A year ago, I became intrigued by seamless nuno felted dresses. All of last summer, I wanted to try my hand hat making one. As with most summers, it came and went, filled with gardening, B&B guests, and fiber classes. As the months passed, I forgot about the nuno felted dresses. About a month ago, while searching on etsy for felting fiber, I came across Irena Levkovich and my obsession with nuno felted dress construction reignited. I lay awake at night thinking about necklines, and wondering how to create sleeves and collars. I sneak out of bed at 2am to check just one more site on the internet, searching for more felting instructions. Since finding Irena’s website, I have also found another fiber artist named Elynn Bernstein, who also makes amazing felted clothing. We have emailed back and forth a few times already.
I have made two tunics so far, and I can see that the learning curve is steep. Seamless construction presents different challenges to conventional sewing, where you lay your pattern pieces out on your cloth, cut them out, and then sew them together. Sewing a garment seems fairly straight forward. In the seamless construction, you must think in three-dimensions. You also must take into consideration the fact that as you felt the fibers, they will shrink.
Irena, and many other fiber artists, have perfected their techniques, creating amazing necklines, textures, and accents. I have found little information online or even in books, which take you beyond the basic stage of making a simple seamless garment. I have resigned myself to the fact that I need some instruction. I have been communicating with Irena, in hopes that she would be willing to come to Vermont for an advanced felting retreat. It would be awesome to hold a weekend retreat! (Let me know if you would like to join us for a felting weekend, and I will put you on my list to contact if and when it is all scheduled.)
With the encouragement of my daughter, Emily, I dove head first into making my first seamless garment. Emily has a contagious enthusiasm for felting and an attitude of “don’t over think it-just do it”. So with her by my side, I made my first tunic. I had hoped it would become a dress, but I did not allow enough for the shrinkage, and so ended up with a tunic instead. I added a silk flower as an accent to the front.
|Tunic # 1|
I quickly realized that none of the skirts or pants in my closet would go with my new frock. Emily and I made a run to the shopping mall that evening. Central Vermont is not the place to find fashionable clothing, but I did find a skirt which seems to work with the top, giving it a carefree look. I may need to have my California sister look for something which may make it a little more elegant and formal.
Now I could hardly wait to attempt another top. This time, I had hoped to achieve a more wrinkled look, having the silk crinkle up to add texture. In the end, I did not get the result I was looking for, but that just means I just get to make another one!
|Tunic # 2 – Back|
For this tunic, I also felted a belt which ties in the back. As I felted this one, I learned that once the fabric begins to shrink, it happens quite quickly. In the final fulling stage, I spin the excess water out and try it on periodically to be sure it fits well. With this one, it went from being slightly too large to fitting like a glove in no time. Thankfully, wet felt can be molded and stretched, and in the end, I have a piece of clothing that fits me perfectly.
|Tunic #2 – Front|
For both of these tunics, I left some of the silk hanging out the bottom to give a wispy look. I now want to felt one where I bring the wool right to the bottom edge of the silk. This tunic is longer than the first, though still not dress length. If I had put a little more thought and time into it, I could have felted samples and measured them to determine my shrinkage rate ahead of time. Remember though, I am in the “don’t over think it-just do it” mode though and besides, this way, I get to make more of them, and isn’t that what an obsession is all about?