Answers for Your Silky Questions


Silk, Silk, Silk!

When I turn around from my black wooden desk, I am constantly delighted by our collection of hand-dyed silks. Similar to our roving wall, they have the power to brighten any grumpy, rainy day, or echo the sunshine that slants through our enormous windows.  Equally as important are our undyed silks in the pottery planter by the windows.  (If you haven’t visited us yet, let these descriptions entice you!)  These silks are perfect for nuno projects, a style that ranges from beginner-friendly to expert in nature.  Check out our classes here, many of which are based on this technique.

Now for some explanation.  After all, the title of this post promises answers- so let’s get started!  I asked Christine White, our owner and founder, to give us some information, so you’re about to learn from a real expert!

What is Nuno?

Nuno refers to a felt that is created by felting wool or other fiber into a pre-existing cloth.  Usually silks are used for the base, but cotton and other fabrics can be laminated too.  The fabric chosen must have an open weave (feel your breath through it) and an excellent drape.  Stiffer fabrics like silk organza are often using as accents but do not drape well.  Most synthetics, like polyester and rayon, are slippery and generally difficult.

What’s the difference?

Different silks felt at varying speeds and result in different drape in the nuno fabric.  All silks vary according to the “momme” or mm (think thread count or the tightness/density of the weave).  The lower the momme number the more easily wool fibers can migrate through the silk.  There are two families of silk: habotai and chiffon/gauze.  Habotai has a sheen, whereas chiffon/gauze has a dull finish.  Here at NEFS, we carry 4.5mm gauze, 8mm chiffon,  and 5mm habotai. The following silks are listed in terms of the time they take to felt, from shortest to longest.

4.5mm gauze is the most open and results in an easy, complete fusion of silk wool with a flat finish.  It is similar to chiffon but is an even lighter weight.

5mm habotai (also called pongee or paj) creates a small-bubbled nuno with a slight sheen on the fabric side.

8mm silk chiffon is an elegant, sheer silk with excellent drape that creates a light-weight nuno that is a little more expensive-looking than gauze, but similar—also a fusion.  It is surprisingly durable given its weight and drape.

8mm habotai (also called China silk) results in a highly-textured nuno with large bubbles when using 22 micron merino (smaller diameter wool gives a tighter texture similar to 4.5 mm).  It is perfect for nuno scarves, shawls, blouses and other delicate items of clothing. It can also easily be painted or dyed.

8mm Crepe (also called flat crepe) is a rougher, textured fabric that is excellent when durable nuno yardage is needed (handbags, blankets, or throw rugs).


And in conclusion…

As you felters know, each kind of silk has its benefits and challenges.  I hope this information helps you choose when making your newest, most exciting nuno project! Good luck, and let us know what you’re making!


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