It may surprise our friends who are digging out from one of the worst snowstorms to hit the east coast in many moons, but we are already making fabric for Whispirit’s 2016 spring designs. For our lighter weight spring garments we felt spiderweb thin layers of alpaca into silks, cottons and linens which becomes the exterior and the alpaca is the interior. These are examples of earlier Whispirit spring/summer designs:
We are always on the look out for interesting fabrics with unique designs for our spring and summer garments. The process is fun for us. Lee (yes, Lee) and I wander around fabric stores and visit in person or online unique fabric makers. In person is the most fun as we get to visit with very creative and passionate artists. We initially buy small amounts of fabric to test on the FeltLOOM. In order to make the cut, the following “tests” must be passed.
Is It Tough Enough? The first test is whether the fabric can survive the repeated needling with those vicious barbed needles of the FeltLOOM. Numerous fabrics that we initially think would be lovely break or fray from the repeated needling action.
Does It Combine Well with Our Alpaca Colors? This test always surprises us because the color of the alpaca fiber changes the intensity of the colors of our test fabrics. Look at the lovely black and white Indian cotton that Sandy felted with black, white and rose grey. Note how the white becomes subdued by the black fiber. The rose grey brings a warmth to tha fabric by making the black stand out a little more.
Particularly for spring we dye both fabric and fiber. Take a look at these fabric samples we dyed a rich turquoise. Then, to compare, we felted a dyed turquoise fiber to one sample and a natural grey fiber to the other.
Does It Have that Special Drape? A recurrent theme in Whispirit’s fabric designs is the importance of softly draping fabric. Felt is considered by most to be a still, “cardboardesque” fabric not suitable for apparel. By combining the sheerness of our fiber batts with lightly draping fabric, we get the essence of our designs. Drapey fabric is important to our designs. We are trying linen for the first time and we note that it tends to be a little stiff. We learned a couple of things: the alpaca softens the linen’s tension and the fineness of the linen fiber is critical to our results.
Is it Eco Friendly? Starting with this spring line, we are adding a new test and that is how does this fabric impact the environment. This kind of information is very difficult to find out in most textile purchasing arenas we use, including our favorite fabric stores. Yet the processes used in making fashion fabrics is very water and chemical intensive and has a huge amount of waste and excess. In November, we visited with the unique Two Sisters Ecotextiles in Seattle and carried home samples of their amazing linen fabrics. Beautiful. We felted each of these fabrics with white alpaca and wanted to see how they did on the third of our criteria, drape.
What Do Our Friends Like? Last, we take the fabric samples to some of our customers, boutiques and seamstresses for feedback. Send us a note if you would like to have a chance to test and touch any of these trials. We will need to make decisions and start matching these fabrics with designs.
Stay tuned…. Sandy