Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nuno Felting with COTTON - Tips & Tricks

I've been getting a lot of emails asking how to work with cotton fabrics.  Here's a review.

Cotton fabric is a great option for nuno felting year-round but especially when the weather gets warmer; it provides a durable canvas for everything from nuno felted shapes to garments and accessories such as purses and bags. (Cotton really isn't just for the warm months and warmer climates - it's such a wonderful fabric to use and wear.)

For most projects the lighter-weight the 100% cotton fabric the better it works. I've used Cotton Voile, Scrim, Hospital Gauze and Dharma Trading's Harem Cloth.


I dye all of these cotton fabrics myself even though many 100% lightweight cottons are available in commercially dyed colors and prints. It's harder to dye cotton whatever method you use so it's usually best to over-dye to compensate for the inevitable color-loss during the nuno felting process.

Dharma's Cotton Harem Cloth is my new favorite (even better than voile) because it can be over-dyed and has so much more body & crispness to it --- I love the way it holds up to the tough nuno felting process. (You need to cut it with scissors, not rip it.)

Cotton has characteristics that make it very different from working with silk - the 2 main considerations are WEIGHT and TEXTURE.



WEIGHT
All the cottons including voile are heavier than most lightweight silks (3mm to 5mm) so the weight of the cotton needs to be factored in to your end product. If you are making wearables the weight affects the final drape. If you are making bags, hats and other accessories, cotton may be the better base fabric because of it's weight and durability.

TEXTURE
Texture is a dominant feature when you use cotton as your base fabric because it does completely different things when it shrinks during felting and can be so dramatic that it's actually as much of a design-decision as it is a fabric-decision.

Cotton (whatever type or weight) wrinkles and puckers, folds and pleats and you can pump it up or tone it down depending on how much and where you place your fibers in your design layout.

For example if you spread out your fibers similar to the prep for Cobweb Felt you'll end up with tons of small puckers between the fibers - a fascinating and wonderful effect.

If you vary the direction of your fibers in the initial layout you'll get puckering in both directions and you can really play up this textural-effect trick with the heavier weights.

COVERING EDGES AND ENDS
All the cottons fray like crazy so it helps to think ahead about how to deal with it during layout. I like to use the Wrapped Edge Technique because it looks more professional (and hides all those ugly edges and ends). You can also serge the edges, use a Rolled Edge foot on your sewing machine or buy cotton scarf blanks with finished edges.

TIP: COTTONS THAT WORK FOR NUNO FELTING
voile
scrim
gauze (from tight to loose weave often labeled "hospital gauze")
Dharma Trading's Cotton Harem Cloth 
lightweight cotton blends with at least 80% cotton content

Friday, April 24, 2015

FASTER & BETTER NUNO FELTING - 2 books by Nunofeltdesigns

Nuno Felting: NEW TOOLS, TIPS & SPECIAL TECHNIQUES
Create better, more intricate nuno felt faster!


Print COVER
TOPICS include:
Part 1: How to use the new tools including the Palm Washboard, Edge Tool, Felting Stone & Felting Mat
Part 2: Tumbler Dryer Method & Shelf Liner Shortcuts, Rolling Machines - what they do, where to buy
Part 3: Importance of Color in Nuno Felting including How to Work with White, Using Non-Wool Fibers, Using Cotton Base Fabrics, Prefelts & Batts, & What went wrong - my fibers fell off?!
Part 4: How to make an Infinity Loop, add Ruffles to your designs on the edges and inside, make Felt Lace, the Two Layer Technique, Mosaic Nuno Felt, add how to quickly make and add Prefelt Swirls as a design element
Part 5: List of sources for supplies including fibers, tools and fabric

KINDLE EDITION

Kindle COVER
Kindle Digital Edition*:

PRINT Edition on Amazon.com***:
*NOTE: The Kindle digital edition is readable on all Apple and Android devices including tablets and smartphones using free Kindle Reader software.
__________________________________________________


NUNO FELTING TIPS & TRICKS - Second Edition

NFT&T has hundreds of secrets and tips for how to nuno felt better and faster using the newest and latest techniques and tools. It's so popular that it's now available in several bookstores and public libraries in the US and UK. Available in print and digital editions.

