Fiber’s the Product
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
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.”
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.
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.”