Saturday, 30 November 2019

Experiments with NUNO...

 I’d been thinking about holding a NUNO workshop for a while… 

Although I have done a fair amount of nuno felting over the years I wanted to 
return to the beginning and refresh my own knowledge.

 This was the perfect opportunity to play around with different fabrics, 
and also experiment with fabric dyes for the first time.
NUNO is the Japanese word for fabric…
And nuno felting is a relatively recent felting phenomenon, which came about
 when textile designers started to experiment with wet felting in new ways.

In the 1990’s an Australian designer Polly Stirling incorporated light-weight
fabrics, such as silk, with traditional wet felting fibres and discovered that the wet 
wool fibres were receptive to the woven fabrics. A ‘felted fabric’ resulted 
with quite different characteristics to traditional felt 
and was given the term nuno felt. 

NUNO felting is relatively simple!
It’s using the basic traditional wet felting methods and adding fabric…
But it does take time to perfect, and to persuade the wool fibres to penetrate the
 fabrics to achieve the wonderful textures associated with nuno…

The aim of this nuno workshop was to felt small sample pieces,
using different fabrics and fibres. To see what worked and what didn’t 
and to gain knowledge and experience before embarking on 
more ambitious projects!

My preparations included dyeing quantities of cotton muslin and silk to use on the day.
 I bought a Procion MX dye starter kit which had six colours plus all the
necessary additives + fixers. The instructions were good and I was pleased with
the colour range and the fast-ness of the dye throughout the final rinsing 
and felting processes.

I also used some Pebeo Setasilk fabric paints on silk and achieved good results. 
In this case the colours were made fast by ironing and remained fixed and vibrant throughout the felting process, as you can see here,
and click on any of the photos to see more detail...

 My students also bought along stacks of fabrics and fibres! 
Sharing and trying out different materials, and having fun was very 
much the spirit of the day... 

Wet felt is not easy to photograph well especially late on a wet afternoon, 
so here's just a small selection of finished pieces 
showing the amazing range of effects and textures achieved...

Finally, the RULES of NUNO…

There are NO rules—there are too many variables!
But there are some guidelines, such as choice of fabric. Those with a loose 
visible weave will make it easier for fibres to penetrate and felt in.

 Natural fabrics and fibres are easier to use. Wool fibres attach more
 readily to other organic fabrics such as silk, cotton and wool
but in my experience synthetics like polyester mixes also produce fantastic results!

Use a cool soap solution in the early stages - if the soap is too warm it may cause 
fibres to felt too quickly before penetrating through the fabric!

Take it slowly, some fabrics will take much longer to attach to fibres than others
especially if you are using a mix of textures in the same piece.

The best advice is to keep an open mind and enjoy experimenting,
and there will be further opportunities next year when more NUNO workshops 
will feature in the 2020 programme.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

FELT PATH : Autumn 2019

Autumn has to be my most favourite time of year!
It’s the season of dramatic change, most noticeably the shortening of daylight hours 
and the fall in temperature, which in turn causes shifts in the 
colours, textures and natural landscape around us.

The FELT PATH continues the themes of the summer, 
combining natural shapes with felt fabric and stitch. 
This time with an autumnal feel.

The fold-out book seemed a good device to contain the natural finds

constructed from paper layers. 
textured with water colour pencils  

The found objects, all gathered within a stone’s throw of home,
are stitched, woven and threaded into the felt strip

Now is the perfect time to collect seed pods, fruits and leaves 
as Nature sheds them all.

It’s a nostalgic reminder of past times, 
when we collected for the nature table at school, 
where all our treasures were carefully 
displayed and neatly labelled...

To identify and study these finds closely gives a greater appreciation 
of their form and functionality

showing Nature, the ultimate designer, at her very best!

And to see more detail click on any of the photos...

Saturday, 28 September 2019


 After the exciting experiments of the past weeks it’s now time to look at the results 
and see how the different elements of FELT and FABRIC have worked together.

The felt pods and pebbles were made with the intention that they would be 
decorated. They were the last pieces to be dyed, and I was 
hoping for a pale, random-dyed effect to off-set the darker dyed patches...

Here are the finished pods amongst the rocks at Freshwater Bay...
One of the last sunny afternoons this summer, 
surrounded by a perfect indigo blue sea...

They have undergone several weeks of stitching and patching using the 
new indigo dyed fabrics, combined with sashiko stitch.

