I have always wanted to try nuno felting, which is a method of bonding a loose fibre, usually wool, into sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating beautiful soft and lightweight felt. I did a course at Fibreswest with Nancy Ballesteros, where we learned all the techniques of laying out silk hankies, silk gauze and wool in the shape we wanted. I managed to produce this tunic which I have worn quite a bit on my holiday.
The basic colours are red, black and grey and the tunic goes with everything and moves from day to night quite seamlessly. I wore it to Bristol, where we walked from the wharf to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. What a view!
The view over the Avon Gorge is also pretty nice. I had a little frill of silk gauze left after I had laid out the silk hankies and wool and which I had originally intended to cut off, but I left it as I felt that the tunic was a bit short. I am quite pleased with the effect.
I had never heard of silk hankies before I did this course. They are actually produced from a silk cocoon and are made up of one continuous gossamer thread. The cocoons are softened by simmering in a solution of water, soda ash and synthapol. When the cocoon has softened it is pulled out and stretched over a frame to dry. The hankies are made up of many very fine layers and they can be separated into 3 or 4 layer sections for felting. I couldn’t find my photos from the workshop, so this photo of a silk hanky is from the Treetops Colour website.
It would appear easy to lay out the hankies into a neat geometric pattern, but I struggled a bit to make the squares even and regular, so I gave up! I laid the red ones out as best I could and filled in the gaps with the other colours. I am quite fond of my results. Here I am admiring the Cabot Tower in Bristol. We went to the very top, which had amazing views of the city, but they didn’t photograph well.
You might notice that I have a bit of a ’20s vibe going on in the hem department. My silk wasn’t quite wide enough at the bottom, so I used the pieces of fabric cut from the armholes and neck to widen it. I left the extra length resulting in that asymmetrical look at the sides. Here I am enjoying the antics of a squirrel.
The two sides of the tunic are sewn up with strips of silk chiffon, giving a really nice effect. The hem is supposed to be rolled, but I couldn’t get it to sit right, so I folded it and sewed it with silk embroidery thread, which worked well.
I also wore the tunic to the top of British Camp in Malvern. It was windy and pretty cold, but I braved it all for you, dear reader! The view from the top is pretty wonderful. British Camp is an Iron Age Hill Fort in the Malvern Hills, quite close to my sister’s house. There is a plaque suggesting that it was constructed in the 2nd century BC. I hiked to the top in dress boots and my tunic, watched by proper walkers in their boots with hiking poles and dogs. I felt seriously over dressed!
I wore it several times in the evening, here at Ottolenghi in Islington, where we went for a farewell dinner with Mark’s daughter, Tessa,
and to the amazing Royal Albert Hall, when we attended the Salvation Army Celebrating Christmas concert.
I really like this top, and although it is far from perfect, it has really given me a yearning to make more nuno felted clothes.