The Nuno Thing

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  Nuno-felted scarf by Sharon Costello

In 2009, I attended the SpinOff Autumn Retreat (SOAR) for the first time in over 10 years. My career and family had kept me busy in those years and I had also learned weaving, so I hadn’t kept up with developments in the felting world. At dinner one night, there was a spirited and rather rapt discussion around the table about “nuno felting.” I knew about wet-felting and I had recently learned a bit about art felting, but this sounded like (with apologies to Michael Lewis) a new, new thing, and I wondered, with all my interest in fiber arts and their history, how I had missed it.


Soon after that first encounter, I began to see nuno felting everywhere. With its distinct, rippled surface, it appeared as scarves, vests, purses, and art pieces, at art shows, guild sales, and being worn by my fiber friends. It wasn’t until last year’s SOAR conference that I had the opportunity to actually take a nuno felting class (from Loyce Erickson, who’s a wonderful teacher and a local fiber friend), and succumbed to the design possibilities, speed, and beauty of this felt-on-fabric art.


After watching a new nuno-felting video with Sharon Costello, I set out to find out where nuno felting came from and how I had missed it before. I found out that it really is a new, new thing: According to Wikipedia, it was invented around 1992 by Polly Stirling, a fiber artist from New South Wales, Australia, who named her new art using the Japanese word “nuno,” meaning cloth. Often, nuno felters felt multiple layers onto lightweight cloth, such as silk gauze, to build up color and texture.


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In her video, Sharon creates a lovely scarf, light as air (not a property of the felt that I first learned to make), with a beautiful botanical design. She makes it all look so easy (also not the case with my first felting experiences), as she does with everything she teaches. What a lovely way to make a quick accessory or gift, to use small amounts of very pretty fiber, and to paint with wool. (And one more excuse to have Dharma Trading Company on speed dial for the silk pieces, and who doesn’t want that?!!) Whether you’re new to felting or have been at it for ages but haven’t tried this, I highly recommend this new, nuno thing.


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