Tag Archives: fiberart

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.”

Felt Hits the Runway in 2014

lex2As major international Fall/Winter 2014 fashion weeks wrapped up their runway shows in recent days, and as fashion houses began to fill orders for the world’s department stores, boutiques, and online fashion shopping portals, we are doing our own bit of trend-spotting and trend-forecasting. Guess what trend has emerged in haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion in recent seasons? Loud and clear, front and center, the trend we have spotted on many runways is FELT!

lex1The world’s top designers, from Balenciaga to Chloe, Marni to Christophe Lemaire, and beyond, a number of the most talented and innovative designers have embraced felted wool as a fabric essential to their collections. Fashioned into oversized coats and capes, crop tops, trousers, full skirts, and fanciful jackets, felted wool fabric is paired with other luxurious materials long at home on the world’s top runways — suede, silk, leather, chiffon.

Felted wool affords today’s emerging fashion designers and established couturiers infinite possibilities for sculpting interesting forms, shapes, and lines in their garments. Felt’s unique texture and sumptuous tactile feel exude warmth and luxuriousness. Felted fabric lends itself beautifully to being lavishly embellished and richly embroidered, serving as the perfect canvas for major established fashion designers, as well as for independent surface designers and wearable fiber artists. Felted wool need not be relegated to niche markets that fly below the radar of the international fashion community. Instead, felted wool fabric’s rightful place is among today’s highest prized materials, as it inspires esteemed designers and the fashion world’s next generation of talent.

Zabielski2Designing and producing large garments and especially entire collections that feature felt prominently, however, presents a challenge. Industrial felt production isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t afford sufficient customization and flexibility. Hand-felting (or wet-felting) is extremely labor-intensive and can produce inconsistent results. It is best reserved for one-of-a-kind or extremely limited production runs. FeltLOOM delivers an ideal solution to the challenges of producing beautiful, stable, and strong felted fabric, and doing so quickly, and on a large scale, if necessary. The FeltLOOM original fabric-making equipment was developed and perfected thanks to our company’s founders’ years of experience in engineering and working with fiber. The FeltLOOM family of needle-felting fabric producing machines includes several models, each specifically designed for the end-user, be it a fashion or interior designer, individual fiber artist, fiber mill, or textile & fashion design educational institution.

Zabielski1We invite you to explore each model’s features — Artist Series, Pro-Series, Lab-Series, Light Industrial Series. Then simply contact us (855 335 8566 or info@feltloom.com) anytime for an in-depth consultation on your specific needs and requirements. Like the fashion world’s most valued and sought after garments, each FeltLOOM is bespoke — custom-built to your specifications to enable you to produce the perfect felted wool fabric to incorporate into your next fashion collection.

Designers of regional and national stature already have championed the possibilities of creating stunning felted fabric on the FeltLOOM. Prominent textile artist and designer Laverne Zabielski, whose work was recently the subject of a feature in Fiber Art Now, international contemporary textiles & fiber arts magazine, has used FeltLOOM-made hand-dyed fabric widely for her line of magnificent coats and jackets.

PetrovichJudy Petrovich, an early FeltLOOM adopter, has fashioned richly textured women’s and men’s clothing and accessories out of naturally hued felted wool fabric created on the FeltLOOM. All FeltLOOM models are perfectly suited to handle a variety of fibers, including wools, alpaca, and almost any other fibers. If it has a barb, the FeltLOOM can felt it.
lex3Artwear made from fabric created on the FeltLOOM was highlighted at the Lexington Fashion Collaborative, Future of Fashion V Show in fall 2013.
These impressive and incredibly diverse examples represent only a small sample of the possibilities of using FeltLOOM-made fabric for garment and accessory design. With interest in felted wool rapidly growing, the demand for our unique FeltLOOM machine is also booming. We undoubtedly will see many new exciting fashion collections made possible by the FeltLOOM in 2014. We are immensely excited to work with the global fashion industry. If you are an emerging designer or a fashion world all-star interested in utilizing luxurious felted fabric in your next capsule or full-season collection, don’t delay contacting us for a FeltLOOM consultation.

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

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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

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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!

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.

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.

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.

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