Category Archives: Fashion

Creative Inspirations and Felted Designs at Stonehill Originals

FL_StonehillPurpleStonehill Originals established in 2005 with the purchase of her initial 5 Alpacas, today owner Debbie Braunlich has a herd of 30 tucked away on a farm in Paarl, Cape Town, South Africa. All textiles are created from natural fibers, such as alpaca, merino and mohair which they mix with other natural fibers such as silk, cashmere and plant fibers; making truly original fabrics. We wanted to know a little more about Stonehill Originals, so we asked Debbie:

FeltLOOM: How do you select the fibers that you use for each project? And does it make a difference when you think about your final project and how you work with the wool on your FeltLOOM?

DB-SO:   Having been an alpaca breeder for just on ten years now, my main source of fiber is alpaca from my own herd but I also do buy fiber from other breeders as well. The alpaca fiber ranges from 16 micron to the really coarse in the 30 micron region. South Africa is also one of the largest merino wool exporters in the world and we have beautiful quality wool from 17 micron and upwards to choose from. When making garments, I use the finest quality wool ie 16-21 micron of either alpaca or merino or a combination. Other natural fibers are added for textural difference or accents, such as Tussah silk and mohair locks. Karakul is also used for the projects which require coarser textures, such as wall hangings, etc.
FL_StonehillRustI make hybrid (nuno) felt which is wool on another fabric such as silk or cotton for jackets, dresses and wraps as well as the more traditional felt ie pure wool only where this felt is used for items such as baby bootees, insoles, household products etc.

FeltLOOM: Do you think about the project first when you design your fabric, or do you think about the color and how it plays with other colors?  What is your creative process?

DB-SO:  Each project is different.  It all depends on what the final item requires : drapeability, texture, mood, size – a lot of different aspects.

Sometimes the final garment will require very simple, one colour felt that can drape which is one of the huge benefits of the FeltLOOM!   (For instance, the cream jacket wrap that you may have seen on my Facebook page?). Using silk or Indian cotton as a scrim (base fabric), I then lay out the fibre dependent on the density required. The FeltLOOM relieves the felt maker from a lot of physical work in that the ‘fabric’ then gets processed through the FeltLOOM very quickly (about ¼ of the time it would take to wet-felt the same piece). I do finish the process by wet-felting (a quick wet and roll) the fabric to get a really taut fabric but this is not necessary if the item is to be a wall hanging or similar where there is little wear and tear. Sometimes I envisage how the final product could look and then layout the fiber accordingly, for instance, adding embellishments or accents where I would like them to be on the garment. For example, in the one felted dress, I hand-carded brown, grey and black alpaca and lay this out on a cream alpaca background which, for me, is reminiscent of our beautiful stone that we find on Table Mountain and the Cedarberg here in the Cape.   Occasionally, I do work from photographs or pictures too to try to emulate a particular look or texture that a client may like.

FL_StonehillVerticalgrayColor is very important. The natural shades of the alpaca are beautiful to work with and I love creating combinations as seen in the blanket wrap on my Facebook page which is three shades of natural alpaca (cream, red-brown and grey) embellished with Tussah silk which just ‘pops’ the colors beautifully. With merino, besides the beautiful batts that we are able to purchase from Lanette, I also use hand-dyed rovings of South African merino and use these either in single color or blend colors together on my drum-carder.   I hope to be able to send photos of these items in the not too distant future!

FeltLOOM: Do you have a favorite fiber? Perhaps alpaca, wool, or another one?

DB-SO: I love both alpaca and wool– alpaca is gloriously soft and the natural shades are divine!  It is more of a challenge to get alpaca to felt than merino but the luxurious feel is amazing! I use merino where I need color as it lends itself to being dyed and makes a wonderful, taut felt – with the FeltLOOM, I can make a very fine merino felt now too!

FeltLOOM: What tips or techniques have you learned that you find especially helpful, that you’d like to share?

DB-SO: When the fabric is going to be used in a garment, I find it important to finish the process with a little bit of wet-felting to ‘pull’ the fibers together as the felt can ‘pill’ sometimes where there is friction for example, on the elbows.   It’s very quick – once the fabric is completed on the FeltLOOM, I lay it out on the table, wet it with warm (not hot) water to open the scales of the wool fibers, add a bit of natural soap and then roll it on a big PVC pipe – just a few times.   If there are any particularly stubborn patches, I rub those spots in a circular motion and do the final roll with the fabric on itself ie not with a pipe, this gives a lovely final finish.   I have done an online felting surface design course with Fiona Duthie, who is based in Canada, and some of her techniques are a huge bonus.  Once the fabric is dry, it is steam-pressed and then ‘Voila!’, it is ready to be turned into a garment or its’ original intended purpose!

