Category Archives: General FeltLOOM

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!

The Felting Changes

Fibers and felt for alpaca breeders are a perfect fit.

I was the first alpaca breeder in Kentucky beginning in the early 90s. This seemed like a natural addition to the llamas from 1987.

I wanted to know what to do with the fibers from these animals. I tried to figure it out by doing many different spinning and knitting projects. I also found out that I wanted to learn more about other fibers, leading me to other fiber animals. Then we added angora rabbits and various sheep. From here I learned about the different qualities of fiber from the many fleeces raised on our farm.

I learned to spin and knit. I made yarn and knitted some sweaters from my alpaca and sheep fibers. I loved my sweaters and still have them more than twenty years later. I look back on my work and see that it was just the beginning stages of my long fiber journey.

We had many animals that were giving us many fleeces. I could not possibly use all the wool that they produced. The barn was pilling up with fleeces. Learning to spin and knit was not using my wool at near the speed that it was growing on the animals. I had to find a faster way to make things, or my wool would not provide the value that I thought it deserved.

Felting was brought to my attention. Felting happens naturally on some animals and was an ancient fabric. So I continued on my journey.

My first felt was made using soap and water and lots of hand circling motions to make the fibers stick together. Hat making became a focus. I made and taught many people to make wet felted hats from all the different breeds I had. We enjoyed the felting, but I also still was not using the fibers as fast as I was growing them.

One day my husband came home with a felting needle. I used it immediately to fix a few holes in one of my hats that had not come out right. I then tried just felting a ball of wool. It worked fast and great! I turned to my husband and said, this is going to change our lives.

Industry has been doing needle felting since 1890. It uses it make products that are in our everyday lives. It makes polar fleece, rugs, felted fabric, etc. It was used by industry, so I decided that I needed a small needle felting loom for our farm. I could not find one to buy anywhere. So my husband and I looked for someone to build us one for our applications. We did this and have since worked for six years to develop a needle loom that would fit into our operation. We received a patent on a needle felting machine for fibers artist in 2008.

Today, we are selling these loom to breeders and fiber artists. You can make your own fabric without yarn. In one day from batting, I made twenty five scarves that were embellished with my finishing touches. This was a break through for making product and getting from fibers to fabric.

Now, we are just touching the surface of our true creativity with the fibers. We lay the fibers on the table and add our special colors or textures that give a one of kind product. People have purchased the FeltLOOM and are enjoying their own work. The seamstresses can make their own fabric rather than buy it from a bolt. We are on a journey to redefine fiber art.

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Needle Felting Small Scale

Needle felting has been in industry since 1890. We felt that it needed to be put in the hands of people so they could make fiber art in a more timely manner.

Today we have that. A FeltLOOM that allows us to make professionals products. We use the same needles that are in the industrial units. If you follow what they do, we can do the same thing, just that we do it manually. We can needle in an up and down direction by turning the piece over and running in on the other side. We can add heat by using a pressing cloth and a steam iron.

Putting the FeltLOOM in the hands of people is going to unleash a new round of fiber usage because we do not need yarn to make our products. We have just started on this new creative journey. It will bring about many new surface designs and textures that area ll one of a kind.

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FeltLOOM® User Group met for the first time at the end of August in 2011.
The event was filled with warm sharing from the user. We had honest open
sharing of ideas that will drive new creative products.

Arturo Sandoval, Professor of Fiber Art at the University of Kentucky,
presented the work from students working with the FeltLOOM®.
It was exciting to see their projects. We look forward to seeing more of their work.

It was a great pleasure to be a part of this.
The FeltLOOM® users are growing in numbers in the US and other countries.
They are now in five countries.

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Four Questions with Janice Arnold of JA Felt

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As the daughter of a cartographer, Janice Arnold grew up looking at the world in landscapes rather than countries, contour lines rather than boundaries, textures rather than cultures. Fine fabric was always a passion. Throughout college she was enamored with folk art, hight fashion and studied a wide variety of textile traditions. She traveled extensively to learn traditional techniques within cultural contexts. JA started making handmade Felt in 1999 for a large scale sculpture commission for the Nordstrom Corporation stores. She has focused intently on making Felt as functional fabric and art form ever since. We recently caught of with Janice and asked her about her experience with the FeltLOOM.

How did you come across the FeltLOOM?

In 2008, a volunteer assistant who was helping me during my Palace Yurt project for the Fashioning FELT installation at the Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum, located information on the web about it. I immediately made contact with them, and started a conversation about the FeltLOOM. I had hoped to get one after I was done with that installation, but my hopes for funding it were dashed when some winter storms took out my outdoor felting tents and I had to invest in repairs instead.

Tell us about when you visited the farm to really spend time on it.

