“Make it with Wool” & Repurposing Wool Remnants

Wool is attracting attention at local, regional, and national levels. In Fall 2014, the Fibershed Wool Symposium emphasized the value of wool from diverse breeds of sheep to highlight the rich landscape of fiber resources at the regional level in Northern California. In January 2015, the American Sheep Industry hosted their annual convention, and the “Make it With Wool” national competition. The mission of the competition is to promote the use of wool for apparel production in the home, academia, and larger fashion industry.

Kristen Morris won the American Wool Council Fashion/ Apparel Design award at the “Make it with Wool” competition with her design “Cilia.” Kristen is a titan in creative scholarship, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Fiber Science & Apparel Design at Cornell University. Kristen’s primary inspiration were the cilia-like felt tabs of the re-purposed wool felt. The felt tabs are cut out remnants from an industrial felt and filter manufacturer in Allentown Pennsylvania.

"Cilia" by Kristen Morris, Modeled by _, Photo Credit, 2014
“Cilia” by Kristen Morris, Modeled by Caroline Zeilenga, Photo Credit Kristen Morris, 2013

Kristen describes her inspiration:

Textural and tactile, the jacket design “Cilia” explores conversations of the senses. The surface of the jacket is dimensional, offering play in the movement of each cilia-like felt tab. Cilia are finger-like organelles within some cells in the human body. Identical in structure to flagella, they line the surfaces of our cells where they beat in rhythmic waves. They are an important part of many of our organs including eyelashes, the inner nose, and our digestive system.

Kristen’s inspiration that connects wool fibers to human “fibers” is thought provoking and an ingenious way to motivate us to think deeper about inter-connectivities. Her conversion of the by-product wool felt into an artisanal wool jacket, suitable for a fashion show finale, highlights the creative potential with wool that was previously deemed as “waste.” Her design coincides with salient ideals of Fibershed: that wool should not be wasted, and value can be added through creative techniques including spinning, felting, dyeing, knitting, crochet, and sewing.

The industrial wool felt tabs were originally a cream color, and Kristen dyed them a “Robin’s Egg Blue” that she also describes as “Martha’s Mind Control Blue” based on Martha Stewart’s Living Collection. Kristen describes the “Robin’s Egg Blue” as “fresh” with “attitude,” which induces personal excitement.

Kristen chose to work with industrial wool because she loves the resiliency, loftiness, thickness, and texture. She also enjoys working with non-wovens that provide opportunities for greater creative freedom without worrying about finishing raw edges. Challenges that Kristen experienced in working with industrial wool felt was the abundant lint before, during, and after the construction process. The thickness and weight also made the wool difficult to work with; this led her to apply hand-sewing techniques to sew and reinforce different sections.

One of the major learning outcomes Kristen had from attending the “Make it with Wool” competition was seeing the incredible craftsmanship of the other wool garments created by the fellow 58 finalists. Techniques included sewing and needle work (knit, crochet, hand-embroidery, needle felting). Kristen feels inspired to explore more techniques to work specifically with wool.

At the American Sheep Industry Convention, the “Make it with Wool” contestants were able to provide their insight about the future of wool in one of the meetings. Based on her background, Kristen expressed that active wear is an industry that wool can return to and make a huge impact on the domestic wool industry. While modeling her jacket, Kristen also got the opportunity to give a “wool fact” about the state she is living in–New York. She expressed that the fiber producers, fiber processing mills, and knitting mills make New York prime for a fibershed movement. Another fact by a fellow finalist from New York indicated that Central Park in New York City was initially created to house sheep.

Kristen foresees that the “Make it with Wool” competition will continue to feature fashion forward pieces to stimulate greater creativity with domestic wool. In the future, Kristen anticipates adding to her artistic wool remnant collection with a “Lavender Orchid” piece, a ruff, and a garment that will reflect the wavy, voluminous, dynamic shapes, and movement like “Cilia.”

If you would like to contact Kristen, please email her at: kristen.d.morris@gmail.com

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