Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Joy of Nuno

Erica and Nel with their finished nuno scarves
What happens when you mix silk chiffon fabric and wool roving and add embellishments of novelty yarns, ribbon, silks and other fibers?   NUNO felt!  This flexible felting technique was developed in 1994 by American turned Australian Polly Stirling and her assistant Sachiko Kotaka . (Polly is the sister of Robin Blakney Carlson who first taught me the language and delight of nuno.)   Polly wanted to create a lightweight fabric suitable for the tropical Australian climate using wisps of wool embedded (felted) into a lightweight base fabric like silk or cotton gauze.
The past couple weeks I have taught workshops on Beginning Nuno Felting for our Fiber Guild of the Savannahs Taste of.. (the fiber arts) workshops.  I was so psyched after teaching!  I had forgotten how much I missed it. Sure... working at the SCAD galleries allows me some teaching time... sharing what I know about our different artists and their work... but a small class of 6 to 8 who are interested in what they are learning and having the opportunity to help them discover a new process and unleash their creativity is invigorating.

Each student came up with something totally different.  Different colors, fibers, placement of design, embellishments...  they inspired ME to want to do more!
Taste of... Nuno Felters laying out their fibers on the 3mm silk chiffon fabric

Adding swirls of novelty yarn as embellishment.  Thin whisps of wool fiber 'glue' it to the base.
Swimming noodles, bubble wrap, netting, slightly soapy cool water... some of the tools for the felting process
Catie using the bubble wrap as a washboard to start the fulling process with warm water.
I decided the end of last year that I wanted 2013 to be the year of Nuno for me.  I discovered it about 6 years ago when we were living in Albany, NY.  I arranged for a group of the Hudson Mohawk Handweavers Guild to take a 3 day workshop with Robin Blakney Carlson at her studio in an old brick factory building in beautiful downtown galena Falls, NY.

She's felted and fulled and now to rinse...
Susan's nuno felted scarf ready to take how and dry and watch the magic happen!
I can't remember where I first saw a piece of nuno felting, but I do remember that it totally blew me away!  It shattered all my ideas of what felt was... or could be.  Felt to me had always been that stiff, dense stuff you get at JoAnn Fabrics for Xmas crafts that has gotten progressively more awful over the years the less it used natural fibers and started morphing into that nasty acrylic stuff.  Nuno was exotic, light as a whisper,  and full of exciting texture and colorful opportunities.  It was the complete opposite of boring!

I LOVE weaving... but there is something very freeing about creating nuno felt.  It's relatively fast (you can complete a scarf in 2 hours or less) and it encourages you to embrace what the fibers want to do.  You can design but the fibers and the way they adhere to each other with the light wisps of wool as glue... is amazing.  The end result is so different after the wool fibers migrate through the silk background... with the spidery effects of silk laid on the top... and sparkles of Angelina... and  dashes of color from novelty yarns and fabric... when you start shocking the fibers and they start to shrink... gradually more and more... rubbing, squeezing, dropping...  until the piece is 1/4 to 1/3 of its original size...  And then... when your piece dries and the empty areas pucker and rushing appears... it's magical!

I plan to do more... and eventually make nuno fabric for a summer top.

I will introduce my sm'ART (seeing and making ART) group (part of the Savannah Newcomers Club) to nuno next Oatland in early April. The ladies who took my class from the Landings (a wealthy community on an island just south  of Savannah) are interested in me coming out there for a nuno party with wine! (They know how to get the creative juices flowing!). Looks like 2013 is coming in NUNO!
Just look what Erica added to her nuno felted scarf... a coy fish dry needle felted into the nuno!

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