TOPICS:
Best Silks for nuno felting with a list of types and weights
Cottons for nuno felting
How to dye your own fabrics with RIT and DYLON powdered dyes
Non-wool fibers and nuno felting
Using a microwave
Using a portable electric sander; detailed directions
How to "water" your nuno felt
Soaps for nuno felting
HOW AND WHEN TO MAKE HOLES & cut-outs
Learn how to make great EDGES and ENDS
Make "ROVING YARN" to create outlines & designs
What to look for when buying custom-dyed/mixed fibers online
Best throwing technique
Using the "ALL COLD WATER" method
TWO LAYER TECHNIQUE
Fix a "mistake" with needle felting
How to make NUNO FELTED CORDS & BEADS
plus many, many more!
PRINT EDITION on Amazon
http://tiny.cc/ro5jnw
or you can buy it from my online store at a discounted price
http://eneefabricdesign.etsy.com

KINDLE
http://tiny.cc/n3r4ew


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Palm Washboard Tools - using the microfiber sheet REVIEW PART 3

loop scarf
In the earlier post about when NOT to use the Microfiber Sheet that comes with the purchase of each PW Tool, there are lots of times that I DO use it because it can reduce the time and effort spent on pushing fibers through fabric as well as making felt (without fabric).

Infinity Loops scarves are actually nuno felted twice; once for the body of the scarf (both sides are covered with fibers) and the second time for the SEAM that closes the loop.

My technique for making loops is to complete the main body of the scarf right through the Sanding Stage and then join the seam.

By this time I want to speed things up because I'll do anything to avoid more of the arduous Rubbing Stage.

I always join the loop using the PW on top of the Microfiber Sheet once I lay down the fibers, wet down, press, and remove plastic.   Rotate the PW at least 60 times over the seam area, cover with a piece of solar pool cover (bubble down) and sand --- do this on BOTH SIDES of the seam.

Throw, agitate, stretch lengthwise only -------- and that's when I know the seam is firm, permanent and the loop is done.

FIX STICKABILITY problems

The PW is a real miracle-worker when it comes to fixing stickability problems with fibers, layers and embellishments especially when the air is dry and things get finicky.

I basically stop, wet down the problem area, place the Microfiber Sheet on top and work on it until the fibers are at the same stage of the surrounding fibers -------- and remember to start with a light touch.

VARIOUS WOOL FIBERS

I also use the Microfiber Sheet directly on the wetted-down surface when I work with the rougher wools including Icelandic, Cormo, Finnish and Corriedale wools.  They stand up much better to the added friction.

BASIC RULE - if you encounter problems and issues with your nuno felt projects, a quick fix using the tricks above may be all you need to do----------rather than back up and start the steps all over again.

CARE:  Since I treat my Microfibers Sheet like a precious tool, after use I always rinse it out with warm water and soak in water with 1 T. white vinegar to keep it in tip-top shape.  (This will also remove any fluff and fibers that stick to it during use.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Palm Washboard Tools - REVIEW PART 2 - Tips on best practices using the microfiber sheet

This post focuses on how best to use the MICROFIBER SHEET that comes with your purchase of each Palm Washboard tool.  It measures approx 18" by 26" and will last as long as your tools - just rinse it out and let it dry between.
microfiber sheet under a Small Palm Washboard
This tool DOES what it's meant to do which it to provide a LOT MORE FRICTION when placed on top of your wet, soapy fibers making everything from felt to nuno felt.  In fact, it works so well that it's a good reason NOT to use it or to use it sparingly depending on the specific ingredients of your felting project.

One important tip when using all the Palm Washboard Tools is to ALWAYS START WITH LIGHT PRESSURE and increase the pressure towards then end.  The waffle-surface works fast even when you use it alone or use it on top of wet-soapy plastic like I do.

YOU CAN EASILY DISLODGE your fibers and layout especially if you are using more than 2 layers of fibers, adding embellishments like yarn and/or pre-felt cut-outs.

Best to start "light" to anchor your elements in place.

Since I work with the Palm tools all the time, this is what I've learned about what works and what does not:

DOES NOT:

1.  merino-only fibers (regular to superfine)
In my experience I never use the Microfiber Sheet on top of merino fibers unless I've completed a good 10 minutes of the Rubbing Stage while the project is wrapped in clear plastic.  If I use the Sheet too soon, it "abrades" the merino fiber surface and creates a mottled and "choppy" look.  (It looks like you used a sheet of sandpaper on the fibers!)

2.  unexpected "changes" to your edges!
If you use the Sheet on any project you may encounter this problem  ---- because we're using our hands and upper body with any Palm Tool the amount of pressure VARIES inch by inch.  This means that the edges and often the overall SHAPE OF YOUR PROJECT may vary and get out of your control before you even know it.
The solution is to always apply a very, very light touch or not use the Sheet at all.

