Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nuno Felted Scarves@Felted Pleasure
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Traditionally felt was made from carded woollen or hair fibers without using any construction techniques such as spinning or weaving or sewing etc. The function of carders is to remove tangles and dirt from fleece or hair fibers. After carding, the fleece or hair fibers are in an organized state, and all wool or hair fibers lie in a parallel position. Spinners often use hand carders, although drum carders does the same work as hand carders, but on a much larger scale.

Uncarded Merino Fleece.

Carded Merino Fleece.

Woollen fibers from specific breeds of sheep are generally used, although it is possible to felt hair from other animals such as camel, alpaca, goat and yak. In the case of sheep, the ideal fleece for felt making possesses a short staple (that is fiber length) and a high count. The higher the count the easier it is to felt and so a count of 50-70s is best. Note: long staple fleeces can be cut to shorter lengths.

There is a range of fleece suitable for felting such as Cheviot, Merino and South Down to name a few (see Glossary of Terms and Fabrics for a more extensive list). They are characterized by a different count, stable length, handle and color. For example, the Merino typically has a count of 60/70s, a staple length of 5-10cm and handle that is soft and a color that can be described as off-white.

The Face of an Australian Merino Ram.

Felt is made by building up webs of fibers into sheets that have a required thickness. These sheets are then subjected to heat, moisture, pressure, and friction. The matting together of the material’s fibers creates a fabric that is characterized by the entangled condition of many of its component fibers.

The History Of Felts
Legend has it that one day St. Christopher set out on long journey and after walking for miles his feet started to hurt and so he sat down near a tree to remove his sandals. As he did he noticed fleece caught on branches and so he removed the fleece and lined his sandals in order to reduce the wear and tear on his feet. On arriving at his destination, he removed his sandals and - low and behold - the fleece had turned into felt because his walking action produced the perfect conditions for felt making namely - fleece in contact with perspiration (moisture and salt), pressure, heat and friction.

Titian’s St. Christopher Carrying Christ.

Felt making has a long tradition spanning many centuries before the birth of Christ. The oldest felt remains that have been found date back to around 500 B.C. These remains were found in the frozen tombs at Pazyryk in the Atai mountains in Siberia. The ice conditions preserved the integrity of the felt.

A portion of a large felt found in one of the tombs of Pazyryk in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia. Many of the Pazyryk textiles have been carbon-dated to 500 B.C. Repeated across its width is this motif of what Paine describes as a seated goddess figure holding a sacred branch. She is believed to be Tabiti, deity of the hearth and, therefore, of fire and fertility, who was worshipped in the Altai region in pre-Scythian times, meaning before 700 B.C. A male rider approached her on a horse, possibly a worshipper. Another source describes the appearance of this rider as Persian (Source: C. Brown, Tree of Life).

The nomadic tribes herded sheep for food (meat, milk and cheese) as well as to create felt for clothing, felted artworks for story telling and felt for housing - such as for their tent construction. The advantage of making tents from felts is many fold: the source – fleece – is readily available; the matted fabric is protective against many harsh weather conditions; it acts as an insulator; it is less flammable than most available housing materials, enabling naked flame cooking to occur within the tent; it is lightweight in comparison to other housing material and so can be easily transported.

Also known as yurts, gers are nomadic tents typically made of white felt (heavy canvas) covering a wooden lattice frame.

Felting Wool Fibers And Nuno Felting
A magnification of a wool fiber reveals that the fiber or staple is constructed by a series of overlapping scales that possess a serrated edge. The scales overlap and provide a staple with a pointed tip.

Scanning electron micrographs of fibers from an old wool fabric gabardine, ca. 1916.

How direction specific the scales of the fibers are is a function of the quality of the yarn. For example, soft fine wools are covered in scales and when such fibers are subject to heat, moisture, friction, and pressure, the fibers become swollen and soften and so will move against each other in the direction of least resistance. Adjacent scaly surfaces cannot move against each other if the scales are opposed and if they are forced to, then the scales will lock.

A protein – keratin - is present in wool and the molecular structure of this protein gives wool the property of elasticity or creep. The keratin protein has a spiral structure and so depending on the age of the sheep and type of fleece, this spiral structure will vary in terms of its resilience, thereby affecting the creep.

