to migrate through the fabric before getting ‘rough’ with it. I usually work with the fabric on top of the wool – whether that makes any difference or not I don’t know.

    1. Hi Lyn, sorry I did not see your comment before replying to Cathy, great tip about finding decorator’s plastic in pound stores, I’ve never even thought to look there but it would be much cheaper than DIY stores, I think I paid £7 for my last pack!
      I start with the wetted out fabric on the base and lay fibre over the top, wet that out, put decorator’s plastic over the top, press down to distribute the water and make sure it is thoroughly wetted out all over. Then I squeeze out all the air by rolling a broom handle over the whole piece before flipping it over to gently stroke the fibres through on the fabric side. My layers (before flipping it over) from the bottom up are: towels (to catch excess water), bubble wrap, decorators plastic, fabric, merino and a second layer of decorator’s plastic.

  5. I use cold water…..I take it very slow and massage the intial fibers, make sure you do not use too much soap, it will become too slippery and hard for the fibers to migrate. I do not use hot water or even warm water until I know I have migration. you can then use a sander if you want too. I use plastic, fine mil, atop instead of tulle. works better for me….good luck, keep practicing, watch videos…..

  6. Lots of good advice here. If you are going to use the sander, put the sander on the silk side with the wool underneath. Do not move the sander around on the fabric, pick it up and put it down. Do you know how to check that the wool is migrating through the silk? You need to see the hairs of fiber coming through. You look at an angle to see if you see it coming through the fabric. It looks to me like you are using too heavy a layer of wool and it is felting to itself. Use really fine layers of wool – you’ll barely be able to see them after laying them on the silk. Also, you should be able to blow air through a fabric for it to work for nuno felting. Good luck and let us know how the next sample goes. Don’t give up – you’ll get it working soon with all this good advice.

  7. My turn again. as you read you think of more stuff. I like to cover my work with the shear material to wet out. It seems to disturb the fibers less. I too use plastic mostly now but when starting I found the shear material worked better for me. I don’t find that the amount of wool matters with the migration. I have done fine and heavy and they both work the same for me. I found bubble wrap to be a hindrance as well and use the reed beach mats form the dollor store or the similar ones that are plastic.

  8. These are some terrific recommendations! I am thinking from your comments that firstly, I probably was not gentle enough; and secondly, my wool fibers were in clumps as I recall–trying to do the artistic thing! Finally, I may have begun rubbing the fibers onto the scarf. rather than the scarf onto the wool fibers. Next time will swap out the bubble wrap in favor of thin “decorator” plastic.

  9. Another question: Have any of you found more success when you trap the silk (or other fabric) between two layers of wool?

    1. Absolutely, and in some ways this is easier than the single laminate you have been trying so far because the fibres migrating through the fabric have something wooly to grip onto on the other side. I have only really used this to give strength to felt as the pretty rippling effect is buried in the extra layer of wool (I would use a cheap fabric such as cotton muslin). It can give a very pretty effect when used for nuno-felting though (where you leave gaps of exposed fabric between the wool. You can either mirror the wool patters on either side of the fabric or lay out different patterns to get an unusual effect, here’s an example:

    2. I can’t say I’ve had ‘more’ success, but it is useful, like Teri said for giving strength, I’d agree with using muslin too, or cheesecloth, not wasting good silk 🙂

  10. There is a lot of good advice here and we have also covered some of this on the forum. The only thing I can add is that I find Saran Wrap a little sturdier than the painters plastic unless you get heavier than 2 mil then you always have to cut to size. You can overlap the Saran Wrap to get the width. Be sure to use a scissor rather than the cut strip, it’s cleaner. If it’s a two sided project I use it on both sides. Lay the wrap first then the first side design, carefully cover it with the scarf material, then mKe the second design side. Wet with room temp water and soap mix, cover with the wrap then begin light rolling. Bubble wrap is the first layer before the Saran Wrap. Once the wool starts to migrate you can remive the wrap. I always reverse directions on each roll and when I remove the wrap I flip it over so that the other side faces the bubble wrap.

    I have bought silk from Vogue that I was assured was 100% silk, but turned out not to be. The one piece I dyed this week– the crinkled chiffon was one of them. I usually buy firom Dharma Trading and dye my own. If you buy silk elsewhere be sure to ask what the weight is in mm. It should be 3 to 5 mm (momee) to be sheer enough.for easier felting. I’ve purchased 8 mm and it’s a little harder to work with. Also, sometimes it’s poorly dyed and will wash out while felting. For dark silk and design it’s not a problem, but if you intend to sell anything I’d be sure to let the buyer know it may bleed. Gee I feel like I’ve written a book! Good luck!

    1. Marilyn, Thanks for the tips! I never thought to check the silk weight, and I doubt the clerk at Vogue Fabrics could have told me. I have heard frequently about folks using Dharma Trading, so I will add that one to my list! They seem to be reasonable in price as well, which Vogue Fabrics is not (I search their remnant pile although they rarely have silk).

  11. Teri, I will try the two-sided approach as well. I’ve heard the cotton gauze or cheesecloth can be effective for nuno felt work. In fact, we recently had a post about that. BTW, your scarf is beautiful! What a great example!

