Tag Archives: Felting

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

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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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.

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.

Developing a Fiber Business: A Conversation in Three Parts

This is the first of a three-part conversation about developing a fiber business with fiber artist Laverne Zabielski whose experimentation with the blending of fabrics and use of color on the loom has greatly influenced the FeltLOOM and fiber art communities.

Part 1: Two Paths for Your Fiber Business

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Working on a FeltLOOM opens up a new kind of territory for people. They quickly see that there are many paths to follow going forward with their fiber business, but there are no maps to guide them along the way or show them where those paths might lead. With the FeltLOOM it is now reasonable to create fabric, which might lead to creating many different kind of products, or just as many types of art. The sheer number of alternatives can be overwhelming.

Fiber artist Laverne Zabielski has been using the FeltLOOM almost since its inception and she also has extensive experience in selling her fiber work. We asked her if she had any words of wisdom for FeltLOOM owners and users as they venture into this new territory.

She said: “To be able to sell your work, you have to figure out what your forte is, what you want to specialize in.” She immediately zeroed in on the plethora of possibilities a FeltLOOM owner confronts, “When you get the LOOM you begin to see all kinds of possibilities and you want to do it all. But you can’t do it all.” She urges people to figure out “what represents them most, what they enjoy most, and what they can continue doing over and over and over again.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_FL_LavernGreen1Laverne sees two distinct approaches to creating on the FeltLOOM—as an artist or as a producer of something that can be created pretty much the same every time. To illustrate the artistic path she quotes her teacher Arturo Sandoval, who says that “art is responding.” The artist attempts something and is open to responding to the result. Work created in that way is complicated, layered, and time-consuming. It needs to be sold at a price that reflects that time and one-of-a-kind effort. Galleries and boutiques attract customers who understand that value and are willing and able to pay for it. Producing something that can be replicated is more traditional. It is not as experimental, can be made in less time, and sold for less. There are many more places that the traditional work can be sold.

Art and craft shows are where many “makers” first introduce and begin to sell their work to the public. Laverne was no exception. She learned from experience that those shows must also be chosen according to the type of work that you are creating as well as how it is priced. Work that takes time and must sell at a price that reflects that time, will not sell at a show filled with much lower priced items. The opposite is also true. A craft show filled with high end items will not be a good venue for work that is not one-of-a-kind.

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When you are ready to begin selling your creations, visit b2ap3 thumbnail FL LaverneRust1shops and galleries in and near your community and attend art and craft shows. Take note what is displayed and the price range represented. Is every piece unique or are the racks with multiple examples of a style in various sizes and colors? Would pricing your work to fit in there be profitable? Use this information to decide what shows to enter and what shop owners to approach with your work.

Once a FeltLOOM owner or user has found his or her focus and is producing items for sale, they will begin to develop a following. In the second part of our conversation with Laverne we talked about how she developed her following. Join us here to learn what she had to say.

Farmer, Breeder, Mill Owner

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Heather Blanchard and Norris McAuslan co-own Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres, in Ontario, where they run their mill, raise alpacas and farm 500 acres of soy beans and wheat. They also grow their own hay. Heather runs the fiber mill, which processes fibers into roving, felt, batting, jute core rug yarn, and other yarns. Heather, who has a maintenance background in large industry, combines her technical skills with her experience in raising livestock and an interest in crafts and creating things to bring the FeltLOOM to her mill. It has given her the ability to offer new products to her customers and it has given her the inspiration to make a variety of innovative products herself.

Heather and Norris originally started their fiber operation with two huacaya females. Heather reflects, “As we researched their care and maintenance, we realized that there weren’t enough processing services, and that started us thinking about starting our own mill.” Over the years we’ve had as many as 130 and right now we’re down to about sixty. “The nice thing about alpacas is that they live for a long time, produce a product every year, and let’s face it, they’re so darn cute. They each have their own personalities, and we know every one of them as an individual.” Like many people, Heather stumbled upon the FeltLOOM. “I heard about FeltLOOM by accident.