It has been suggested that this process can be done in a washing machine but I’m not entirely sure that this is the way to go as it tends to shrink the fabric rather than ‘full’ it properly.   So I prefer the route I’ve chosen – the results are great.  And, with the FeltLOOM, it is still WAY quicker and easier than wet-felting an enormous piece of fabric!!

I still feel that I have an enormous amount to learn using the FeltLOOM and from other users.  Sometimes it is challenging being on the other side of the globe to FeltLOOM especially when I know they have conquered certain techniques already and I am muddling around, trying to find my own way! I know Judy Roberts in Australia has the same challenges however we are happily pioneering our own way into the felting world with FeltLOOM in our respective countries and support each other by email and phone calls!  Lanette and Dick at FeltLOOM are always just an email away when I’ve needed help, so the support is amazing! And now with Terri Stramba on board too, the response times are fantastic!

FeltLOOM Is Heading to the Auckland Textile & Design Lab

It is not every day that one gets invited to conduct a workshop internationally!  FeltLOOM® is bringing needle felting instruction and ‘Fellowship’ to New Zealand! FeltLOOM® has been in business since 2003, founded by Lanette Frietag and Don Bowles, who designed and created the first FeltLOOM®, a large-scale felting machine.

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Creative felting is brought to life with this innovative machine. Direct from LanMark Farm in the bluegrass country of Kentucky, home of the FeltLOOM® felting equipment; FeltLOOM® will team up with Auckland University of Technology (AUT)’s Textile and Design Lab (TDL) with two 1-day teaching workshops on how to use the FeltLOOM® needle-felting machine to create and design textiles, April 14th and 15th, 2015.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in beautiful Auckland, New Zealand; New Zealand is comprised of 2 islands, Auckland can be found in New Zealand’s north island. The fertile lands of New Zealand were historically dominated by the export of wool, and today many textile and design factions drive the New Zealand fiber community. AUT’s Textile and Design Lab was established in 2000, and has reorganized itself and its identity a few times since before landing on its present identity as TDL.

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With Auckland being New Zealand’s largest city a trip for learning and exploring would be ideal!  Where else can you learn to create beautiful scarves and shawls, felt based textile products and fabric; and travel to middle-earth for a side excursion??

The workshops are an introductory learning level for beginners and will be comprised of such content as techniques, layers, patterns and textures.

Workshop participants will gain an understanding of the most fundamental FeltLOOM® functions; basic exposure to the procedure and workflow of needle felting technology, hands-on use of the FeltLOOM® tool in creation of original fabric, techniques like fiber to fiber and fiber to fabric, and the overall operations of the FeltLOOM®.
Making your own artwork, creating unique designs, envisioning one’s own fabric design, and learning how to actually create it using tried and true design approaches among other guidelines and techniques.

FeltLOOM also is adding on a visit Massey University in Wellington for the Master of Design Opening on April 9th.

So it is with extreme enthusiasm that we applaud FeltLOOM® for this international opportunity to teach and expand the fiber art community with their knowledge and their tool.

May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

Product Development Held Center Stage at the 4th Annual Owners’ Conference

Christina_black coat_printThis year’s FeltLOOM Owners’ Conference was jam-packed with information and activities. Presentations by renowned experts in design and product development were interspersed with discussions, Q&A sessions, and hands-on projects actually developing new products. Owners from as far away as Australia and South Africa, as well as Canada, and all across the United States participated in what was an intensive learning experience centered on creating products using the FeltLOOM and the ins and out of bringing those unique products to market.

Designer Jeffrey Monteiro, international fashion designer and the principal behind the design, concept, content, and philosophy of J. M. GENERALS, shared his experiences and insights in the opening quilts 2_webpresentation. Discussions accompanying his presentation covered all aspects of developing new products from beginning to end. Monteiro generously acted as the go-to expert throughout the conference, freely sharing his extensive knowledge and experience in product development.

On Sunday, nationally acclaimed felter and owner of JA Felt, Janice Arnold, whose work is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, spoke to the group. She talked about her work and where and how she’s used the FeltLOOM in it, including her much-publicized project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation reception building. She also brought fabric samples produced with the FeltLOOM. In her presentation she said that the methods that are possible with the FeltLOOM are so new that there aren’t words to describe the work. It isn’t the traditional felt making of Mongolia nor is it industrial needle felting. She used terms such as preliminary felt and hybrid felt to describe some of the fabric that is being created.

Designer Sandra Liggett, well-known nationwide for her luxurious felted Alpaca garments which she markets through her company Whispirit also spoke and brought a complement of her hand-crafted garments as examples of the stunning creative possibilities of working with the FeltLOOM.purse wallet makeup_print

In addition to soaking up knowledge and inspiration, the owner participants were busy throughout the conference. They were divided into five product development teams for hands-on experience. Each team decided on a product to create and develop using one of the three techniques that work with the FeltLOOM: fiber to fiber, fiber to fabric, or fiber with melting fiber.