I visited Casa Del Arboles Fine Fiber Farm in Monroe Washington the winter of 2011. Maggie DiUlio, who owns the farm, has a FeltLOOM. On occasion she rents the use of it in her fiber studio. She let me run a sample through it to see if it would solve a problem I was incurring with a project. My first trip was mostly an experiment – I had not used one before, and the way I was using it was also something she had not tried before, as an early step in a many step very complex and delicate process. Her experience with the machine, her expertise with fine fibers, and her suggestions were invaluable.

What strikes you most about this equipment? That is, what was most surprising or remarkable, that you think others would want to know?

I think it is remarkable on many levels: It is beautifully designed, and constructed. It seems to be very user friendly, once you get over the learning curve of knowing the details about it. It is much quieter than I had expected. Even so, it was capable of handling the 55′ lengths of fiber I was putting through it with ease and relative speed. Not to mention the customer service that the FeltLOOM provides is very comprehensive.

How could you envision adding the FeltLOOM into your installation works in the future?

That is a question I can’t answer easily. I think I would be limited only by my imagination!
See more of Janice’s work at JA Felt.

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No Fiber Is Left Behind at Evergreen Fleece Processing

Fiber’s the Product

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Though Chuck Armstrong of Evergreen Fleece Processing in Washington State has 45 Alpacas with great pedigrees, he says he’s always been more interested in the fiber side of things than in the breeding and selling of animals. “I’ve always felt that the fiber’s the product. Long term, breeding’s not going to mean a darn thing if you don’t have some product from the animal,” he says. “Otherwise you spend a lot of money on a pet.”

He’d found, as most breeders do, that blanket fibers were easily sent off to make yarn, but that they only accounted for about a third of the clip. “I’ve always felt that all the fiber’s good for something. But even a year ago there really wasn’t anybody addressing the seconds and thirds [which are] 50% to 60% of what you clip off your animal.”

No Fiber Left Behind

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With fiber stored in the barn and the trailer, he adopted the motto “No Fiber Left Behind” and researched equipment for processing ALL of his product. That’s when he found FeltLOOM. “We went into the processing business with felting in mind. My goal with the FeltLOOM, what I’m really after, is make fabric that people will then take and sew into something.”

He’s now making fabric from many fibers. He’s particularly proud of the sheets that are “really, really thin so that it’s easy to sew.”

Beyond Fabric

But fabric made directly from fiber is not the only use Chuck’s customers have found for the FeltLOOM. Local artists and crafts people who wet felt have found it useful for finishing. One brought him a wet-felted rug. The outside was felted, but he could feel that the interior of the thick fabric was cushy and loose. One pass through the loom packed it tighter and made it consistent.

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Another felt artist brought him a wet-felted piece with an overlay accent of silky Angora goat fiber. He explained the problem, “It just kind of sat there on top of the piece. We took her piece and started running it through the FeltLOOM . . . and it made it part of the fabric.”

He’s experimenting on a regular basis. “I play with all sorts of designs and patterns and textures,” he says. “I found a whole artistic part of my personality that I didn’t even know I had.” He says the possibilities “are only limited by your imagination.

About all that Stored Fiber…

When asked if he’s catching up on using all that fiber he has stored, Chuck laughs, “Only a little bit because the processing business is taking off. When I started the processing business, the FeltLOOM was just going to be an additional service. Now the FeltLOOM is driving the processing, rather than the processing driving the FeltLOOM.”

Knowledge Sharing and Community at the 2012 FeltLOOM Owners Conference

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What an amazing weekend we had, when about 30 FeltLOOMers gathered on the pcturesque Lanmark farm in Sharpsburg, Kentucky, home of the FeltLOOM, September 14-16. The energy was palpable as everyone gathered to talk about what they were already creating and accomplishing with their FeltLOOM. We also learned all of the expanded possibilities for our FeltLOOMs, both for business and creative pursuits.

Each day was filled with interesting speakers and topics, including: how to choose the best needle for your projects; batting designs; marketing your fiber business; fiber blends and how to choose them; cutting devices; FeltLOOM features; steaming, pressing and finishing your felt; the jury and market process; quality standards; and much more. We unwound each day with wine, laughs and great stories, all while enjoying the farm from the wraparound deck at the lodge. Saturday evening we had the FeltLOOM Creations Showcase, which was likely one of the best parts of the weekend. We all got the opportunity to see how we were each using our FeltLOOM in our own way, branding the output to our business, whether it is a mill, breeding business, or fiber art business.

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Because we all live and work in our own corners of the world, meeting and talking with fellow FeltLOOMers is an amazing experience. The knowledge sharing among FeltLOOM owners was priceless and the vision that Don and Lanette put forth inspired us all. The conference was full of speakers and topics that were practical and also expanded our vision for what the FeltLOOM can do. We also learned about plans for new models and how the FeltLOOM business is growing.

