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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: Innovation in Needle Felting at the Handweavers Guild Conference

As popularity in felted fabrics, felt fashion and felt home décor soars, the demand grows for tools and equipment that create high-quality felted fabric with ease aIMG_20140717_105435nd efficiency. Founded over 10 years ago, FeltLOOM and its innovative fabric-making machines have been at the vanguard of the field. This year alone, the FeltLOOM crew has traveled throughout the country to meet artists, fiber mill owners, and other creative entrepreneurs in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, in order to answer their questions about the many benefits and opportunities FeltLOOM machines can bring to their businesses.
In July 2014, FeltLOOM had a very successful presentation at the Handweavers Guild of America Convergence Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Our booth was abuzz with activity all week long, as we welcomed visitors to our colorful booth, talked about our shared passion for fiber arts and textiles, and introduced them to the creative and business potential of FeltLOOM equipment.
We filled our booth with plentiful samples of jackets, tops, coats, vests, hats, pillows, wraps, and wall hangings – all featuring interesting surface design techniques, and all created with the help of the FeltLOOM. It was a feast for all the senses, as there were brilliant colors to see, luxurious felted fabrics to touch, soft whirring of FeltLOOM machines to hear, and old and new friends who made for great conversations.
From examining the specifics of working with wool and alpaca, combining wool and existing fabric, or embellishments, we had an all-around good time sharing out story and our expertise with visitors to the FeltLOOM booth at this New England event. We enjoyed hearing other people’s stories of a life in fiber arts. Some visitors had not yet heard of FeltLOOM and were stopped in their tracks by the FeltLOOM Lexi Model we had running in the booth throughout the show. Others traveled to Providence with the intention of getting a hands-on FeltLOOM demo.
Our friends from Fiber Art Now magazine stopped by to visit us too. We enjoyed sharing our news with them, such as the upcoming 4th Annual FeltLOOM Owners Conference (September 12-15, 2014 in Sharpsburg, KY). They got to watch a Lexi demo and try on some of the FeltLOOM-made garments we had on display.
HGA Convergence 2014 was a rewarding experience for our whole crew, as we got to hear lots of positive feedback, and meet current and future FeltLOOM owners.
Did you know that FeltLOOM machines are custom-built for each customer depending on their specifications and needs? Our team is standing by to answer your questions and give you all the information you need about owning and thriving with FeltLOOM machines. Call us at (855) 335-8566 or any time.


FeltLOOM Events

We regularly travel to fiber arts events and conferences.

Check back often to see where we’ll turn up next!

Saturday, November 23, 2013FL_KentuckyArtisanCenter
Lexi Model FeltLOOM Demonstrations
975 Walnut Meadow Road
Berea, Kentucky 40403
Join us for a FeltLOOM  Lexi demo.  We’ll cover scarf making, taught by Lanette Freitag. Come see the FeltLOOM in action!


December 6, 2013FL_GatewayRegionalArts
Gallery Opening 
Featuring work made by Lanette Freitag on the FeltLOOM
101 East Main Street
Mt. Sterlling, Kentucky 40353


Friday & Saturday, December 6 & 7, 2013LanMarkFarmSign
LanMark Farm Open House
Call 855-335-8566 for more details.
Visit the LanMark farm to tour the new mill boutique, see the animals, try out scarf making on the FeltLOOM, and spend the day on the scenic LanMark Farm. See you there!
LanMark Farm
121 Sharpsburg Road
Sharpsburg, Kentucky 40374

Designing with Felt: Natural Edges

Here is an idea from the FeltLOOM desgin vault:

Design your felt so that there are nature edges that do not require sewing. For example when making sleeves, or jacket edges, design the batting with the colors you want at the end of the sleeve and felt the color and edging to your desired look. After felting, the edge can be sewn and the end left alone, because it will not ravel and will provide an artful look.