How to Make a Felt Scarf
Make yourself a fabulous felt scarf using a technique called Nuno felting. It’s a relatively new technique invented in 1994, which involves combining wool with a fabric in order to make a very lightweight textile. Any fabric can be used in nuno felting as long as it has a loose weave. I like to use chiffon silk, but if you have never used silks in felting or nuno felting it’s advisable to make up a few samples first to see how the silk behaves with the wool.
- A length of work surface like a kitchen table
- Access to hot water and sink
- Plastic sheeting to protect tables
- Large bowl
- Towels for soaking up suds and water
- White vinegar
- Clean washing up bowl
- Coloured Electrical tape
- Cling film
- Washing detergent.
- Bubble wrap, wider and longer than silk scarf.
- Pool noodle, 0r a length of bubble wrap rolled up and secured with tape, slightly wider than silk scarf.
- Stockings or pop socks
- Make sure your surfaces are protected from possible water damage with plastic sheeting. Tape the edges under the table to secure.
- Lay out your length of scarf onto the plastic sheeting keeping the edges as straight as possible.
- Mark the edges with coloured electrical tape to create a guide.
- Remove the scarf and put it aside. You will be left with a rectangle where the scarf was. This is what you’ll be working to.
- Roll your cling film over the bubble wrap from one end of the guide to the other. I like the cling film to overhang the guideline by a couple of inches on all sides. Cut with scissors. The cling film will prevent the wool fibres from working their way down between the bubbles on the wrap. Too much agitation from the bubble wrap would cause the wool to felt before the fibres had a chance to migrate through the weave of the scarf.
Laying out the Wool for the First Face
- Lay down a very thin first layer of wool slightly overhanging the guide line on both sides. I’ve gone slightly longer than the silk scarf, you can see where my guide line for the actual edge of the scarf sits in relation to my intended edge.
You could lay down a second colour on top to give depth to the first. I’ve used a lovely teal over the purple.
Top Tip!…Keep your wool layers really thin. You’ll be surprised how well a little bit of wool felts!
2.The area between the edge of the silk and the intended final edge will have to be filled or there will be a big gap! I’ve used silk throwster waste and mulberry tops to decorate. If the silks are spread very thinly, the merino fibres should grab the silk fibers. It’s best to keep this first layer simple as it requires working in reverse, i.e. the first layer that sits against the bubble wrap will be the top layer of one of the sides. A layer of wool is then added over the top of the silk details.
3.The silk chiffon is carefully centred over the wool with a couple of centimeters overhanging.
Top Tip!…Silk will not felt onto silk. There needs to be at the very least, a very fine layer of merino between in order to bind them.
Hemming and the Second Face
Laminate the un-hemmed silk edge with merino wool. The fibres of the wool will migrate through the weave of the silk, trapping it in a wool sandwich and preventing it from unraveling.
Building on the Design
The glistening fibres in these photos are additions of silk tops, matawa, tussah silks and silk laps that have been thinly laid over the top of and amongst the merino wool fibres.
Getting Ready to Felt
- Being careful not to disturb the wool and silk fibres, lay down the tulle over the surface. Drizzle with washing detergent.
- Using a ladle, dribble luke warm water onto the back of your hand so that the water runs down and seeps into the wool without disturbing it.
- Once the wool has been thoroughly soaked, starting at one end, roll everything from the bubble wrap upwards around the pool noodle.
- Bubble-wrap, cling film, tulle and all, roll it up and secure with nylon stockings or pop socks tied in a bow. Don’t tie knots as they will be impossible to get undone!
I roll my bubble wrap package backwards and forwards (counts as one motion) about 100 times. I then unroll it and roll the whole thing up from the other end, secure and repeat. After about 200 rolls open up the bubble wrap and carefully peel off the tulle. If the tulle is left on for too long the fibres of the wool may attach to the surface of the tulle. I’ve worked out that 150-200 rolls is about right before I need to cast the tulle aside.
Roll everything up and secure as before. I continue my 100 roll method, unwrapping, un-rolling and then rolling-up from the opposite end until the wool and silk has felted together to the point it can be lifted without falling apart. Flip the whole piece so that the surface that was lying against the bubble wrap is face up towards me. Use the cling film to assist in flipping and then cast away the cling film. Repeat steps 16 and 17. Every now and then check the surface of the scarf. Once I can see a good amount of wool coming through from the other side, I know it’s time to begin the rewarding task of fulling. In order to ascertain if your scarf is ready for fulling, test a patch. Press a dry towel to one area of the surface in order to soak up any suds and excess water. Hold this area of scarf up to a strong light and at an angle. You should be able to see a very fine halo of wool fibres protruding.
Fulling the Scarf
Once the wool has felted together so that the fibres are not shifting and distorting and have worked thoroughly through the weave of the scarf, fulling can begin.
Fulling uses a combination of heat, moisture and agitation. It tightens everything up so that it becomes really robust. One thing I have learnt is that at this stage wool doesn’t have to be treated with kid gloves! One really good method that I use is to soak the scarf in water so that it’s saturated then throw the scarf against a table top, allowing the weight of the water to assist in the fulling process. Washing boards are great to rub the felt against, you can even rub one surface of the scarf against another. Try immersing the felt in hot water and then continue with the agitating. At this point it is up to you how much you wish to full your work.
When fulling is complete it’s time to rinse the scarf out, making sure to get rid of all the soap suds. Fill a clean washbowl with cold water and add a couple of caps of white vinegar. Soak the scarf for approximately 15 mins, rinse out the vinegar and hang to dry.
Wash by hand in cool water using a mild soap. Squeeze excess water out inside a towel and lay flat to dry. Do not wring.
To see more examples and the work of Chica Chimu visit: www.chicachimu.co.uk