Felt Wool Instructions, nuno felting, how to felt
How to play around with Silk Hankies by Nancy Ballesteros
Silk hankies traditionally have been underutilised as a source of silk by felt makers. Generally people are not sure how to tackle handling them. In the following instructions we will attempt to de-mystify the hanky, and inspire you with a couple of simple scarf instructions.
Playing around with Silk HankiesWhat’s so special about silk hankies? Each silk hanky is made from a degummed cocoon. The caterpillars spin each cocoon as one long continuous strand of silk which is then opened out and stretched over a square wooden frame (resembling the shape of a handkerchief). One cocoon is as gossamer as a spider’s web. I generally never use just one hanky as it would easily get lost in the wool. If you look at the edge of the hankies, each thick edge is one cocoon (see Figure 1). Layer upon layer has been stacked on top of one another.
|Figure 1 - each thick edge is one cocoon|
For general felting purposes pull away several layers at a time – it is quite hard to count the layers (so don’t), simply pull off just enough so you can still see through to your hand. It will be MUCH easier to work with the hankies if you iron them before and after splitting off layers. Different visual/textural effects can be achieved by using slightly more or slightly less, play around to see what you prefer.
Remember SILK HAS NO FELTING PROPERTIES; therefore, you must always use wool with it to act as the “glue”. When used in conjunction with fine silk fabrics it doesn’t really matter in which order you lay down the silk hanky, the wool and the fabric. The wool will generally always be able to work its way through to felt the silk hanky. Hankies seem to always have thick and thin areas. It’s a good idea to add extra wool to the underneath edges of the hankies since this is usually a thicker area. Try to thin out any other thick areas of the hankies or be sure and add extra wool. A word of warning, if you use too many hankies the silk will be too thick for the wool to penetrate and it will not felt properly. Remember shrinkage is a big part of the felting process; the silk hankies will become denser when felted.
It is important to decide which colour of wool to place behind the hankies. A very different effect is achieved using a contrasting colour of wool to the hankies verses using the same colour. Experiment to see what look you prefer. Personally I use a strong contrast between the wool and the hankies resulting in a lovely marbling effect - if you felt your scarf enough. The hankies need to be well felted or else they will pull away from the scarf.
|Close-up of well felted silk hankies, the red is the wool coming through the silk.|
It is extremely important to felt your hankies well. I recommend that you let your scarf rest overnight after the initial felting and felt it again the next day. The wool needs to completely penetrate all layers of the silk to keep it in place.
Consider your overall design. The wool can just be laid underneath where the hankies are placed OR the wool can be laid over the entire fabric and the hankies placed anywhere on top of the wool. Personally I like to leave gaps so that I can see through to the fabric in places. Be sure and be very light handed with the wool, it won’t take much (roughly 10gms (.35 ounce)) per scarf – for those without scales that is about ½ metre of wool tops. Laying the fibres only in one direction is fine OR you can lay a light cross-layer to help shrink the scarf in both directions.
Iron, iron, iron – if you are feeling frustrated by the hankies catching on everything, or they just look a bit messy – IRON THEM! You can also try a bit of talcum powder on your hands to help stop the hankies from catching on any rough spots. Thin disposable gloves are also an option.