Welcome to my first blog post! I am Sara Setzer and I am a fiber artist, who concentrates in the art of felt work, specifically wet felting and nuno felting. If you know what felting is, awesome! Most folks have never heard of felting, or if they have they have heard of some different techniques than what I use. These are the two most popular methods of felting that I hear about at shows.
1. They knew someone in the 70’s who ‘knit felted’ – basically knitting a HUGE pattern with wool yarn, and then shrinking it in the washing machine.
2. Needle felting – a dry method of felting where you use sharp barbed needles to poke at wool bits to tangle and compress them into the shape that you want. Lately there as been a huge increase in needle felting, you’ve probably seen some pretty cute woodland creatures and animals on Pinterest that were needle felted. They even sell kit at Michael’s now.
Both are ways of felting, but not the techniques that I use. I use the wet felting technique and the nuno felting technique. So what is the difference? Well first let me tell you about what felting is.
So what is felting? Felting, simply put, is taking loose wool fibers and tangling and matting them into a strong fabric. The reason you can felt wool is because of the structure of the wool fibers. Each strand of fiber has individual scales on it. You have seen these scales pictured in shampoo commercials when they do an ‘microscope view’ of your split ends. It’s the manipulation of these scales that allows them to bind to each other and felt.
Wet felting is exactly what it sounds like. You get the fibers wet, to get them to felt. More specifically you use hot, soapy water and agitation to work those scales open and bind together. This is often a fairly time consuming and physically demanding process, but I have different tools and techniques that I use to make it a bit easier. I’ll have to share some of those in another post.
So what is nuno felting? The Nuno Felting technique is relatively new, and was developed by an Australian fiber artist named Polly Stirling in 1992. Nuno is actually the Japanese word for cloth, and the technique binds loose fibers (usually wool), into sheer fibers (like silk in this case) to create an extremely comfortably and light weight felt. Basically it is a method of adhering the wool fibers to the silk base that I am using. Because the wool fibers are so thin they can travel through the open weave of the silk. Once the wool migrates to the back of the silk I can then felt the fibers, allowing the wool to ‘stick’ and adhere to silk. The felting and shrinking of the wool fibers is what gives my nuno felted pieces their ‘puckered’ or ‘ruched’ texture.
While I could go on and on about the science of felting, I just wanted to give you a brief overview of what it is that I love to do. If you have any questions about felting, or want to know more about the process, please comment below!