Linda Veilleux started sewing when she was 14 years old. Others recognized her talents early on and paid her for her services, but for a while she found other ways to make a living. The native Vermonter worked for years at the UVM bookstore before deciding it was time to do something different. She explored several options but eventually concluded that she wanted to start her own business. Innovative Designs was born in 1997 and while the products have changed, Veilleux has never second guessed her decision.
Veilleux’s initial venture was teaching knitting classes. Her family had lived in Norway for two years and she learned to knit the distinctive Norwegian patterns. Although people enjoyed the classes, Veilleux found that many of them wanted her to do the work for them. So next she began doing custom sewing, specializing in wedding dresses. When her mother came to live with her for hospice care, one of the helpers suggested that Veilleux to find some time for herself, and suggested taking a class. It only took one felting class for Veilleux to become hooked. “I loved it,” she said. “I realized that this was where I wanted to go. I wanted to take my sewing abilities into the felting world.”
These days, Veilleux still does alterations for wedding parties but does less custom design work in that field so she can concentrate on felting. “You can do anything with felt,” she said. “You create something that is 85% of what you want it to be and 15% of what it wants to be. You can make seamless garments, boots, shoes, vessels, wall hangings and more. It’s all natural.”
Veilleux prefers merino wool, which is not common in Vermont. She buys the fleece after it has been cleaned and usually after it’s been dyed. She started out working from her bedroom, but when she outgrew that, she took over the family’s two-car garage while her husband built a second one for their vehicles.
Veilleux rarely has people come to her to request particular items. Instead, many of her alteration customers visit the studio and become captivated with a piece that she has already made. Others see her work at craft shows.Veilleux practices nuno felting which mixes silk with the wool. The laborious process involves bubble wrap, plastic and pool noodles to reduce the fabric to roughly half its original size. Veilleux’s work has been featured in Threads Magazine and a book entitled “1000 Artisan Textiles: Contemporary Fiber Art, Quilts and Wearables.”
Veilleux offers felting classes in her studio, and has also taught at schools and conferences across the country including in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming. She has also taught at the Northeast Fiber Arts Center in Williston. Veilleux and her husband have lived in Charlotte for over 40 years and she enjoys the coincidence of her Mutton Hill address, considering her chosen medium.
Unfortunately, felting is hard on the body and Veilleux has recently begun having shoulder problems, so she is learning a new trade: fabricating metal jewelry. She may be in her 60s, but Veilleux has no intention of slowing down as she adds new crafting styles to her arsenal of creativity.