Tag Archives: fiber mill

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.”

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: 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.

The Hats of Hardgrove Studio

Carol Frazer has worn many “hats” in her life. At home at River Bed Ranch in Heber, Utah, she has raised alpacas since 1991. She also once owned a small computer store, where she taught programming. She produces hand printed letterpress note cards, stationery, and art books through her Garden House Press. After moving to Heber, she studied fiber at the University of Utah where she completed their certificate program and, as a fiber artist, she has worked in weaving, spinning, sewing, and felt making.

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For more than two years now she has focused much of her prolific creative energy on—what else?—Designing, making, and selling one-of-a-kind hats.

Carol took delivery of her 36-inch FeltLOOM in May of 2010. She experimented with the machine for about nine months. “I made a lot of stuff first that I didn’t really like, and I decided I didn’t want to get into clothing because sizing is the issue.” Then she thought of hats. She made her first hat from felt created on the FeltLOOM, using a commercial pattern, and wore it to a conference in Durango, Colorado in early 2011. There a woman wanted to buy it right off her head. She recalls her response, “I thought, ‘Oh, other people like this’ so I started making more.”

She made another hat for the woman she had met at the conference, and quickly graduated to creating her own patterns. “Once I had the concept of the hat, which came from a commercial pattern, you know you have a crown, you have a brim and you have a top, then I could take that and create something different.”

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ach hat is one-of-a-kind and as such is very creative work, but is also very time-consuming. She explains her process, “When I create a hat I start with just a raw batt. I have to layout a pattern that I’ve chosen onto that batt before I felt it, to make sure I’m going to have enough fabric. I’m working with a 36″ machine so I have limitations as far as the final fabric product, size wise. … Then, when I know that it will fit, I go to the effort of trying to figure out what design I want on the top, or the brim, or do I just want it just on the edge, and I lay that all out on the fabric before I run it through the FeltLOOM. That takes a lot of time and it’s a hit or miss, allowing for shrinkage and all that. It’s a bit technical. It’s quite creative.”

She says that the hats are a joy to make. “They give me many hours of pleasure and mental release.”

Carol says that her hats have evolved. At first she used one-pound batts. She says, “I have some of my reject hats from early on. They were very heavy, and so I changed. I had my mill do half-pound batts, which made a thinner fabric … that makes a nice winter hat.” She is now experimenting with various materials as scrims to add body to quarter-pound batts in order to design hats that are even lighter, and so suitable for spring and fall.

Marketing, Carol explains, is not her forte, but she is pondering additional steps to get her hats seen. Now customers come mostly from word of mouth, friends of friends and friends of other customers. She has also sold hats through the farm stores of other alpaca farmers and is planning to try them in some boutiques. She is contemplating opening an Etsy store and she has begun posting on Pinterest with positive results. “That (Pinterest) takes them to my website and that can lead to a sale.”

One thing is certain, Carol will continue to make her charming hats. “Each piece I make stirs up my creative juices to try something different.” To see more of her work visit her website at: http://www.hardgrovestudio.com

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

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