When you make felt, you are making the oldest fiber art known in the world. The essence of wet felt making remains unchanged throughout the centuries- agitate fibers with water, heat and pressure. While the technique has hardly changed, common modern materials make the job easy. The washboard can be replaced with bubble wrap, for instance. Despite the ancient methods, felt making is more popular than ever with crafters, because it offers so many creative possibilities. Nuno felting is one of the most interesting and satisfying.
Nuno felt is felt that has been created by enmeshing wool fibers into an existing fabric. Silk and loosely woven linen are the most popular, but my favorite base for nuno felting is lace. The fibers bind together into felt through the open patterns in the lace. The fabric is delicate, warm, strong and beautiful. And because it’s felt, it’s easy to cut and sew. The crafting possibilities are literally endless. Do I have you convinced? I’ll walk you through the steps for making nuno felted lace from scratch!
Needle and thread
Step 1: Lay out a towel to help keep your workspace dry. On top of the towel, lay the bubble wrap, bubble side up, then the piece of tulle net.
Step 2: Pull thin wisps of wool roving and lay them down in a pile a little bigger than the piece of lace. The wool should be thin and fluffy, and the wisps need to overlap. When laying out the fibers, keep the project centered on the net.
Step 3: Lay the lace on top of the pile of wool, then cover it with a second thin layer of fiber.
Step 4: Mix a little bit of dish soap with the hottest water you can stand to handle. I added one small “squirt” of soap to the small bowl of water I used. Fold the net over to cover the layers, and then drizzle a small amount of soapy water over the project. The goal here is wet, but not sopping.
Step 5: Fold the bubble wrap over the top of the net, sandwiching the sudsy wool and lace between the net and bubble wrap. Gently press and tap on the bubble wrap with your fingers to begin the felt making process.
Step 6: Roll the whole thing up into a tube, and then begin the hard work! Roll and roll and roll the bubble wrap, back and forth 100 times. Yep, 100 times.
Step 7: As you roll, you can periodically stop to check on the progress. The soapy fibers should bond together quickly, into a thin matted fabric. To test the integrity of the fabric, pinch the wool. If the fibers loosely pull up, it’s not done and needs more rolling. If you are unable to pull any wool loose, the felt is ready.
Step 8: When you agitate the fibers inside the bubble wrap, they will shrink, but the lace will not. The result will be ruffled lace incased in soft felt. Take the nuno felt and rinse it in hot, then cold water, alternating between the two several times. Wring out the water, and let the fabric dry.
Step 9: Sew a button to one end of the lace, and cut a button hole in the other end. Because the nature of felt is fabric that won’t unravel, you won’t need to stitch the button hole.