Tag Archives: Fibers

From Seamstress to Artist and Businesswoman

judy1

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.

thumb_yellow-tan-jktrszd

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

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

wall hangin trees
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!

Fibers: An Evolving Industry

Fibers: An Evolving Industry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

DeniseSmall2

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.

DeniseSmall3

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.

Farmer, Breeder, Mill Owner

FL_Blanchard1

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.

FL_BlanchardSlippers_copy

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

Introducing a FeltLOOM for Fiber Artists and Crafters

FL_Lexi with operator_rszd500
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.”

FL_Lexi8_6_16_13

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.

Many Creative Paths with the FeltLOOM

FL_JudyPet1_copy
The FeltLOOM is a practical tool for anyone who produces or processes fiber. It is also, it turns out, an amazingly creative tool for those same processors as well as for fiber artists and craftspeople. During the few short years since the FeltLOOM’s introduction users have discovered more and more uses for it and by doing so, are exponentially expanding its versatility.

Judy Petrovich, an early adopter of the loom, is one of its most innovative users. There is nothing more creatively stimulating than a conversation with Judy, who has continuously and generously shared what she has learned with the FeltLOOM community.

In a recent conversation we asked her what new FeltLOOM owners found to be most surprising about the loom. She found her impressions difficult to put into words because what surprises them is not so much what the FeltLOOM does, but how much more it is capable of than what they had imagined. She said that since it’s still so new people only know of it’s capabilities from what they see someone else do. They don’t know what they don’t know. Once they have the machine they start trying things on their own. Each new discovery leads them to another.

DW_JudyFeltLOOM_copy

Judy was a seamstress and tailor when she happened on the FeltLOOM. She simply saw it as a possible means of creating fabric that she could sew. Once she owned the loom she found outwhat it could do by asking herself if something was possible and then trying it. She found that each time she tried something, it led her in a new direction. Soon she was doing things with the loom that she hadn’t thought were possible. She continues to find the creative paths so diverting that at the end of a session she often can’t remember what she first sat down to do.

Her interactions with people she has met while teaching on the FeltLOOM and demonstrating it have taken her life in new directions in much the same way. One association leads to others that have kept her busy teaching and speaking all over her home state of Michigan and across the country, from California to New Mexico, to Maryland and beyond. She has developed new friendships and broadened the spectrum of people that she knows.

DW_Judy1

She’s doing many more classes than she set out to do because she gets so much enjoyment out of the people enjoying what they are able to do. She especially loves helping people open up to their own creativity. When her students have questions she encourages them to answer their own questions through experimentation.

As much as she loves speaking and teaching, Judy hasn’t let those endeavors crowd out her own creative work. She is still designing and producing new fabric, clothing, and accessories and experimenting with the Loom’s potential.

Recently after having experimented with different fabrics as scrims, she asked herself what would happen if, instead of running fabric through the loom with fiber, she ran fabric through with strips of other fabric laid over it. True to her own teaching method, she’s answering that question by experimenting with fabric to fabric “felting” and so discovering a new way to paint with fabric.

Visit her website at http://fabfibers.com/Home.html to see some of her latest designs, such as this beautiful full-length western coat.