Sketches here show the original ideas, and the range of pod shapes I was 
hoping to achieve, with the free-style surface decoration... 
(click on any photo to see more detail)  

Most of the pods were felted using the same round and oval 2-D resists, 
some were felted over 3-D plastic forms made from bubble-wrap.
They were a perfect size to work with and I'm delighted with the 
 finished effects + combinations of felt, fabric and threads, 
even some vintage cotton buttons were popped in the dye vat!

The indigo dyed shibori fabrics have given me plenty of material to complete 
number of projects, including my boro-style waistcoat, which has so far 
been over 2 years in the making… 

I now have some wonderful new indigo + rust dyed pieces to complete the
 back panel…  with another waistcoat already in the planning stage

I’ve previously decorated clothes with small boro-type patches and stitch 
so I shall continue with this, using my new fabrics….

All my indigo notes and samples, together with those from the rust experiments 
of 2017 have been written up in my dyeing notebook…

the rust browns + indigo blues work so well together

With all the indigo activity throughout the summer everything in my house 
and wardrobe has turned to shades of blue… 

As well as all the shibori fabrics mentioned, various items of clothing -
scarves and aprons found their way into the dye bath!

Finally my indigo BLUE khadi sketchbook is completely dried out,
but still waiting to be re-bound…

 ...another challenge for another time! 

It's been an interesting summer! 
The indigo experiments have left me with 
plenty of ideas and material to continue stitching into felt and fabric.

I've always loved 3-D felting, with it's endless possibilities! 
Now the scope has expanded even further when 
dyeing, stitching and applique techniques are incorporated into designs.

So there's a very busy time ahead, 
especially as the Autumn Workshops are about to start next week..
And for more details about the new programme, click here...   

Thursday, 29 August 2019


The weather’s changed, the wind has calmed down and I’ve been able to 
continue with the indigo experiments over the past few days… 
The vat’s up and ready, with everything assembled in the garden…

I began by dyeing the soaked fabrics, prepared with different
 shibori techniques - folded, stitched, tied and gathered with 
threads, elastic bands and clamps… 

Carefully submerging them into the vat, without introducing too much oxygen

soon the bundles were coming out of the dye,  
at first bright turquoise, quickly changing to deeper intense blues
as the indigo oxidised in the air…

The linen, silk and cotton fabrics all reacted so differently,
with varying shades of colour  

I did dip some a second and third time, here rinsed and left to dry….

The FELT pods and pebbles were always going to prove interesting!

I carefully siphoned small quantities of dye into shallow bowls using a pipette, 
(so the indigo didn't come into contact with too much oxygen) 
and allowed the wetted felt to soak up dye. 
I wanted random effects with some areas deliberately left white and paler…

After 10 -15 mins they were removed, left to oxidise, then rinsed.

Next came the Khadi sketchbook with all the prepared pages…  

The cotton rag pages had been soaking in water for about half an hour, 
to make them more receptive to the indigo once in the vat
BUT I was unaware that this had also weakened the glue binding…

Unfortunately, after about 10 mins in the vat, disaster struck...
The book was heavy, all the pages gave way and had to be quickly retrieved... 
Lots of lovely blue pages, but NOW loose leaf… 

And an unexpected re-binding challenge!!!!  

All the various pieces of fabric, felt and papers have now been left to 
thoroughly dry out. 

As is often the case the experiences and benefits of the practical 
PROCESS far outweigh any of the resulting PRODUCTS…

It's been extremely experimental, and enlightening!
I’ve learnt a lot and had great fun in the process, 
and I shall be sharing more results in the next blog post, 
coming up soon….

And don't forget you can click on any photo to see more details!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

EXPERIMENTS with INDIGO #1 Preparation

The long hot summer continues...
 with temperatures breaking records all across Europe. 
Traditionally indigo dyeing has taken place in locations much warmer than 
the Isle of Wight, so the unusually hot conditions here are perfect for my
 indigo experiments!

Preparations have been ongoing over the past weeks.
I'm using many fabrics -  cottons, linens and silks - left over from 
my Rust Dyeing in 2017, however this time my main focus is to experiment 
with indigo dyeing FELT…

I’ve felted a series of 3-D natural forms - pods, shells and pebbles shapes.

 They're all ready for dyeing and I’m keen to see how these felted shapes will 
react in the dye vat - I’m hoping for some totally random-dyed effects…

I’ve also prepared some pieces of felt which are tied, pleated and stitched with 
shibori techniques. I’ve tried this before with coloured prefelts 
and you can follow this link to Shibori Workshops.

