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Innovation in New Zealand Part 2

The Textile and Design Lab, which is where the FeltLOOM is housed, also hosted two 1-day felting workshops in April that were taught by Lanette and Don and attended by staff, students. and experienced felters from the private sector. Participants were given an explanation of the machine’s capabilities and operating procedures before creating their own experimental pieces of felted materials.

Lanette teaching at AUT workshop.

Don and Lanette were especially interested in the technical textile work at AUT. Donna Cleveland, a doctoral student at AUT, had visited Don and Lanette in Kentucky in the fall of 2014, tried the machine with recycled, shredded fabric that she had brought, and discussed her experiments in electrical conductivity through fiber. She inspired the purchase of the FeltLOOM by AUT, hoping that the needles would not damage the wire they planned to embed in fabric. In the AUT lab Don and Lanette were able to see how Donna and a group of students, are working with various fibers and testing electrical conductivity through fabrics built on the FeltLOOM. Not only did the embedded knitted copper wire conduct electricity, but so did the stainless steel fibers, which were not woven. The soft, flexible stainless steel wire was so fine that the group was able to create the delicate ruffles shown here. Don said, “We had never seen that done before and were very impressed with the design aesthetics.”

This flowing material is embedded with stainless steel wires that are capable of conducting electricity

Donna Cleveland is shown here with one of her wire embedded textiles.

As full as their trip was, Lanette and Don were able to enjoy some time with FeltLOOM owners. Lanette is shown here with owner and alpaca breeder Faye Christie in Faye’s beautiful garden, which is extensive and inspired Lanette. “She’s a great gardener, and her garden just touched me because I felt like I was in the Garden of Eden….She had everything in there that she needed to live on.”

They also were able to spend several days with owners Christine and Ross Edwards, shown here. Besides being owners, the Edwards act as agents for FeltLOOM in New Zealand and can be reached through their website.

The entire trip was a delight. Not only did Don and Lanette help introduce the FeltLOOM to the public, they also saw that it was being used in new ways as a tool for the sustainable use of materials, and they experienced the open friendliness of the people of New Zealand. Lanette expressed that experience, “Everyplace we went people helped us. They were wonderful… and treated us like we were their friends.”

Innovation in New Zealand Part 1

“It was the trip of a lifetime!” says Lanette Freitag about the three weeks in April that she and Don Bowles, owners of FeltLOOM™ Inc., spent in New Zealand at the invitation of Auckland University (AUT). “AUT invited us to come be part of the GoGreen Expo with them and to showcase the FeltLOOM as a sustainable piece of equipment that would help reuse textiles, or develop textiles in a different way.”

Besides joining with AUT in introducing the FeltLOOM to the public, Lanette and Don met with owners, taught two 1-day felting workshops, and met with professors and students at two universities who are using the FeltLOOM for innovative textile projects.

Lanette and Don’s first stop in New Zealand was Massey University in Wellington, where textile professor Dr. Sandy Heffernan, who was responsible for purchasing the FeltLOOM at Massey, took them under her wing, showing them around and seeing that they had comfortable accommodations and had a sense of what there was to do in the city.

At Massey Don and Lanette also met two students who were receiving their masters degrees in textiles and had made use of the FeltLOOM’s unique capabilities in their masters projects. One student, Hannah Hutchinson, worked with an industry partner, Classic Sheepskins, to identify how to best utilize wool waste generated through the manufacturing process of sheepskin tanning. Her project was based on adding value to wool waste. She is pictured here with a one of the beautiful pieces she created on the FeltLOOM using wool that was too short or had other problems that made it unsuitable for traditional uses.

 A second student, Juran Kim used the FeltLOOM to explore the impact of designing a textile and garment without the use of seams, a tactic originally motivated by desire to reduce waste in garment production. Kim’s design-centric research contributes a new fashion aesthetic aligned to the “slow fashion” movement. She is shown here with a seamless garment of her creation, made possible through the use of the FeltLOOM.

