To Sample or Not to Sample

To Sample or Not to Sample

This isn’t as exotic as sampling Swedish wools, but it was a lesson in the benefits of sampling.

A while ago I had showed you a pile of scarves, blouses and remnants I had purchased to try nuno felting.

20150718_161317 20150718_161742

While they all passed the “blow”  test or looked or felt like they would felt well, there were a couple of big surprises.

When I make samples, I usually use prefelt and small samples of each of the fabrics on the same piece.  This way they are all felted the same way in the same amount of time in the same way.

Here is a picture of a couple of them before felting.  The upper left was an open cotton weave, the upper right was a scarf of unknown origin.  The lower left was a remnant that was sparkly with some embroidery and the lower right was part of a silk blouse.


This isn’t a very clear picture below,  but the second from the left was the one scarf I purchased I thought was perfect for nuno and was looking forward to using it on something special.  To the left of that on top was a scarf that felt like it had some lycra in it below was a piece of lace and sequin on some type of mesh. The third from the left was an organza with sparkle.


Boy was I mistaken.  After all the others were felted I continued to work on the flower and sparkly pieces, but they wouldn’t felt.  I was really glad I didn’t invest in a big project to use the flower scarf.  I even tried it on another piece of felt. You probably recognize the purple on the left that I used for my jewelry roll.  The scarf on the right also felted nicely.  I even used some wisps of wool on top of the flowers, but they clumped together and there were only a couple of threads on the flower piece that caught.


Here’s a closeup of the right one.


The other samples turned out nicely. The blue green and red were silk and the gold a polyester organza.


The one on the right below was a burnout fabric which surprised me it felted so well. On the left a silver gray polyester organza.


The blue on the left was a piece of lycra which didn’t do well either, but I wasn’t surprised at that. Above that was a piece of acrylic yarn that felted nicely.


The blouse felted very nicely and I’m sure I’ll use that for a special project in the future.


I was also surprised at the sequin and mesh.  I thought that also had a lycra base.  I loved how the mystery blue scarf turned out.  It has a shine and felt like a polyester with something else.  It has a very nice texture.


My favorite was the brightly colored scarf.  Now, I wish I had yards of it instead only part of a scarf.

20150509_131214I don’t always do samples, but if I want to use something for an important project I’ve learned its best to take the time to do it.

Now I know what to expect when I use these fabrics and which ones not to use for felting. Although a couple of them might work with coarser wools.  But that’s for another time.

35 thoughts on “To Sample or Not to Sample

  1. You have some pretty results – I particulary like the blouse and it’ll make a lovely project.

    A little bit of time invested in sampling is well worth the effort. It’s so disappointing to embark on a large project only to find that the fabric won’t attach! I’ve often been surprised with nuno – I’ve had suspicious looking fabrics that have just ‘melted’ into the wool fibres and others that looked very ‘feltable’ but stayed resolutely loose!
    And it’s always the very feltable fabrics that you have so little of … and metres of those that won’t work.

    1. Thanks Lyn! You’re right about having a lot of the of the fabrics that don’t felt well and little of the ones that do. Now I have to figure out what to do with those that don’t. Maybe sew them into some sort of collage piece. Or let them sit in the bin for another idea. 🙂

  2. You got some nice results and great textures, Ann. It is interesting, like Lyn says, that you can be surprised by results. I had a piece of greeny chiffony fabric, possibly silk, most likely synthetic, I thought I’d pile it on to get billowy ripples, but it folded over itself a few times and just sunk in and felted flat 🙂

    1. Thanks Zed! I guess I also like the surprises I get when sampling. But it is disappointing when you can’t coax them to do what you want. Darn alien fibers. 🙂

  3. Yes, it IS worth doing samples, and very interesting. Different fabrics and/or embellishment fibers, and different types of wool, and different combinations of all of those, and different amounts of wool… I sometimes feel that the list of samples I would like to do is endless. 😉
    I wonder if the scarf that didn’t felt might do better if felted on carded wool instead of prefelt? Or perhaps a little needle-felting, before wet-felting, could do the trick?

    1. Thanks Zara! I have a long list as well. It is fun and educational. I may try the carded wool with that scarf or a little needle felting, but it is a very slippery little devil even though it doesn’t feel like it. Very stubborn.

  4. Nice variety of fabrics and felt, Marilyn! Nuno-felting can be so challenging, and sampling is a must for consistent results. Like Zara, I am inclined to use carded wool rather than pre-felt on fabric.

    1. Thanks Cathy! As I mentioned to Zara I may try the carded wool with that scarf. The prefelt is easier (one less step) and I figure if the fabric felts well with merino it should be fine. But perhaps I have to start thinking about what I’d use it for and use the wool or combination I’d use in a project.

  5. Thank you for this post! I tend to leave out this step and then am disappointed and upset at the waste. You have reminded me of a very simple remedy. I am grateful.

    1. You’re welcome Victoria! It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to get something started. 😉

  6. Great post Marilyn. I think sampling is really important too. Sheer fabric works well with layered collage and if it is synthetic, you can burn or melt back portions of the top layers. Lots of fun.

    1. Thanks Ruth! Well I have plenty of sheer fabric now. That sounds like a neat idea as long as I don’t set the house on fire.

  7. Lots of great sampling and just as interesting as Swedish wool. Fabrics so surprise you sometimes. Yes it is frustrating that you always have only a little of something that felts really well.

    1. Thanks Ann! Yes, fabrics can be big surprises and it’s sad when you find something that you like that felts well and can’t find more of it. But that’s felting life. 🙂

  8. Great experiments and well worth the time and effort as big surprises can be costly! Experimenting is something I am learning to do more of rather than diving straight in with a prayer! With your sheer fabrics that won’t felt, I wonder if you you could look at bonding them with the web hemming bondaweb fabric. I was shown this technique last year and have used it to add organza ‘flames’ to a felt ‘fire’ piece. The bondaweb can also be painted before ironing it onto the fabrics

    1. Thanks Marion! Great tip for the bondaweb. I believe I have some but have never used it for that purpose. I’ll have to try it.

    2. Hey Marian, can you explain this technique a bit more it sounds interesting but I’m not quite understanding the process. Thank you so much!

    1. Thanks Sharon! I’ve done my share of skipping as well, but try not to now.

  9. Thanks Teri! Frankly, I didn’t expect it to either. Especially polyester, but I guess it had a loose enough weave.

  10. I sometimes make nuno collages with lots of different fabrics – I’ve found that it’s best to use ones I know will felt around the edges, and put the unknowns in the middle – they’re more likely to attach if fully surrounded for some reason. I don’t sample usually, just see bits that don’t work as a creative opportunity. You can always add a few French knots or lines of zigzag to hold down errant bits. It doesn’t seem to matter whether fabrics are natural or synthetic or whether you can blow through them; I’ve had great results with polyester organza and quite thick linen, and bad ones with some types of silk, as well as the reverse.
    I would definitely work on combed fibre rather than prefelt though.

  11. Great insight Thelma! I will try the center plan and using combed fiber. It’s always great to learn new methods. Thanks!

  12. An excellent experiment! I had never thought of using prefelt or carded wool. or doing all the scraps together in one piece. I must try that as I have quite a few charity shop scarves that are waiting for the perfect project but it would be so disappointing if they didn’t work. I just need to find the patience to sample rather than launching into a project!

    1. Thanks! Good luck with your charity shop scarves. Stop by the forum and let us know how your samples turned out!

    1. That’s okay Karen. Zed is the queen of samples. I like making them, too. Thanks.

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.