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I CAN’T WEAR WOOL – IT MAKES ME ITCH….. YOU CAN WEAR WOOL JUST FELT IT!

Your itchy, and maybe moth-eaten, sweater can yield a bunch of comfy new items that will keep you cozy in the coldest of conditions.  FELTING is a process using used wool that becomes a new fabric…or a new wool! Amazing and an ultimate recycling approach. [NOTE: If you are allergic to wool, this will NOT work.]

Wool is a wonderful fiber. It’s natural and replenishable. It holds air, retains heat making it a great insulator and it’s water resistant. This makes it a great choice for socks, mittens, gloves, hats, totes, etc. But how do you get past that itch? 

FELT IT! Felting is a super easy process that will soften the fibers, making them much less itchy. All that is required is 100% wool fabric, woven or knitted, hot water, soap and agitation. You can do small pieces by hand and it’s a great project for kids. TIP – Medium weight wools work best. For me, the best results come from 100% Lambswool and Merino.

The Felting Process:

Soak – Soap – Agitate – Dry

Soaking in hot water opens the fibers. Soap acts as a lubricant. Agitation allows the fibers to interconnect, creating fabric. Drying compacts the fibers, shrinking the sweater further into fabric.

I like to use my washer/dryer.  First I spray or soak each item using hot water and squirt on dishwashing soap. Next, I fill the washer with Hot water and place the items in. I let them soak for a further 10 minutes in the Hot Water to allow the fibers to fully open. Then I run them through the regular wash cycle providing agitation. And finally I dry them in my dryer. It may take several cycles to get the items to felt into fabric.

Is It FELT yet?

Here you can see the sweaters before felting and the same sweaters after 1 full felting cycle. Note the maroon and green sweaters are still showing their knitted loops quite prominently after the first cycle. Your sweaters have NOT become fabric until these loops are gone. I put all 4 through a second felting cycle, but I still need to put the green and maroon through a third cycle to get rid of those subtle loops. ENERGY SAVING TIP – Do your felting with your regular wash. I generally throw mine in with my sheets and towels.

You’ve Got Your Felt, Now What?

Felt is fabric, so you can do any cut and sew project with felt. My favorite quick idea is to use the sleeves as leg warmers. Simple cut the sleeve, pull over your foot with the wrist side at your ankle, Pull up to the knee, or slouch to complete the look.

Looking for a great snow day project? Make some felt slippers!

Your sweater will yield a few pairs of felted slide on slippers. With a few supplies you can create an indoor pair. Cozy toes! It’s a relatively simple project that can be finished in a couple of hours. For a FREE supply sheet and directions, or to purchase pre-made kits, visit the shop.

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Hand Made – Hand Woven – Harris Tweed – Highland Mules

This summer I visited the Isle of Harris – the home of Harris tweed where I saw an excellent example of an established creative economy that is a driver for the overall economy. Harris Tweed is woven on foot peddal looms in the homes or studios of weavers on the Isle of Harris. Many weave traditional designs expressly for the bureau. Several are independent designers and are able to also weave their own designs. These independent designs are sanctioned by the bureau before they are ready for Prime Time.

machair tweed
machair inspired tweed

Each tweed is certified and the fabric comes with a number of authentic labels. I selected one tweed from independent designer, Rebecca Hutton of Taobh Tuath Tweeds that is inspired by the “machair”, the undergrowth on the Island plain. The colors in the tweed change as it moves through various lights.

all tweeds
machair and traditional tweeds raw, felted

I also selected 2 traditional tweeds, pictured here next to the machair. I elected to felt these two. The images on the bottom are the raw tweeds. Images on the top are felted. I began the felting by hand and then did finish in the washer dryer. These two tweeds have a lovely hand.

Limited pairs of mules are available in each of the 3 tweeds. Order between October 1 -10 for delivery by November 15th.

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Design March 2019 thoughts about Leather

I was at Design March in Reykjavik at the end of March. The feature event is Design Talks, a full day of presentation that relate in some way to the overall theme of the event. This year the theme was “The Only Way Is Up” and much of the discussion revolved around how design process, discovery and innovation can be used to solve many of the big problems we face, particularly in sustainability in terms of the planet.

There is much discussion about Bio Leathers. Innovations include products from Modern Meadow in Brooklyn and Piñatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple. These may be solutions for the future, but I am still concerned with using leather that already exists today. One theme that kept coming up during the talks was to consider designs/concepts in terms of what has come before, what is there today and what can be in the future. In terms of leather, it is important to recognize the primal and primitive connection we have to leather in our history as humans.