After leaving Massey University Lanette and Don went on to AUT in Auckland where they joined the university in showcasing the FeltLOOM at the GoGreen Expo, which is New Zealand’s largest organic, sustainability green and healthy products & services expo.

Don at GoGreen Expo working with student Michele Peddie.

Opening Up Possibilities with the FeltLOOM

We recently ran across this post by Jennifer at All Sorts Acre, and thought it was the perfect way to show how one FeltLOOMer works with her FeltLOOM. She has a Lexi, our tabletop model (below).

This week I thought I would try something different. I have a Lexi FeltLOOM needle felting machine. It is a great little machine that really opens up felting possibilities exponentially.

The Lexi FeltLOOM needle felting machine.

The Lexi FeltLOOM needle felting machine.

The Lexi means that I can make my own fabric. It makes the felting process faster, more versatile, and in some ways easier. Using it still has a learning curve, because, like felting, each type of fibre behaves very differently on it. Combine that with using a base fabric, and the possibilities are endless.

I don’t often use a base fabric in my felt projects, I usually just use wool, but having a woven fabric in between the front and back layer can give an incredible stability to the felt that can be time consuming to achieve when just using wool. Having the woven fabric in the centre also means that when sewing pieces together, no fabric stabilizer is needed. I have found that some types of wool are better for sewing into directly than others, but that is for another blog post.

Needle felted table runner.

Needle felted table runner.

Anyway, I had some loose cotton weave fabric lying around. I don’t remember too much about it, except that I wanted to experiment with it. So I did. Using some of my ready-to-use wool stash (all local and many different types) I got several balls of wool ready and layer it out onto the fabric.

I then put it through the FeltLOOM. To begin with I had fabric on one side only. I was not happy with this result as the woven fibres pulled and didn’t look lice on the back. So I ended up adding a layer to the back of the fabric as feel. this helped immensely. Not only did it hide the pulled threads, but it also gave the wool fibres on the front of the piece something to lock into on the back.

The front and back of the table runner.

The front and back of the table runner.

You can see threads from the cotton fabric at the edge of the piece. This is due to my rushing. Normally I would have had the fabric smaller than the piece O wanted to work on so when I trimmed it there would be a nice thread-free finished edge.
But this was an experiment so I just wanted to see what would happen.

I may put some edging on it, or further develop this into a purse or bag, I haven’t decided. yet. Regardless, I am gonigg to give it a quick wet felting to make sure all the fibres are truly locked together.  orFor now it makes a great table runner.

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New Advancements in Surface Design with the FeltLOOM

What an exhilarating time to be a feltmaker, a felt women’s and men’s fashion designer, and a designer of felt home fashion! In our last post  we covered the exciting trend sweeping the runways worldwide – felt. Today we want to talk about the element that draws many artists and designers to the wondrous world of felt – surface design. 

FeltLOOM, Needle Felting EquipmentFeltmaking is the ultimate textile design playground, affording you free reign to experiment with color and texture, to satisfy your creative goals to your heart’s content. Whether you are interested in developing color stories for your collection of home décor goods, or in exploring the drape of various fibers for your outerwear collection, the FeltLOOM line of needle-felting, fabric-making machines makes your tasks easy, accessible, and enjoyable. FeltLOOM, Fiber Conversion EquipmentWith FeltLOOM, you can easily combine different colors of wool fiber to study how the colors blend together in the finished fabric. You can also dye the fabric created on the FeltLOOM. You can combine a variety of fibers, including wools, alpaca, and silk, and explore the drape and tactility of the finished fabric. Whether your signature style is abstract and minimalist, or realist and colorful, you are able to create felted fabrics with floral, geometric, or free-form designs, using either naturally colored fiber or dyed fiber.