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I used to have a wet felting table, but I kept thinking that someone should make an industrial needle felter for small mills, and there it was. We were able to sell our wet felting table and move forward!” We are a mill that does custom processing, and we need to speed that process up. Depending on what we’re making, it takes several passes. The FeltLOOM gives us that, and now we that have explored different needles, we can expand the kinds of end products we can create and offer to our customers. We talk with our clients and find out what kind of felt they want. We talk with customers to find out what they plan on doing with their felt. This is really important, because even with spinning, we need to know what customers are going to use the fibers for, in order to create the right product for them.

In Heather’s words, “Over time, we’ve had requests for everything from a quilt liner, to saddle pads and boot insoles. We also have a finished line of products. We also create felted vests, slippers, wall hangings, and more. We have all kinds of products that we’ve been working on. We even have made cat tunnels! People are constantly coming up with ideas. Every process has been sped up. As you can imagine every one of those items were being wet felted by hand, and we would add some embellishments by hand with a hand needle felting process. As you can imagine, the FeltLOOM has revolutionized our capabilities!” Learn more about Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres at www.alpacascanada.com or visit their etsy store at etsy.edysmillsfinefibres.com

Developing a Fiber Business: Part 3

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In this third installment of our “Developing a Fiber Business” series, Laverne Zabielski talks about style, community, and color.

Laverne’s experimentation with the blending of fabrics and use of color on the loom has greatly influenced the FeltLOOM and fiber art communities.

Laverne first met Lanette Freitag and encountered the FeltLOOM when they shared a booth at Kentucky Crafted. She was so taken with the LOOM that every week for the next year she drove three hours to Lanette’s, worked on the LOOM for four or five hours, and drove the three hours back home. That continued until Kentucky University, only two hours from her home, purchased the FeltLOOM that she now uses. “So you want to talk about driven,” she laughs as she recalls that period.

As a trained artist who dyes silk using the Shibori technique, she began experimenting with dying the material she was creating. As Laverne recalled that period she expanded her comments on creating a style. She said, “To develop a style you make rules for yourself.” She explained that you can, of course, break those rules. She then used her distinctive use of color as an example of creating rules for a style. “One of my rules is to always follow color theory. One of the reasons is that, if something doesn’t turn out the way I expected, because I follow color theory, the colors will blend in such a way that they’ll still be beautiful.”

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A second personal rule about color that she shared was that she always uses three colors. “That gives me a lot more depth and movement in my pieces. I may want to use all turquoise, but I’ll use three shades of turquoise. Or I’ll use analogous colors, which are the colors that are side-by-side on the color wheel, so I’ll use turquoise and green and blue.” She explains that color theory has other combinations which could also be applied successfully.

Laverne then explained that movement and flow, which require a light material, are also important elements of her personal style. That fact prompted her to begin combining materials. Instead of felting two quarter pound batts together to produce a half pound material, she felted a single batt to silk to produce material of half the weight. When asked if she ever works with other designers, Laverne answers that she does. She sometimes provides materials to other designers, often through trades, and participates in runway shows. She says, “That’s part of building a community and building your following and participating in events, in shows, again getting your name out there. Get people to see your work … (and) get to see your work in action.”

Visit Laverne’s website to be inspired by more of her beautiful work or to contact her with questions.

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.

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Introducing a FeltLOOM for Fiber Artists and Crafters

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Fiber artists discovered a whole new realm of design and productivity possibilities this June at the 2013 International Surface Design Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas, where Don Bowles and Lanette Freitag introduced the first of their new artist series line of FeltLOOMs. The Lexi, a 36″ loom, which sits on a table top and uses a standard 110 electric outlet, eliminates the labor associated with wet felting while transforming fiber into fabric that is more consistent and even than is possible with wet felting.

Using this loom, the artist, for the first time, has the opportunity to adjust the design in the early stages of felting. Lanette explains the difference, “When you’re wet felting, you get your design down and commit it to soap and water, you’re committed. You can’t change it. The Lexi gives you the ability to run it through, look at it and say ‘Hey, I didn’t see that before,’ and fix it.”

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Don describes some of the unique design capabilities artists gain with the machine. “You have the ability to use most any kind of scrim you want. You can felt into silk and create great designs. You can felt into cotton or many kinds of fabric.” He continues, focusing on the versatility of materials. “Typically if somebody’s going to wet felt they’re going to have to use sheep’s wool. The FeltLOOM doesn’t seem to care what the fiber is. You can use recycled plastic bottle fiber, wool, alpaca, polyester. Most will felt very well with the FeltLOOM.”