Much more will come out of the lively conversations we had about topics such as alpaca quality standards, achieving new effects with blends and needle variations, new product and business ideas, breeding trends, and so much more. We all reluctantly left on Sunday, loaded with more knowledge, experience, and a greater sense of the FeltLOOM community. At the same time, Don and Lanette were so grateful to everyone who came out to spend the weekend, because the energy and learning that took place further fuels their own research and vision for the FeltLOOM.

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Here’s a snapshot of Don talking about the incredible contributions and leadership Lanette has lent to the FeltLOOM vision, right from the start. And while we all believed him, he definitely understated his own knowledge, business leadership, and product engineering expertise!

While it’s safe to say that everyone learned a lot throughout the weekend, the takeaway was much more than the practical FeltLOOM knowledge that was given to us. This is a group of positive people with ‘can-do’ attitudes, who are growing their businesses, and the FeltLOOM is one of the tools they are using to fulfill their goals and dreams. What an amazing community!

See the photo album of speakers & events.

Take a photo tour of the FeltLOOM farm.

How Do They Do That? Designing on a FeltLOOM

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The way FeltLOOMers design is by laying things out and running them through the FeltLOOM, without having to attach it in any other way. Depending on how FeltLOOMers run it through their machine, they after one run, they are usually able to peel the design up and place it differently. This is fundamentally different from all other felting methods. For example, if you do typical needle or wet (nuno) felting, the design is felted down, and there is no going back. The FeltLOOM offers the flexibility to re-evaluate the design, change and even add, while you are in the process of felting.

Users can combine mediums, yarn, ribbons, and many kinds of materials. If they are familiar with doing another technique, then they can really expand their thought process by doing it similarly to the way they have done design work in the past, with the exception of not needing to do any basting or tacking. Many FeltLOOMers use ribbons, yarn, fabric, layers of lightweight embellishments, and other materials. The possibilities are really endless.

Many FeltLOOMers like to design for large pieces. They can design large pieces of yardage or even design an entire coat with one piece of felt made on the FeltLOOM. They run it through the loom to stabilize (with just one time through the machine), and then design in a large sheet, and put it back through the machine. It gives them the ability to better visualize where the design will appear on the pattern. It can basically be placed whereever it is going to appear on a garment, and all pieces can be planned accordingly. That’s something that can’t be done with other tools, such as sewing machines.

In the words of Judy Petrovich, experienced FeltLOOMer, “I can reposition the design on my yardage as many times as I want, and when I’m happy with it, then I felt it down. Think of it this way: What if a painter could put the canvas and paint together, and if they don’t work quite right, can peel the paint off and reposition it? You could also build up the design as you go, and if one layer doesn’t work for you, you can just peel that one off, and keep going. I don’t know another medium where this can be done. It’s really remarkable!”

See the FeltLOOM running.

It’s Time to Build a Visual Library!

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For all of you seasoned FeltLOOM owners, new FeltLOOMers, and makers of every kind in our community, we want to talk about the power of standardizing the way you document your activities. You could be a very creative person, creating artwear, or maybe you run a mini-mill and you are now able to offer high quality felt to your customers with the FeltLOOM Whatever your situation, consider integrating a standard documenting system into your every day activities. Do you have a visual library? That’s another important piece to your business and your ability to create consistent results.

  1. Record all of your steps.
  2. Put a chart right near your work area.
  3. Establish a goal for each new project.

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For example, if you’re developing a product, trying to fix a problem, or are creating something entirely new, find a standard way to document your steps, how many times the piece went through the machine, the kinds of fiber you used, and your needles, if you tend to change out needles. Think, “What exactly did I do today to create these results?” At the time it seems like you will remember forever, but two weeks from now, the details will grow ‘fuzzy’ (no pun intended).

The FeltLOOM is a revolutionary product, and new ground is being broken all the time. Put together a chart that lives near your FeltLOOM, where you can keep track of all the steps. Also, create a visual library of fibers as a companion to the chart. Attach some fiber to a page and keep track of the combination, the weight, date, and the project it was used in. Alternatively, you could tag a small piece of fiber, as long as you keep them all in one place, building a visual vocabulary for your creations.

In the words of Judy Petrovich, a veteran FeltLOOMer and consultant to FeltLOOM owners: “People don’t realize how much documentation lends to the overall quality of their products. Once you have a record for one fiber, start experimenting with other samples, and keep a log. I tell people to actually take the time and make a book of what they have done. Record whether it was single or double weight fibers, single number of times run through the FetlLOOM, whether they used silk, cotton, or other scrim. Then try it with others, to see how it works, and record it.

I have found that new FeltLOOMers, as they develop their documentation and visual library, their business and production level develops on its own, depending on their objective. Are they making felt for hats, or are they trying to create drapey fabric for clothes? They have to understand what they want to get out of the process before starting, otherwise they’ll never know if they achieve it!”

Judy Petrovich has developed her own business with the FeltLOOM. She also consults with other FeltLOOMers to help them maximize their FeltLOOM and develop their own business. www.fabfibers.com