NEXT - WHAT DOES WORK BETTER WITH THE SHEET, where and when 



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Palm Washboard(s) - essential tools for every nuno felter - REVIEW PART 1


Palm Washboard

THIS POST IS A REVIEW OF HOW BEST TO USE THESE TOOLS EVERY TIME YOU CREATE NUNO FELT.

THIS IS REVIEW PART 1 ABOUT THE BASICS.

PART 2 WILL REVIEW USING THE MICROFIBERS SHEETS (PROS AND CONS) .

PART 3 WILL REVIEW OTHER METHODS AND TECHNIQUES FOR ADAPTING THESE TOOLS TO FIX MANY OF THE COMMON NUNO FELTING PROBEMS LIKE STICKABILITY.

THE GREATEST ADVANTAGE OF THE PALM WASHBOARD TOOLS IS THAT THE MORE YOU USE THEM, THE MORE THEY CAN DO FOR YOU.

REVIEW PART 1

To make nuno felt you need to go through several steps to get the fibers to migrate, stick, then shrink and felt so that you end up with a viable, durable felted fabric.

Most steps should be followed in a certain order but there is lots of flexibility in how you complete each step especially with the addition of "new" tools like a sander and Heartfeltsilk's invention - the Palm Washboard (and other Palm tools).

I follow a pattern of steps but vary what I do within each step based on what kind of fibers and fabrics I'm using based on years of experience.  For example, I know that using cotton, paj and habotai silk means I need to increase the amount of time and effort during the Rubbing Stage and often need to double the number of throws towards the end of the process.

Every couple of months I learn new tricks with these tools and will include lots of future posts to share those with you as they happen.

I use the PALM TOOL Regular Size and Palm Edge Tool for EVERY NUNO FELT PROJECT and simply cannot function without them.


Edge Tool

PREPARATION FOR USING THESE 2 TOOLS:
1.  Project fabric is laid on top of plastic sheet on top of bubble-side up solar pool cover.  Plastic is at least 4x wider than the project.
2.  Lay out fibers, cover with window screen, wet down with cold soapy water using a Weed Sprayer, remove screens, fold over plastic to completely cover the wet project, seal and press out all air bubbles.
3.  Spray soapy water on top of the plastic, start using my hands to rub on top of plastic for about 4-5 minutes; pull up plastic to check if the fibers are still sticking to the fabric and not the plastic.
4.  USE THE PALM WASHBOARD and Edge Tool ON TOP OF THE SOAPY WET PLASTIC.
(a) run the Edge Tool over all edges and ends 6-10 times (depends on the thickness of the fibers + fabric) in a linear fashion
b.  USE THE PALM WASHBOARD (always ROTATED in CIRCLES) from left to right along the entire project 6 - 10 times.
c.  switch to my hands and run them using a circular pattern 6-10 times along entire project

Place dry towels on top of the soapy wet plastic to dry the surface; open up the plastic, remove the project and place it on a dry towel on my worktable and begin the SANDING PROCESS.

COMING NEXT:
Yes, you can use the Palm Washboard Tools on top of the Microfiber Sheets that come with these tools (instead of using them on top of plastic) but that isn't always the best solution.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Woolery.com's new tool - the FLASHFELTER

A new tool the FLASHFELTER is available from Woolery.com.  Please go to the site for more information.  

It appears that you would need to use this tool in a straight line  (up and down, back and forth) as opposed the the Palm Washboard (from HeartFeltSilks) that you rotate over the surface in circles.

(I also use HeartFeltSilks EDGE TOOL on everything I felt including my bowls and vases which is also used primarily in a straight line.  Because the Edge Tool has protrusions that continue up the sides of the tool, it has a lot of flexibility that you will discover the more you use it.)

In the description of this new tool the Woolery says it can be used in lieu of a glass washboard.  (I also use the glass washboard to shape all my felted vessels because it works fast and efficiently for firming up the sides, bottom and edges of shapes and saves me lots of time and physical effort.)
SEE MORE HERE:

http://www.woolery.com/store/pc/FlashFelter-Wet-Felting-Board-Multiple-Sizes-p13057.htm#.VRv3nmdFCUl

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Silk Hankies - add color, it's easy!

silk hankies
SILK HANKIES are suddenly popular again as a way to add silk color and texture to nuno felt and felt ---- they were all the rage about 10-12 years ago but I never learned how best to use them.  Many of the most accomplished  nuno felters use them to add a silk-sheen and intense color to their designs (often in a way that you cannot tell they have been added unless you have used Silk Hankies yourself).....