Don and Lanette decided that the Surface Design Conference was the perfect setting to introduce the Lexi because the conference brings together world-acclaimed textile artists, materials experts, scholars, and educators to inform members and the general public about advances in all areas of textiles. The Lexi is a significant technical advance in the world of fiber art.

Unlike the ProLIne of FeltLOOMs, which were designed for commercial productivity, the Lexi was specifically designed for artists and crafters. Its one-lever controls are so simple that Don says conference attendees who sat down with him were producing fabric in less that five minutes. Because it feeds the material through both forward and reverse, the operator can work sitting down from either side, running the fabric through as many times as desired without getting up from their chair.

Here is an overview of the Lexi’s features:

  • Overall dimensions: 44 in x 6 in x 20 in Felting width: 36 inches
  • Needles: 4 rows total needles 280 Needle speed: 120 strokes per min Roller feed speed: 28 rpm
  • Input and output rollers: dual 1 inch aluminum rollers front and rear, both powered
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  • Forward or Reverse movement of fabric
  • On / Off Switch
  • Emergency stop switch
  • Single motor I/4 HP North American market. 110 volt power requirements
  • Safety covers front and rear
  • Poly Carbonate safety shield front and rear
  • Table top; requires a 48 inch table minimum
  • Easily operated while sitting down!
  • Priced for the U.S. market at $4,600

Don says the Lexi has been well received and they’ve already taken orders, the first of which will be shipping in about three weeks. Don and Lanette look forward to adding more artists to the FeltLOOM community and will share the feedback they receive about the Lexi as owners experiment and report back.

Visit our store for more information.

Many Creative Paths with the FeltLOOM

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The FeltLOOM is a practical tool for anyone who produces or processes fiber. It is also, it turns out, an amazingly creative tool for those same processors as well as for fiber artists and craftspeople. During the few short years since the FeltLOOM’s introduction users have discovered more and more uses for it and by doing so, are exponentially expanding its versatility.

Judy Petrovich, an early adopter of the loom, is one of its most innovative users. There is nothing more creatively stimulating than a conversation with Judy, who has continuously and generously shared what she has learned with the FeltLOOM community.

In a recent conversation we asked her what new FeltLOOM owners found to be most surprising about the loom. She found her impressions difficult to put into words because what surprises them is not so much what the FeltLOOM does, but how much more it is capable of than what they had imagined. She said that since it’s still so new people only know of it’s capabilities from what they see someone else do. They don’t know what they don’t know. Once they have the machine they start trying things on their own. Each new discovery leads them to another.

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Judy was a seamstress and tailor when she happened on the FeltLOOM. She simply saw it as a possible means of creating fabric that she could sew. Once she owned the loom she found outwhat it could do by asking herself if something was possible and then trying it. She found that each time she tried something, it led her in a new direction. Soon she was doing things with the loom that she hadn’t thought were possible. She continues to find the creative paths so diverting that at the end of a session she often can’t remember what she first sat down to do.

Her interactions with people she has met while teaching on the FeltLOOM and demonstrating it have taken her life in new directions in much the same way. One association leads to others that have kept her busy teaching and speaking all over her home state of Michigan and across the country, from California to New Mexico, to Maryland and beyond. She has developed new friendships and broadened the spectrum of people that she knows.

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She’s doing many more classes than she set out to do because she gets so much enjoyment out of the people enjoying what they are able to do. She especially loves helping people open up to their own creativity. When her students have questions she encourages them to answer their own questions through experimentation.

As much as she loves speaking and teaching, Judy hasn’t let those endeavors crowd out her own creative work. She is still designing and producing new fabric, clothing, and accessories and experimenting with the Loom’s potential.

Recently after having experimented with different fabrics as scrims, she asked herself what would happen if, instead of running fabric through the loom with fiber, she ran fabric through with strips of other fabric laid over it. True to her own teaching method, she’s answering that question by experimenting with fabric to fabric “felting” and so discovering a new way to paint with fabric.

Visit her website at http://fabfibers.com/Home.html to see some of her latest designs, such as this beautiful full-length western coat.