Category Archives: Fiber Mill Stories

Introducing New Energy & (Even More) Support at FeltLOOM!

Congratulations to Terri Stramba who recently signed on with FeltLOOM as a Manufacture Rep working with a title and job description of Business Development Manager!  Focusing on generating sales as well as helping to develop the dealer network, pre- and post-sales support, as well as additional products.  We recently caught up with Terri and had the chance to learn more about her interesting background and plans for the FeltLOOM.

FL_Stramba“I love seeing all the creative ways that the owners use the feltLOOM to create truly unique product. I have been surprised at just how many are using the FeltLOOM to make a simple insole product that is very popular and utilizes course fibers.  Then there are art installations, sound curtains, home decor, rugs from simple waste bits to glorious art rugs and then the garments that I am constantly in awe of what some of these artists are turning out. I think every time we expose the FeltLOOM to a new artist we are going to see new great creations as it is only limited by the imagination of the operator.”

TRENDSPOTTING IN FELTChristina_vest black and white_web

FeltLOOM: Do you see trends in felting through your own businesses that you can share with us?
Terri: I am finding people are coming around to Felt.  At a recent FeltLOOM owners conference Janice Arnold from JA Felt challenged us to develop a language of Felt. Simply meaning felt is when the fibers will shrink no more, everything else is pre-felt or a hybrid. Now that people are seeing high quality felt used in fashion, interest in it is growing again.

From the mill standpoint it gives an option to fiber growers that don’t want to be bothered with selling their yarn or have no interest in yarn. We can now take their fibers and turn them into rugs, blankets or fabric that they can use or give as gifts.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Stramba_AlpacasFeltLOOM: What does the day in the life of Terri Stramba generally look like, and how do you manage all of the commitments and find time to be creative yourself?
Terri: I start the day around 5am checking emails and responding to inquiries.  We are a family-run mill, and we all meet around 8:00 to get started on the days’ work.  I return calls and follow up during the day from the studio while also using my studio as a second FeltLOOM showroom.  I have the 66 inch Pro Series and a Lexi in the studio.  We also will take the Lexi to the customer, shows, or offsite workshops.  During the afternoon I check on the alpacas. I usually save my larger projects for early evening. I also like to invite other fiber artists into the mill studio.  It is really fun to bring someone that has fantastic color theory into to show them how and were we blend color in the process of milling effects the outcome.

We are also putting together a schedule of workshops that we will be running on the FeltLOOM out of the studio as well. I tend to get inspired by inspiring others to create. The workshops will run similar to the now popular paint nites. We have done scarfs, wraps and rugs and will be adding a bag, happy feet insoles, a no sew vest and some other fun projects to the line up.

WORDS OF WISDOM
There is a use for every fiber out there, you just have to make sure the fit matches your project.  Compost is a perfectly viable use for short dirty seconds of any breed of animal.  Don’t try to use course seconds for fine fabric or yarn.  But It is suitable for corespun rug yarn, felted rugs, or insoles. Grade 1 baby any fiber is not going to hold up to wear and tear on a garment or home decor item but makes a luxury yarn.  Don’t fear the blends, some people are truly allergic to wool, but for others there are some truly wonderful wool breeds that will make your alpaca felt or spin into a better finished product as well as some fun fibers to sass things up a bit…..  The only wrong thing to do with your fiber is nothing, get it out of storage and let us show you how to turn it into product to use or sell, with the FeltLOOM!

I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about the FeltLOOM to contact me at 855 335 8566.
THE FELTLOOM FAMILYTerriStramba

FeltLOOM has worked hard to build a family community feel with continuing education at their annual FeltLOOM owners conference held the first weekend after labor day at Lanmark farm.  FeltLOOM will be bringing on soft goods to help supply the FeltLOOM owners beyond the sale of the machines with high quality fibers, needles, and other goods to help them with their materials needs in one place at a great price.

FeltLOOM: A Family of “Fiber” Entrepreneurs

FL_LanmarkFarmFeltLOOM founders, Lanette Frietag and Don Bowles, have been operating a working farm since 1984 and started a wool mill to make their farm sustainable. They saw a need for a large-scale felting machine and there weren’t any available, so they set out to develop their own. In the words of Lanette, “We started our mill in 2003 and took 5 years to have a working prototype that we thought was a good unit for a fiber artist. We received a rural development grant from Kentucky Science and Technology to help us through the process of product development with the requirements we had. There were many tweaks to make it an outstanding unit. The farm was the beginning of the FeltLOOM. The US utility patent was allowed in 2008.”

Lexi n rampFeltLOOM, like most family businesses, has a small, dedicated group of people who do all the work. We wear many hats to do the different tasks that need to be done. For example, marketing the FeltLOOM is a challenge because there is a great deal of education that goes with it. This is new thought in a way to make products and it needs to be shown. Goal setting is very important to our focus. It keeps us on tack for growth. However, we try to have Sundays as a day away from typical business activities to refresh our minds.

Don and Lanette have a team of FeltLOOMers behind them, working directly on the business and contributing to the FeltLOOM community through their discoveries and learning of how to expand the possibilities with the FeltLOOM.