As you likely know, I believe we should use every possible part of any animal we have killed for any purpose. I strive to use imperfect hides or remnant leather when I make my shoes. Even this practice leaves smaller bits of unused leather and that bothers me. Recently I found a solution – weaving the small bits into “fabric” to use as vamps. Combining the connection with leather and an available production process, I hope to celebrate and honor existing leather to the fullest.

A bonus – woven leathers are one of the key trends for spring shoes. How fortuitous to be in tune with zeitgeist! The downside – weaving leather is going to take some time…. In the end, the project will yield truly unique eco-friendly designs that will conform to the foot and last a very long time. Slow fashion at it’s best.

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Foldable Shoes – Evening Slippers in a Bag

Feather Mocs foldable - 3 views
Feather Mocs foldable shoes – 3 views

A Night at the Opera

Foldable shoes circa 1960s always bring back fond memories of my mother. She often wore these slippers as her fancy dress flats. My most vivid memory of them is sitting with my mother as she dressed for the opera in a carefully chosen black velvet maxi skirt and suitably shimmery blouse. It was the 60s so the garments covered a carefully constructed body with the aid of a long line bra, high waisted panty girdle and nude stockings. (That’s when I learned that special occasion dressing is all about the foundations.) With all of that in order, my mother would grab a little plastic bag with a snap close and pull out her glamorous foldable evening slippers. She’d slide them on, add a red lip, finish with her red fox stole and join my father in black tie for their opera date. Talk about glamorous!

foldables in bag
Feather Mocs bagged

I go through periods of obsession with these shoes. They were reasonably priced, versatile and made in the USA and mostly NYC. This is an interesting fact in itself as much of the shoe manufacturing in the US was in Massachusetts.

Where have they gone?

Every department store sold them in the hosiery department. Why in the world aren’t these still around? My Feather Mocs I dream of Genie inspired mules recently resurfaced and that’s started me off again. Days of scouring ebay, etsy and poshmark ensued. Googling a number of brands – Feather Mocs, Etell, Bertlyn, Pamper Foot by Van Raaite, Nite Aires has resulted in nothing! How could these affordable, versatile shoes just disappear from our fashion culture?

Inspiration – vamp cross bar

Inspiring

Never daunted, I’ll keep looking. Afterall, I have a huge network of fashion scholars to ask. In the meantime, my design hat is on. I’m inspired to conquer the fold and bring back evening slippers strong.

Shed Some Light

Please do share you foldable stories, images and information in reply to this post.

Image Note

Featured in the images, these rare vintage Feather Mocs are for sale on Ebay. Let me know if you buy them!

–XO Roxanne Lava

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The Art of the Mule – Something New for 2019!

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s 2019 and I’ve been reflecting on the first 18 months of RoxAnneLava. It’s been an incredible journey. Among other things, I’ve gone from one style offered in limited numbers online, the Signature to a second style, the Classic. Both are offered in Made to Order (RL-MTO) and Off the Rack (RL-OTR) options in leather, cork, fabric and ribbon. I’ve also launched the PopUp and shown in Philadelphia, Maryland and New Jersey.

The Art of the Mule Combines – Working Smarter, Not Harder

The Art of the Mule, my tumblr blog is truly my hommage to my favorite ongoing online fashion project, Burberry’s Art of the Trench, but keeping up with 2 blogs has been a challenge. In 2019, I’ve decided to combine my tumblr blog, with my RoxAnneLava blog. After all, both blogs are dedicated to all things mule.

I’ll continue to share my journey and as a cobbler and shoe designer through both platforms in one place. I invite you to comment, submit an image or ask the cobbler (that’s me) a question. Just click on a post from the feed on the right to follow the tumblr and submit.

RoxAnneLava PopUp - the art of the mule
RoxAnneLava PopUp

South Philadelphia Stories

I’m loving my PopUp set up. It’s easy up and down, totally me and the brand. I found the suitcase on ebay and it is a Belber. Here’s why I had to have it: “The Belber company was established in 1891 when two school-age brothers, Aaron and Henry Belber, scraped together $200 and started making luggage in a South Philadelphia basement. The Belber brothers, ages 14 and 17, worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, hand-stitching luggage.” —Wikipedia, Belber.

So I spent a bit more than $200 to get started, I’m a bit older and I don’t work six days a week, but I do make hand made shoes in my South Philly basement studio. Here’s another fun fact. I checked the conversion of $200 in 1891 to 2017 and it’s equal to $5400 and change. Hmmm. That’s pretty close to my initial investment. Maybe I’m not that different from the Belber brothers after all.

RoxAnneLava PoppingUp All Over

I’ll be doing more live events in 2019 and I’m considering a traveling shoe tour kind of like Sisters of the Traveling Pants. Stay tuned and stay in the loop follow me on FaceBook and Instagram or sign up for my newsletter. It’s going to be an exciting year. Buckle your seat belts and join me for the ride.
–Anne