Nuno Felting with Sharon Costello

February 21, 2004

workshop participants
Workshop participants
Photo: Kathy Vermilye

Eleven of us gathered on this chilly Saturday in February to learn the art of Nuno Felting as taught by Sharon Costello.

"Nuno" is a Japanese word meaning cloth or fabric. It has been applied to this felt making technique (developed by fiber artist Polly Stirling) because it involves the use of woven cloth as a base to which wool and other fibers are felted. Using a fine woven base allows the finished cloth or garment to be extremely lightweight and drapable, while also providing added strength, texture and surface design.

Sharon with introductions and quickly came to realize that she was dealing with a group of novices. Two people had felted before and a couple others had dabbled with needle felting, but none of us had ever tried Nuno.


Kathy's completed scarf
Photo: Kathy Vermilye

She gave us some background information and passed around her exquisite samples which included a shawl that looked like a Moroccan spice market, a Garden Trellis triangular shawl, a gorgeous vest (that she was wearing) and a web like shawl. These examples quickly dispelled any notions that we had of felt being stiff and heavy. Her work was almost ethereal in its weight and drape.

Sharon then showed us the techniques we would use to lay out our creations.
Using cotton scrim as a woven base she carefully laid out tufts of merino top. Adding bits of loosely spun yarn, open weave ribbons and scraps of fabrics she began to design her sample.

Off we went in pairs to our work areas. As teams of two per table we gathered our "pool noodles", thermal pool covers, cotton scrim and bags of colorful wool and got to work. (Nuno involves "highly technical" equipment)

As the morning progressed it was fascinating to see the variety of designs and color combinations unfolding in front of us. You would never guess that we were all working with the same selection of materials and instructions. We were beginning to wonder how these piles of fluff were going to become light, drapable scarves.

Once our designs were laid out we broke for lunch. After lunch we began the heavy exercise half of the day. It became apparent why working in teams was beneficial!

First we felted our scarves. This involved carefully wetting our wool and rolling it up in the pool covers, using the "noodles" as the core. We took turns rolling, and rolling, and rolling, and rolling. We would stop every five minutes to change direction and have Sharon check the progress of the felting process.

Next, on to the fulling. This involved lightly rolling our scarves in nylon netting (old sheer curtain panels) and rolling and squishing. Again Sharon checked our progress every few minutes. Then the fun part! After working so carefully with our delicate creations we waded them up in a ball and began "throwing" them on the table. This stage of the fulling did not take long. As Sharon declared each scarf finished we rinsed out the soapy water (easier said than done) and blotted them damp/dry in old towels. Then home to let them thoroughly dry over night. In the morning I had a beautiful scarf that is light as a feather with nice drape and a delicate hand.

What a fun workshop! Thank you Sharon!