 These latest felt pieces are pure white and ready to dye… 
along with the other cottons, silks and linen fabrics…

As with the rust experiments I also want to try dyeing paper.
 I've used a Khadi sketchbook, preparing the pages for dyeing with different 
‘shibori’ style pleats and folds, pegged and stitched into place

 Folding the hand-made 100% cotton rag paper has certain similarities to
the more traditional folds with fabric, but it also displays very different qualities...

I’ve been able to tear and cut the paper, wrap it around sticks, use wax and
 origami-type folds secured in place to form areas that act as resists,
 which prevent the dye colour from penetrating the paper, 
creating white patches + a range of lighter blue tones...

Indigo dyeing is a totally new adventure for me!
I’ve read as much as I can find in books and on-line. 

BUT this is extremely experimental and I’m really excited to see 
whether or not any of it works…

It’s been just as challenging to create all the different 3-D felt shapes

 AND the ‘pre-dyed’ paper book

So now all the fabric materials, utensils and equipment are assembled, 
prepared and ready to go to the next stage…  

BUT we have some very severe weather warnings ahead 
so I’m having to wait for the winds to drop and calmer, warmer days,
 when hopefully the indigo will be able to do it’s magic…..

Monday, 1 July 2019

FINISHING FELT, with stitching...

I recently held a ‘Finishing’Felt’ workshop with some of my experienced feltmakers…
 It was a very relaxed day, sharing ideas and solving problems… 
We learned so much from each other, with plenty of tea and cake 
to help the day along!

We all put so much energy and creativity into our feltwork but sometimes 
it just doesn’t work out as planned, so what to do…? 
Maybe it needs further finishing and embellishment, stitching and beading, 
or rethinking an area that hasn’t felted properly. 
Sometimes we’re just not sure what to do and promising pieces of work are put away, 
and forgotten for the sake of a few finishing touches…
Hopefully this workshop helped to rescue a few of them!

I get asked all the time about stitching onto felt and how to get started, 
even by the most skilled feltmakers…
 I made a sample book of different stitch types, worked on felt.and took it along 
to the 'Finishing Felt' day hoping it might encourage 
the most reluctant stitchers to get going
It’s a simple idea and having a end purpose for stitch samples is good motivation—
inspiring you to try out more and more examples to fill up the pages. 

It's also a perfect way to use up those precious felt scraps.

The leaf shape is a great favourite, I use it all the time in my work, 
and as in nature, no two leaves are ever the same…

Presenting them in a book keeps them altogether and creates a useful 
reference that’s easy to look back on and to add to...

As with most things—it’s best to keep it simple… 
You only need a few choice threads—the bolder the better as fine 
threads do get lost amongst felt fibres

Choose strong colours, thicker threads, a large needle and bold stitches… 
It’s difficult at first if you have a fine touch but it comes down to practice, 
and that’s where small samples are an ideal way to get started.

I love variegated threads as the colours have already been carefully selected or 
better still hand-dyed. I prefer the perles which come in different thicknesses..

My absolute favourite stitch is running stitch, sometimes whipped through 
with a contrasting thread… 

and feather stitch, which is perfect for creating feathery textures on birds 
and seaweedy growth on pebbles

. It’s easy to vary the stitch size and direction and the stitches soon take on an 
organic quality… They can be adapted to whatever scale you're working, 
from a tiny felted pebble to a larger picture...

The next step is to add small beads and buttons. The right choice of colour
 and size can compliment stitching and highlight aspects of the design. 
I like using tiny round beads but you need a very fine beading needle 
and thread for these. Larger buttons and beads with flat shapes are easier to sew 
into a felt surface, they don't sit too proud and don't snag!

The great advantage with creating felt is the relatively small step from working in 
2-dimensions to 3-D, and these forms can be enhanced, stitched and 
beaded in exactly the same way, with endless possibilities! 

 I’ve recently discovered 21st Century Yarns, a supplier of wonderful hand-dyed threads, including some amazing variegated silks in different thicknesses - 

just perfect for felt embroidery and a pleasure to use 

This is just a small selection,  there’s plenty more online at 

If you would like to see more examples of 
stitching on Small 3-D projects try this link...

to see my embellished Autumn Bag click here 

and you can click on any photo to see more detail.

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