If the wool fiber is subjected to heat, pressure, friction and moisture the scales on the staple open up and the creep makes them tangle. The more the fibers are exposed to these four conditions the greater the fibers will mat, producing a tougher denser material. As the fibers begin to dry, the creep shrinks back and the serrated edges catch onto other fibers producing a mesh of fibers that constitutes the felt.

In 1992 Polly Stirling - a fiber artist from NSW, Australia – developed nuno (Japanese for cloth) felting. The technique bonds loose fiber, usually wool, into a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, thereby creating a lightweight felt that can either completely cover the background fabric or may be used as a decorative design and so permit the backing cloth to be revealed. It often incorporates several combined layers of loose fibers in order to build up color, texture, and/or design elements in the finished cloth.

Polly Stirling’s Nuno Felted Dress - Butterfly.

The nuno felting process is in particular suited for the creation of lightweight fabrics used to make wearable art such as scarves and skirts etc. The use of silk or other stable fabric in the felt creates a fabric that is resilient and with the incorporation of other background felting fabrics - such as nylon, muslin or other open weaves fabrics - can result in a wide range of textural effects and colors.

There are excellent general reference text on felting - such as Sue Freeman, Felt and Craft [1] – a text that guides you through a number of felting projects [1]. There are more specific texts on nuno felting such as Nancy Schwab’s "Nuno Felting Mini Projects". There are also many excellent websites describing felt making techniques. One of the most effective is a beginner’s tutorial posted by Annie Lyn Rosiepink.

Nuno Felted Scarves@Felted Pleasure
Felted Pleasure is a company that creates wonderful nuno felted scarves that is wearable art at its highest level. The felted artworks are the work of Marina Shkolnik, who lives in Moscow (Russia) and owns Felted Pleasure. She is a self-taught fiber artist, who spends most of her time felting or thinking about new felting projects. Of course her favorite felting technique is nuno felting, since as she explains: “… it offers such potential in producing a variety and richness of texture”.

For ethical purposes we need to state the following:
Disclaimer: Marie-Therese Wisniowski, Art Quill Studio, and Art Quill & Co have no financial interest in "Felted Pleasure". The company - Felted Pleasure - and its owner Marina Shkolnik is not known to the author, Art Quill Studio and Art Quill & Co Pty Ltd in terms of any business relationship at the time of writing this post.

Whew - now that that is over and done with - let us just enjoy her wonderful wearable art that shines through these great pieces of hers.

Material: Super fine Australian merino wool, tencel.
Color: Multicolored fabrics.
Approximate Dimension: 166cm (length) x 39cm (width)
Courtesy: Felted Pleasure.

Material: Extra fine and soft Australian merino wool, mulberry silk, silk chiffon fabric, silk gauze fabric, cotton gauze fabric, silk yarn.
Color: Earthy-multicolored fabrics.
Approximate Dimension: 200cm (length) x 45cm (width).
Courtesy: Felted Pleasure.

Material: Superfine Australian merino wool, mulberry silk, cotton gauze fabric, silk yarn, silk gauze fabric, muga silk, eri silk.
Color: Earthy-multicolored fabrics.
Approximate Dimensions: 180cm (length) x 33cm (width).
Courtesy: Felted Pleasure.

Material: Super fine Australian merino wool, muga silk.
Colour: Earthy-multicolored fabric.
Approximate Dimension: 200cm (length) x 46cm (width).
Courtesy: Felted Pleasure.

Material: Superfine Australian merino wool, hand dyed silk gauze fabric.
Color: multicolor fabrics - shades of brown, green, blue.
Approximate Dimension: 184cm (length) x 33 сm (width).
Courtesy: Felted Pleasure.

Material: Superfine Australian merino wool, mulberry silk, cotton gauze fabric, silk yarn, silk gauze fabric, silk chiffon fabric.
Color: Earthy-multicolored fabrics.
Approximate Dimension: 180cm (length) x 26 сm (width).
Courtesy: Felted Pleasure.

[1] S. Freeman, Felt Craft, Greenhouse Publications, Elwood (1988).


Marina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Art Quill Studio said...

It is a pleasure. Your works are exquisite.
Kindest regards,