Category Archives: FeltLOOM Stories

Felt Hits the Runway in 2014

lex2As major international Fall/Winter 2014 fashion weeks wrapped up their runway shows in recent days, and as fashion houses began to fill orders for the world’s department stores, boutiques, and online fashion shopping portals, we are doing our own bit of trend-spotting and trend-forecasting. Guess what trend has emerged in haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion in recent seasons? Loud and clear, front and center, the trend we have spotted on many runways is FELT!

lex1The world’s top designers, from Balenciaga to Chloe, Marni to Christophe Lemaire, and beyond, a number of the most talented and innovative designers have embraced felted wool as a fabric essential to their collections. Fashioned into oversized coats and capes, crop tops, trousers, full skirts, and fanciful jackets, felted wool fabric is paired with other luxurious materials long at home on the world’s top runways — suede, silk, leather, chiffon.

Felted wool affords today’s emerging fashion designers and established couturiers infinite possibilities for sculpting interesting forms, shapes, and lines in their garments. Felt’s unique texture and sumptuous tactile feel exude warmth and luxuriousness. Felted fabric lends itself beautifully to being lavishly embellished and richly embroidered, serving as the perfect canvas for major established fashion designers, as well as for independent surface designers and wearable fiber artists. Felted wool need not be relegated to niche markets that fly below the radar of the international fashion community. Instead, felted wool fabric’s rightful place is among today’s highest prized materials, as it inspires esteemed designers and the fashion world’s next generation of talent.

Zabielski2Designing and producing large garments and especially entire collections that feature felt prominently, however, presents a challenge. Industrial felt production isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t afford sufficient customization and flexibility. Hand-felting (or wet-felting) is extremely labor-intensive and can produce inconsistent results. It is best reserved for one-of-a-kind or extremely limited production runs. FeltLOOM delivers an ideal solution to the challenges of producing beautiful, stable, and strong felted fabric, and doing so quickly, and on a large scale, if necessary. The FeltLOOM original fabric-making equipment was developed and perfected thanks to our company’s founders’ years of experience in engineering and working with fiber. The FeltLOOM family of needle-felting fabric producing machines includes several models, each specifically designed for the end-user, be it a fashion or interior designer, individual fiber artist, fiber mill, or textile & fashion design educational institution.

Zabielski1We invite you to explore each model’s features — Artist Series, Pro-Series, Lab-Series, Light Industrial Series. Then simply contact us (855 335 8566 or info@feltloom.com) anytime for an in-depth consultation on your specific needs and requirements. Like the fashion world’s most valued and sought after garments, each FeltLOOM is bespoke — custom-built to your specifications to enable you to produce the perfect felted wool fabric to incorporate into your next fashion collection.

Designers of regional and national stature already have championed the possibilities of creating stunning felted fabric on the FeltLOOM. Prominent textile artist and designer Laverne Zabielski, whose work was recently the subject of a feature in Fiber Art Now, international contemporary textiles & fiber arts magazine, has used FeltLOOM-made hand-dyed fabric widely for her line of magnificent coats and jackets.

PetrovichJudy Petrovich, an early FeltLOOM adopter, has fashioned richly textured women’s and men’s clothing and accessories out of naturally hued felted wool fabric created on the FeltLOOM. All FeltLOOM models are perfectly suited to handle a variety of fibers, including wools, alpaca, and almost any other fibers. If it has a barb, the FeltLOOM can felt it.
lex3Artwear made from fabric created on the FeltLOOM was highlighted at the Lexington Fashion Collaborative, Future of Fashion V Show in fall 2013.
These impressive and incredibly diverse examples represent only a small sample of the possibilities of using FeltLOOM-made fabric for garment and accessory design. With interest in felted wool rapidly growing, the demand for our unique FeltLOOM machine is also booming. We undoubtedly will see many new exciting fashion collections made possible by the FeltLOOM in 2014. We are immensely excited to work with the global fashion industry. If you are an emerging designer or a fashion world all-star interested in utilizing luxurious felted fabric in your next capsule or full-season collection, don’t delay contacting us for a FeltLOOM consultation.

Spreading the Word about FeltLOOM

FeltLOOM by Laverne ZabielskiArt is a powerful medium. It has always been a vehicle for spreading ideas, for opening minds, and expanding cultures. It’s interesting and sometimes surprising to see what tools and materials artists discover and put to use.

We aren’t surprised, of course, that artists are using the FeltLOOM in their work. It’s ability to produce quality, colorful fabric makes it an obvious tool for creating wearable art. We have, though, been surprised by the variations of blends created by FeltLOOM users and most particularly by the artists who have discovered it. We’ve watched with fascination as Laverne Zabielski has experimented with the LOOM, coaxing out light, colorful fabrics that she has fashioned into beautiful and flowing garments.

FeltLOOM by Laverne ZabielskiLaverne has been very generous in sharing her discoveries with all of us and we’re delighted to see her and her work getting attention in the art world. Laverne is featured in the Winter Issue of Fiber Art Now. The FeltLOOM is also mentioned in the article. Readers  can see the full article here, subscribe online, or pick up a copy at Barnes and Noble.

Congratulations, Laverne!

From Seamstress to Artist and Businesswoman

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When I started out with a FeltLOOM, my intention was simply to sew alpaca clothing for breeders. I wanted to make clothing for them that they could show others, as a way to talk about their products and showcase what can be created with alpaca and other fibers.

I have been a seamstress for many years, but at that point, I was not a felt maker at all. I started researching wet felting methods, because that was all that seemed to be available. Of course, even the best quality wet felting methods would still result in squares versus yardage. In the course of my search, one of the mills told me about someone in Kentucky who had just developed a new loom, and it sounded like it might work for me, because it could produce felted yardage.