  12. The first felting i ever did was nuno feltibg in a class. You literally have to felt it for hours.. it took forever to get it to felt

  13. Like Ann, I don’t think the amount of wool matters either, but obviously you get different results with different amounts. The only things I’ve ever really had ‘trouble’ nuno felting are thicker or stiffer organzas, and fabric with cut edges, both together is worse 🙂

  14. Going back to the drawing board this coming week, incorporating above tips and reviewing a few videos, as well as Zed’s ebook on Nuno Felting. I am a visual learner, and the photos and videos are so helpful to me. So pleased with the helpfulness and generosity on this Blog!

  15. Love all the comment and suggestions – The blogger was trying to make a lighter weight scarf i.e. using silk.

    I too want lighter weight so I purchased Item # T-5 Matte Tulle 100% nylon SKU 178517 25 YDS x 6″ wide @ $3.99 from Hobby Lobby*. I used black tulle and black wool with red yarn accents. I put bubble wrap down and used a sharpie to make a 6″ wide by 70″ ‘pattern’. Placed a thin layer of wool down and then strip of tulle and then wool on top. Wet it with warm soapy water a few inches at a time using my fingers to press it down and then rolled the first section using the bubble wrap and continued wetting and rolling until all the piece was rolled. At that point I had a cylinder which I kneaded to start the felting process. I then used the sander method over the front and back with a plastic bag covering the wool. I rolled it up again securing the roll with rubber bands and put it in the washing machine on the Permanent Press sping cycle for 3 or 4 minutes. Then rinsed it kneading in my hands as I rinsed put and put it in a lingerie bag using ribbon to tie the bag securely around the piece and so it would not flop around in the bag and did the washinging machine spin again. Last step was to soak and rinse in vinager and water. Gently squeezed out the water with my hands, put in dryer with fluff only (NO HEAT) for about ten minutes and layed flat to dry completely.

    I do not have a website so I will post pictures on my Facebook page under Felting. Unless there is a way to post them here. I think you will have to friend me to see the photos so send me a message with the mention of felting.

    *(Hobby Lobby is a craft store located in parts of the US)

    1. I am surprised, Frances. to hear that you were able to nuno felt with nylon! Have always heard that was difficult, but everyone finds the process that works for them. How did the double washing machine spin help the nuno felt? Or was it to further do the fulling?

      I don’t do Facebook, so I won’t be able to see your photos, but you did a great job of explaining how you nuno felt. And thanks!

    2. I used the washing machine to help the felting the 1st time and to help the fulling the second time.I do not have a lot of strength in my hands (Arthritis) so I let the machine do some of the work. I am not sure how much the sander helps. I am going to try the car buffer next which I saw being used on UTUBE.

    3. Cathy, Nylon was invented/created as a synthetic silk, it even dyes the same. I haven’t really noticed anything special about ‘natural’ fabrics which make them felt any easier than synthetic, maybe the fibres are slightly ‘fluffier’.

  16. Shadrr, the scarf looks nice. Did it turn out as you expected? I’m always experimenting for different effects and there are always pleasant surprises.

    1. I got the color effect I wanted and I like the open look – I did not use enough wool in some places to adhere the “red strings” embroidery floss securely. Since I have taken only one class and this is only the 3rd scarf I have made I am pleased with the progress I am making. I am trying to start a blog on wordpress were I will post pictures of the 3 scarves I have made plus a hat. Apparently some people cannot see the pictures on facebook. Also I want to make some swatches using different colors of tulle and wool to see what effects I get.

    2. It’s a learning process. The forum will give you more help and new ideas than you can imagine. Have fun!

  17. I’m all for using shortcuts in the felting process if they work, and if a few rounds in the spin cycle helps the felting/fulling, I’ll give it a whirl! Thanks for all the suggestions.

  18. I have had a similar experience to your first project. The silk I was using was quite a dense chiffon silk. I agree with gentle massaging ie a lot of rubbing before you roll. I think the idea of rubbing from the fabric rather than the wool side is a good one. Do stick at it. It IS a question of finding technique.

  19. It’s been comforting to hear that I am not the only frustrated nuno felter! But I plan to begin a new nuno scarf today, this time using all of the wonderful tips and ideas I’ve received. Thanks all!!

  20. I’m glad you got lots of replies and great advice, Cathy 🙂
    I’m looking forward to seeing your new scarf.

    1. Although it’s not perfect, Zed, I am thrilled with my new nuno scarf, which I completed yesterday. I can post photos on the Forum for all to see!

  21. Looks like you already have tons of advice and this may have been said already but here are my 2 cents:
    I always put a tiny, fine layer of merino or alpaca fiber/roving underneath the silk. This helps to trap it as silk is harder to felt.

    Also, I start with cool water. If you use hot water at the beginning, the fiber tends to felt to itself rather than felting through the gauze.

  22. Thanks, Annette. I do think my water was too hot first go-around, and my newest attempt had me laying out wool on both sides of the scarf. All of the tips above, plus Zed’s e-book on nuno-felting, did contribute to a successful new project, which I will be posting photos of soon!

    1. Would you provide information on purchasing Zed’s e-book. I have the Complete Picture Guide to Felting by Ruth Lane which is good. Thank you

    1. Thanks for that 🙂
      I’m looking forwrad to seeing the scarf, I’m glad it worked out

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