Artist: Sharon Janda

Artist: Sharon Janda

Sharon Janda of Wild Plum Designs creates exquisite felt art-to-wear. Her jackets, scarves, vests, shawls, and other accessories, many of which are created with the FeltLOOM, are vibrant, elegant, and completely original.

At Stramba Farm Alpacas & More natural, undyed colors are used to create sophisticated yet earthy FeltLOOM-felted fabric appropriate for use in clothing or home décor.
Artist: Sharon Janda

Artist: Sharon Janda

At Whispering Spirit Alpacas loosely spun yarn is added to the surface of wool to create subtle and intricate surface design patterns in this handsome vest.

Whispering Spirit

Whispering Spirit

Whether you are developing an entire line of products out of felted fabric, a capsule collection for a fashion show, or just researching and experimenting, our machines offer convenience, flexibility, and save you time.

Stramba Farms Alpacas

Stramba Farms Alpacas

With a FeltLOOM machine at your beck and call, you no longer need to be at the mercy of third-party fabric producers – you can produce fabric samples of various sizes on your own machine. Neither must you rely on the laborious and often inconsistent results produced by the wet felting method. The fabric you create on a FeltLOOM is reliably consistent and produced at a fraction of the time.

FeltLOOM in the MediaWhatever your surface design aspirations are, guided by your imagination and with beautiful fiber at your fingertips, your creative design process will flourish with the help of a FeltLOOM machine in your studio. With four kinds of machines in the series, you choose the size and other parameters that suit your needs best. The main differences among the machines in the series are the size, needle density, and speed. All FeltLOOM machines felt consistently and give high quality results.

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

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

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.”

Creative Passion Realized

Arturo

Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, a fiber artist whose influential work with non-traditional materials is recognized internationally, is also a professor of art at the University of Kentucky. It is evident when talking to him that he not only inspires his students, but is also inspired by them. When discussing their use of the FeltLOOM he says, “It’s a highly functional and creative tool, and the students really do like it. And that’s what I like, when they get a passion for it. I’m very excited by them getting that passion for it.”

He explains that it was a student, Laverne Zabielski, who introduced him to the FeltLOOM and encouraged him to purchase it for the university art department. “Because of her encouragement and the way she works, we began working with silk and wool together, silk and alpaca, silk and merino wool, and there’s a variety of methods that we’ve used mainly because of Laverne’s own experimentation.”

A New Technology

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Using this new technology Professor Sandoval and his students were on a shared path of discovery. “”We were learning as we were using it,” he says. He cites two examples, “We did discover is that there’s a lot of shrinkage that we didn’t anticipate. And so, especially when you’re starting to do art-to-wear clothing, you’re trying to make yardage, you really have to be aware of that.”

And at one point, in their enthusiasm, some students ran excessive material through that resulted in a surprise. “We saw some broken needles in their wool,” he says, and then cheerfully jokes, “That was s surprise, a little unintended mixed media.”

Creative Experimentation

christine Levitt Snake dress detail

Creative experimentation is clearly what truly excites this professor. Speaking again of Laverne Zabieslki, his student who also teaches non-credit night courses on the loom at the university’s Fine Arts Institute, he says, “She began to create on her own . . . new fabric and new patterns, new ways of running silk merino combinations. She’d bring those items into the classroom and that [made] a huge impression with the students.”

Professor Sandoval has chosen the work of another fiber art student, Christine Levitt, to be featured along with his in the fall show, Art Envoy, that opens at the Louisville Visual Art Association in Louisville, Kentucky on August 24 and runs through October 7. Ms. Levitt has created what he calls, some of the “most spectacular pieces to come out of my class.”

The university is only beginning its second year with the FeltLOOM. In the spring it is introduced to students as another technology for making 3-D fiber art, and in the fall, it is used by students who choose it for creating some types of art-to-wear material. If the first year is any indication of the future, we are in for some exciting, vibrant creations as Professor Sandoval and his students continue to experiment with their magic machine.

See many more amazing creations in the FeltLOOM Photo Album!