Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Needle Felting Wool: product development, a business story

In the summer of 2009 I was looking through a packaging catalog, you know the ones with boxes and tape and packing peanuts. Anyway, I had a thought that my dyed wool would look really good in a clear plastic box and I also knew that the craft of needle felting was growing. After discussing the idea with my brilliant business partner (my husband), we decided to launch a new product- Needle Felting Wool Packs.

I started by testing the felting characteristics of the dyed wool and doing lots of online research. The wool that I purchase to produce my spinning product, Potluck Roving™ worked perfect for needle felting. Next was deciding on packaging. I found a company on-line who offered plastic boxes and contacted them about a recyclable product. Many containers on the market are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which contains some toxic chemicals and has very low recyclability. PET plastic (Polyethylene-terephthalate) is much less toxic in production and it can be recycled. So I spent more on packaging and ordered boxes made of PET. I’ve also made sure to put the recycling information on my labels. This raises the production cost of the wool packs, but I feel it is a more responsible choice.

Dyeing the combed wool is challenging since to get an even color you must use dying techniques, like stirring the dye pot, which can lead to felting of the wool. Some of my dyes would “break” and make blotches of different color on the wool. Many dyes are combinations of colors which attach to the wool at different temperatures while the water in the pot is heating. But after much, and I mean a huge amount, of experimenting; I got 25 colors which dye well.

Most if not all of the commercial wool on the market for needle felting is dyed first and then combed into “top”. Wool top is a long rope like preparation of carded and then combed fiber. The combing takes all the crimp or waviness out of the wool and makes it more difficult to felt. It is recommended that you condition the wool if it is combed before needle felting by steaming or wetting the fiber to return the crimp. My dying process actually conditions the combed top by dying after combing and returning the crimp to the wool.

Once I had colors of dyed wool and a nice box the combinations of colors had to be put together. I found that seasons of the year and holidays were good themes along with packages of similar color shades. So 12 multicolor boxes emerged and went to market. You can see them at www.ferndalefiber.com

Next blog post- marketing the product

1 comment:

  1. We are getting excited about the needle felting class next week. I think we will have a full house...some people even asked to be put on a waiting list in case someone who is signed up can't make it...We will have fun for sure.