You can stretch and pull them (each hankie is paper thin) and either leave on the rolled edges (which add texture but are a bit tricky to work with) or cut them off.

I am in the middle of making lots of bowls, pots, vases and vessels for the coming Farmer's Market season which starts in the middle of April.  Everyone loves my felted bowls which completely sold out during the holidays.

I'm using all kinds of fibers and mixed fibers including Churro (my current favorite), Icelandic, Finnish, Maori and Bergshaf (the last 3 from Opulent Fibers) all in their "natural" state and colors but that started to get a little boring (even with added bamboo and silk fibers).....so I finally located my stash of SILK HANKIES and knew they would add both color and texture to my felted shapes without a lot of fuss and muss.
Churro Wool with Silk Hankies & Bamboo
If you're making felted shapes (including bracelets and necklaces), silk hankies are fabulous.  They felt easily and quickly into and stick to the kinds of fibers listed above which are very rough and long-stapled and grab on to everything you add to them.

I wasn't a big fan of SILK HANKIES and was kind of ho-hum about them but now I finally learned how wonderful they can be!
You can see how "hairy" Churro Wool is and this is after I've already trimmed both the inside and outside with my "can't-live-without" embroidery scissors.  (Many felters use a razor to shave their finished shapes but I think it removes too much of the natural character of the fibers.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For Better Drape Results Stretch and Shape Your Nuno Felt - see special note about LOOPS

Finishing up your nuno felting projects to make them the best they can be takes a few minutes using tips & tricks from several sources. If you don't have access to workshops, check out the felting supply sites that have how-to sections because they often have information to help you improve your techniques & skills.
One of my latest sources for great finishing techniques is Treetops Colors Harmonies (Australia)(http://treetopscolors.com.au) and their Felting Tips section including this gem:
STRETCH AND SHAPE YOUR NUNO FELTED FABRIC
"Always stretch your work in the fulling stage. Inbetween tossing pull the piece in all directions trying to stretch it back to size. This will give the felt better drape and encourages the fulling process."
If you haven't been including this step you will see a real difference once you do it on a regular basis (please see note about LOOPS and stretching at the end of this post.###)
If you're making a wearable like a scarf, wrap or garment the final "drape" of the nuno felted fabric is important because it looks better, wears better and shows off the special and unique qualities of this fascinating fiber art.
HOW AND WHEN TO STRETCH
All of this is done after you throw & agitate your nuno felted fabric:
1. Throw your fabric at least 25 times on a textured surface on one side, open it up, fold it up again with the other side exposed, throw another 25 times
2. Straighten out and flatten your fabric and pull out all the edges and ends
3. Dunk in soapy water so it's completely soaked through
(a) use cold water if you are using the All Cold Water Method***
(b) use warm to very hot water if you are using the heat-it-up method (which I rarely use anymore)
4. Toss your very wet fabric back on the textured surface, press down and rub it in all 4 directions (top, bottom, left, right) - this is known as Agitation
5. Pick up the fabric and pull it gently in one direction all along the length, then gently pull all along the width (this is STRETCHING) (see ### below)
It makes a huge difference! It even makes your ruffles "more ruffle-y."
There are times when you don't want to stretch your fabric and I learned the hard way that if you add embellishments under and/or over your fibers when you create your designs, you might "dislodge" these elements if you stretch it during the final stages.
For example, if you have added commercial or handmade yarn under or over your dry fiber layout that yarn is never as flexible as your loose fibers ----- if you stretch it, you may pull the yarn right off the fibers and fabric you worked so hard to felt into your fabric base. (I've made this mistake a lot more than once, yikes!)
Another way to think about it - if your embellishment(s) doesn't have a lot of textural "give" and flexibility it's not going to be flexible during stretching.
***Throwing, Agitation and the All Cold Water Method are covered in detail in Nuno Felting Tips & Tricks - Second Edition. These are all basic techniques you can adapt to fit your own skill level; you may not use them for every project but the more you nuno felt, the better you learn what works best for your creative process.
###LOOPS and stretching-------since I make hundreds of loops every year I learned that it is BEST TO ONLY STRETCH THE FINISHED LOOP ALONG THE LENGTH and NOT along the width; by pulling on the width, it makes the loop "ruffle up unevenly" and it never sits right once you loop it twice or more around your neckline.