FL_SampleYellowRedDon manages the production, new product development, engineering, and warranty piece and assist with sales.
Lanette manages overall operation, website, customer correspondence, fiber art research, marketing and financial planning. We have help to build the units and run the mill.  FeltLOOM has grown consistently since it was first developed, and now they offer various models, depending on the customer needs. For example, an artist may choose a model from the Artist Series and a fiber mill might choose another, larger FeltLOOM model, such as the Pro Series or the Lab Series.

The FeltLOOM Owner’s Event is a major annual event and has become a tradition. In the words of Lanette, “We invite the FeltLOOM Owners to come the farm and have a sharing, learning experience that last for three days. We have special activities the encourage growth in fiber art with the FeltLOOM. It is a fun time and we look forward to it. Many owners have come every year, and don’t want to miss it.”

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FeltLOOM continues to grow and expand into new areas. It is an innovative tool that serves fiber artists, educators, fiber mills, and light industry.

Learn more by watching the FeltLOOM team live on a recent Fiber Art Now FAN Fare program.

 

 

 

Expanded Mill Capabilities Open a New Market

TerriStramba

No one is more surprised that Terri Stramba owns a fiber processing mill than Terri herself. While working her corporate job in federal business development management, which included consistent stress and travel, Terri and her husband purchased a small herd of alpacas for their hobby farm in Wampum, Pennsylvania. She enjoyed the herd and spent the next two years learning about raising and breeding, in between her work and travel.

Like many Americans in 2009, Terri found herself suddenly laid off and looking for a new direction in her career and life. In the meantime, she spent her newfound extra time caring for her alpacas, knowing that she was on a short timeline for turning the expense of maintaining alpacas into a profitable business. It didn’t take long before she realized that the waiting time for fleece processing was up to a year! Terri saw a need for fast, high quality fiber processing. This was the beginning of Stramba Farms.

Stramba_Farm

Terri began to assemble the right equipment, and the customers followed. Fast forward three years, and every day you will find Terri and her daughter-in-law at Stramba Farm, busily processing fibers. Now Terri has a new career –and life. Recently she incorporated the FeltLOOM into the fiber processing services that she offers her customers and has successfully integrated felted fibers into the products that Stramba Farms can offer.

In Terri’s words, “We were looking for another way to provide quality fiber processing to our customers. Sometimes our customers have purchased alpacas just for breeding and showing, and now would like to capitalize on the ‘harvest’ as much as the animals themselves. The FeltLOOM gives them a way to utilize the fibers from their herd in a new way. With one trip down to the farm in Kentucky, I knew we had found a new way to felt and provide processed fibers to our customers.”

Stramba_Alpacas

And what makes Stramba Farms unique? According to Terri, it is her ability to work closely with customers to process their high quality fibers that is most satisfying.” We’re at a point where we are able to do business with like minded people, where we can share ideas and creativity. I am excited about developing new products for them and in partnership with them. We want to be the mill that customers rely on to get really amazing fibers processed, and that translates into felt as well. We have customers who are very creative, but are not necessarily knitters, spinners or weavers. The felt created with a FeltLOOM gives them the opportunity to have their fibers processed in a way that they can utilize. They might sew, or be interested in any of the other things that can be produced, such as rugs or blankets.”

On any given day, you will find Terri experimenting with the FeltLOOM. “Most recently, I’ve spent time making rugs with the FeltLOOM. This has been a blast. A friend has some leftover fibers from sheep and angora goats that couldn’t be used for other purposes. We’ve been able to vary the thickness, of the rugs we make, so the result can vary from thick and cushy to light and thin. They also can be large. With needle felting versus wet felting, we’re learning that we have more control over the end result. There are so many possibilities!”

Stramba Farms, Wampum, Pennsylvania

Holiday Possibilities

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Heather Blanchard says that she and Norris McAuslan, owners of Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres in Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada have had their “48″ since March of this year. As she puts it, the FeltLOOM gives them another option that they can offer the fiber farmers whose fleece they process. She says that, as the customers learn more about the loom, they’re starting to get excited about its possibilities.

But their processing customers aren’t the only ones learning about the possibilities. Edy’s Mills also organizes and offers FeltLOOM workshops for others to enjoy. They have worked with people to create wall hangings, purses, slippers, scarves, and many other creative items.

For the wall hangings they provided a base background for each participant as well as colored roving, yarn, and other interesting material. Heather ran the machine. She says that workshop was a big hit. “Everybody had lots of fun and every creation was absolutely different from the next. That’s always the fun part.”

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They organize some of the workshops, but also allow others to put together their own groups. Some bring their own materials and are only renting time on the machine; others ask Edy’s Mills to provide materials, such as slipper and tote bag bases. They must have a minimum number of participants and Heather always operates the machine.

We got the scoop on an upcoming holiday workshop that hasn’t even been announced yet. Heather laughs when she tells us, “I’m letting the cat out of the bag on this one. We’re going to host a Christmas tree skirt workshop, so people can create their own tree skirts.” When asked if we could post her plans, or if they wanted to keep them under wraps, she replied that she was willing to share. She said, “That’s one thing that we all appreciated when we were at the feltLOOM gathering, everybody sharing what creations they’re making.”

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Do you have plans for creative holiday projects on the feltLOOM? You can share them by posting them in a comment. We’d all love to know what you’re up to. Learn more about Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres on their website.