I got in contact with Don and Lanette at FeltLOOM, and immediately I could sense their sincere investment in the FeltLOOM community. They were so welcoming that they invited me to come out to their farm and try it out. To make a long story short, I traveled from Michigan to Kentucky so I could try it myself. Just two hours after I arrived at the farm in Sharpsburg, Kentucky, I had already processed 20 pounds of fiber! Imagine how that one day changed this seamstress’s life.

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Originally, I just wanted to sew, and making fabric was simply a vehicle for creating clothing. I never intended for it to take me on the path that it has. Now my business is so much more than what I thought it ever could be! These days, I literally paint with fiber. It’s remarkable. This is a world that I couldn’t have imagined.

Because of all that I’ve learned and can do now, my business isn’t limited to sewing clothing for breeders. For example, I speak to groups about felting, I run seminars for people to design their own fabric, helping them explore their own creativity, and then I make it into felt for them. I also work with the equine industry to create horse-themed apparel and Western wear. This includes horse blankets, show garments, and many more products. These are just some of the new ventures that the FeltLOOM has helped me develop.

This is all so new and there are many more things that can be done with the FeltLOOM. The people who are using FeltLOOMs are modern pioneers. When people see something I’ve made on the FeltLOOM, at first they don’t realize that not only did I make the jacket (or blanket or other product), but I also designed and created the fabric itself! Their reactions are priceless. In a world of paper shuffling, many of us have forgotten what it feels like to really create something with our own hands. No matter how I use the FeltLOOM, it takes me back to that feeling of creating with my own hands. Even more, I make useful, creative, original products that people love.

Judy Petrovich

Fabulous Fibers Alpaca Farm

Holly, Michigan

Fibers: An Evolving Industry

Fibers: An Evolving Industry

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Raising alpacas is still a new industry in this country, an evolving industry. As a result most alpaca breeders have had to be adaptable. Denise Coonley, of Crestwood, Kentucky is just such a breeder. Although she has been raising alpacas for only four years, she has changed her business plan four times. “We got in when it was all about breeding and selling the animals. Of course the market crashed right after that. So I had all this fiber and had to figure out a way to make money.”

Learning

She took every kind of lesson that she could, first learning to spin and then studying weaving. Though she enjoyed both, they weren’t for her. It was on a tour of Flaggy Meadows Fiber Mill that

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she first saw the FeltLOOM. ThDeniseSmall2ey made her some fabric that she used to cut out and put together a jacket for her husband. That was when she knew that fabric was her niche.

Before long she had her own 36-inch FeltLOOM. Now she makes everything from translucent, gauzy shawls to winter coats. “I think my favorite thing about the FeltLOOM is that you can run from very thin to a nice winter coat thickness fabric out of it. There’s very little that you can’t make. And it cuts and sews and doesn’t fray. It’s really wonderful.”

Something New

Denise isn’t finished evolving. She is constantly experimenting with fiber blends to give the alpaca elasticity and memory. “Every time I turn around I’m trying something new.” And she has just started a new venture with two partners, Roni Perkins and Annette Browning. Using the initials of their first names, they call their new business R.A.D. Fibers. They launched an Etsy Store in July at www.Etsy.com/shop/radfibers and are planning a fiber retreat for the spring of 2013.

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And that 36-inch FeltLOOM? She’s already upgraded to a 48-inch. Though she says that the 36-inch was a “wonderful, wonderful machine,” she adds, “Commercially viable fabric for patterns is 45 or 60 inches and so [with the 36-inch machine] I couldn’t offer someone a piece of fabric that they could just take to a pattern . . . so I went ahead and upgraded.”

So far in this young industry, change is the only constant; and Denise Cooley is clearly up to the challenge that constant change presents.

Catch the Spirit!

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“Behind every successful ranch is a good job in town.” Every rancher in the country has probably heard that one. Lee and Sandy Liggett of Whispering Spirit Alpacas in Sandia Park, New Mexico have heard it, and they’ve lived it. But their experience with their FeltLOOM is showing them a profitable road ahead for this young industry through the manufacturing of clothing. Lee says that when he and Sandy got into the Alpaca business five or six years ago the industry was mostly a show ring operation based on raising and selling animals and collecting stud fees.

DSC_6158 They saw that model as more of a hobby than a business. But Sandy is an artist and was interested in the fabric. “That’s really what compelled us to go into Alpacas because it has such a nice fleece.” They started offering yarns and roving, but Sandy wanted to get into designing and manufacturing clothing. That direction also especially appealed to them for philosophical reasons. Lee says. “So much manufacturing in this country is gone. It’s offshore.”

They liked to idea making a contribution to bringing some of it back. Sandy had her eye on the FeltLOOM for some time. They took the plunge and purchased the largest model in 2010. Lee now works on the loom, creating fabric and experimenting with blends. Sandy creates the prototypes for their clothing, which is then constructed by three local seamstresses. They sell mostly through juried craft shows, but also through some galleries. Lee says, “I really think the use of the fleece is going to drive the industry. If a person believes that they can shear an animal and at least cover their costs . . . that’s going to help everybody.” Lee says that one thing that they’ve really enjoyed is, “getting a business started where there really is no blueprint.”

WhisperingSpiritAlpacas_copy They like the challenge of solving problems and creating their own road forward. Sandy still has a good job in town, but maybe the day is coming when that won’t be necessary because Lee says the business is gaining traction.

Visit their website at www.whisperingspiritalpacas.com to see more images of Sandy’s designs.