Tag Archives: 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.

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.

Catch the Spirit!

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“Behind every successful ranch is a good job in town.” Every rancher in the country has probably heard that one. Lee and Sandy Liggett of Whispering Spirit Alpacas in Sandia Park, New Mexico have heard it, and they’ve lived it. But their experience with their FeltLOOM is showing them a profitable road ahead for this young industry through the manufacturing of clothing. Lee says that when he and Sandy got into the Alpaca business five or six years ago the industry was mostly a show ring operation based on raising and selling animals and collecting stud fees.

DSC_6158 They saw that model as more of a hobby than a business. But Sandy is an artist and was interested in the fabric. “That’s really what compelled us to go into Alpacas because it has such a nice fleece.” They started offering yarns and roving, but Sandy wanted to get into designing and manufacturing clothing. That direction also especially appealed to them for philosophical reasons. Lee says. “So much manufacturing in this country is gone. It’s offshore.”

They liked to idea making a contribution to bringing some of it back. Sandy had her eye on the FeltLOOM for some time. They took the plunge and purchased the largest model in 2010. Lee now works on the loom, creating fabric and experimenting with blends. Sandy creates the prototypes for their clothing, which is then constructed by three local seamstresses. They sell mostly through juried craft shows, but also through some galleries. Lee says, “I really think the use of the fleece is going to drive the industry. If a person believes that they can shear an animal and at least cover their costs . . . that’s going to help everybody.” Lee says that one thing that they’ve really enjoyed is, “getting a business started where there really is no blueprint.”

WhisperingSpiritAlpacas_copy They like the challenge of solving problems and creating their own road forward. Sandy still has a good job in town, but maybe the day is coming when that won’t be necessary because Lee says the business is gaining traction.

Visit their website at www.whisperingspiritalpacas.com to see more images of Sandy’s designs.

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

Make Artful Fabric with the FeltLOOM

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Many newcomers to the FeltLOOM world don’t realize is the ease with which they can create amazing artful fabric for their projects. We have seen the non-woven fabrics made on a FeltLOOM used for clothing, upholstery, equestrian accessories, and rugs, just to name a few applications. Here is one project that shows how to create one-of-a-kind fabric from roving.

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Download the instructions for Making Artful Fabric with the FeltLOOM.

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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Getting Over Winter at LanMark Farm

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Spring on LanMark Farm always lives up to its name. It’s when the farm really “springs” into action. Besides planning their crops for the year and “getting over winter,” as Lanette puts it, spring is lambing and shearing season

This year Lanette and Don were kept busy overseeing the birth of 47 lambs from March 22 through the middle of May.

One fruitful ewe dropped four of the little darlings, another had triplets, and one decided that she didn’t choose to mother her lamb, so Don and Lanette took on extra duty bottle feeding the four youngsters who weren’t getting meals from their mothers.

The lambs are a source of entertainment as they develop from dependent newborns to cheeky teenagers in just four to six months time. Lanette describes their rapid development, “They’re born and they get up almost instantly. They stay very close to Mom. And the mom has this little hum that she says to them as soon as they’re born and they’ll bleat back. You’ll hear this little conversation between Mom and the lamb.” She explains that lambs stay pretty close
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by the moms for a few weeks. Then they get FL AlbumDiningRoomenough confidence to leave her side for a little bit, but when she calls them they come right back. Or, if they don’t see her, they will call her. At about a month and a half of age, they get real brave and they’ll run with other lambs. They run and jump in circles, but when Mom calls them, they come right back. At about three months of age, though, things change. Lanette says, “All these little lambs buddy up and they run off. Then if Mom calls them it’s like, ‘I don’t have to listen to her’ —Teenagers!”

The rest of life on the farm might stutter a bit as all the ewes and lambs take precedence, but it doesn’t come to a halt. Spring is also shearing time, which is still to be done this year. Ordinarily Don and Lanette shear before lambing because the lambs can have a detrimental effect on the mothers’ fleeces. Don explains, “A lot of times I’ve gone into the barn where the ewes and lambs are and you’ll see a mom laying down and the lamb is standing right on her back. He may lay down there. He may stand there. He may jump up and down. These mothers take a whoopin’ from the little lambs.”

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Once the shearing is complete they can begin processing the fleeces from the many types of breeds that they raise. This year, they have an English Leicester Long Wool Ram, a breed that is classified as rare, numbering only 2,000 worldwide. Lanette is relishing the Leicester’s luxurious, shiny curls. She says, “We use the curls for embellishments and rugs. We love our long locks and carefully wash them to keep their shape.”

It seems the two are never idle. Recently Lanette finished a shawl/cape made from their own wool and also used some carefully washed curly locks for the beautiful one-of-a-kind wool tablecloth shown above. Makes the room look great, doesn’t it!

Explore more photos here:

Spring on LanMark Farm

More FeltLOOM Creations

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
  • Single controlFL Lexi controls-small-1
  • 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.