One team used the technique of fiber to melting fiber to give structural integrity to wool to make a bowl, placemats, and matching coasters. Another team, who identified a niche market for protective covers for fishing reels, blended cotton with wool (fiber to fabric), creating an attractive padded material to prevent nicks and scratches on fishing reels. Other products (using fiber to fiber or fiber to fabric) included a shawl made with locks, a wrapped vest and matching purse, and embellishments such as collars and cuffs.

The products were presented on Sunday morning. Each team talked about their techniques and what they learned. The padded material made for the fishing reel covers spawned ideas about how else it might be used. The group also discussed pricing, an essential element of successfully bringing a product to market.

awa_teal jacket and yellow purse_webIn keeping with the focus of product development owners also brought products with them made from fabric that they had created on the FeltLOOM. Models and photographers were on hand to take professional photos of their work on models in a runway setting. One of the highlights of the conference was a private style show of the garments that owners had created.

During the conference Lanette Freitag demonstrated using what she calls a “carrying cloth” to aid in combining light fabrics, such as silk, with batts on the FeltLOOM.

Responding to numerous requests, wearable art designer, Laverne Zabielski held a well-attended preconference dyeing workshop on Thursday.

Dr. Etoia Rivera-Strohm, Knitwear & Accessories Design Professor at the Columbus College of Art and Design conducted a popular post-conference workshop teaching participants how to make a mannequin that fits their bodies. She also demonstrated draping techniques to be used with the mannequins.
It was an exciting event. Lanette describes the days as having, “a lot of giggles and laughs, a lot of fun.” She attributes the almost instant bonding of the participants to the participants themselves, saying “These people have so much passion in common with each other, they just click.”

New Advancements in Surface Design with the FeltLOOM

What an exhilarating time to be a feltmaker, a felt women’s and men’s fashion designer, and a designer of felt home fashion! In our last post  we covered the exciting trend sweeping the runways worldwide – felt. Today we want to talk about the element that draws many artists and designers to the wondrous world of felt – surface design. 

FeltLOOM, Needle Felting EquipmentFeltmaking is the ultimate textile design playground, affording you free reign to experiment with color and texture, to satisfy your creative goals to your heart’s content. Whether you are interested in developing color stories for your collection of home décor goods, or in exploring the drape of various fibers for your outerwear collection, the FeltLOOM line of needle-felting, fabric-making machines makes your tasks easy, accessible, and enjoyable. FeltLOOM, Fiber Conversion EquipmentWith FeltLOOM, you can easily combine different colors of wool fiber to study how the colors blend together in the finished fabric. You can also dye the fabric created on the FeltLOOM. You can combine a variety of fibers, including wools, alpaca, and silk, and explore the drape and tactility of the finished fabric. Whether your signature style is abstract and minimalist, or realist and colorful, you are able to create felted fabrics with floral, geometric, or free-form designs, using either naturally colored fiber or dyed fiber.

Artist: Sharon Janda

Artist: Sharon Janda

Sharon Janda of Wild Plum Designs creates exquisite felt art-to-wear. Her jackets, scarves, vests, shawls, and other accessories, many of which are created with the FeltLOOM, are vibrant, elegant, and completely original.

At Stramba Farm Alpacas & More natural, undyed colors are used to create sophisticated yet earthy FeltLOOM-felted fabric appropriate for use in clothing or home décor.
Artist: Sharon Janda

Artist: Sharon Janda

At Whispering Spirit Alpacas loosely spun yarn is added to the surface of wool to create subtle and intricate surface design patterns in this handsome vest.

Whispering Spirit

Whispering Spirit

Whether you are developing an entire line of products out of felted fabric, a capsule collection for a fashion show, or just researching and experimenting, our machines offer convenience, flexibility, and save you time.

Stramba Farms Alpacas

Stramba Farms Alpacas

With a FeltLOOM machine at your beck and call, you no longer need to be at the mercy of third-party fabric producers – you can produce fabric samples of various sizes on your own machine. Neither must you rely on the laborious and often inconsistent results produced by the wet felting method. The fabric you create on a FeltLOOM is reliably consistent and produced at a fraction of the time.

FeltLOOM in the MediaWhatever your surface design aspirations are, guided by your imagination and with beautiful fiber at your fingertips, your creative design process will flourish with the help of a FeltLOOM machine in your studio. With four kinds of machines in the series, you choose the size and other parameters that suit your needs best. The main differences among the machines in the series are the size, needle density, and speed. All FeltLOOM machines felt consistently and give high quality results.