Coming Full Circle – the Fibre Circle

It is with great fulfillment that I share this latest blog with you as we approach 2015.  Personally, my focused interest has been on the search for local fibre and I’ve spent the year looking for a local source of wool other than our Olivia and the products from her fleece featured at our Fibres Plus Sale 2014.

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I have researched and followed many leads, always relying upon input from our beloved Yvonne of FibreWorks Gallery telling about some new flock coming to the Sunshine Coast.  Yvonne has secured alpaca and llama fibre from our coastline and offers it in a myriad of beautiful colours in prepared fibre and hand spun skeins. She has shared with us some Blue-Faced Leicester and Gotland raw fleece from Telkwa, B.C.  This resulted in the expansion of our Fibreshed sourcing to ‘within British Columbia’, opening our doors to expanded horizons but still ‘local’.

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The search for local fibre came to a wonderful point right here in Langdale this Thanksgiving when we were invited to view and film the shearing of Leila Bee’s small flock of Icelandic Sheep at Round Table Farms.  (See blog November 10).

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Whether it be my strong Irish/Viking heritage that enamored me with this breed or the culmination of a long search for local beautiful wool that hooked me, I have made it my goal to learn all I can about the breed, how to prepare the raw fleece, wash, comb, card, spin, weave or knit this amazing fibre.   As I can now claim my place in my clan of ‘weavers and knitters’, by the end of 2015 my goal is to have a proud seat in the circle of ‘spinners’ with traditionally inspired hand spun and woven garments.

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The Icelandic Sheep is one of the oldest and purest breeds and was taken to Iceland by the Vikings.  Without it the Icelandic society could not have been established and endured.  The uniqueness of its dual coat, its ability to withstand cold and wet climates, forage on sparse terrain and its intelligence and lambing success makes it a very special breed indeed.  This breed provided the Icelandic people with milk, meat, hides, bones for tools and a choice of fine, medium and course fibres for their inner and outer clothing, bedding, carpets and even the sails and ropes of their famous ships.

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On Thanksgiving Day we had ‘Four Bags Full’ of wonderful dual coated Icelandic fleece from Round Table Farms sheared from Prince the ram and his ladies Bella, Ginger and Roxy.  These raw fleeces became the focus of a newly formed Fibre Circle graciously hosted and facilitated by Yvonne at the yurts.  We met for two days along with Ron McInnis who generously attended to film the first session.  The intent of the Fibre Circle is to undertake a breed by breed study of each fleece that we find and explore its unique needs in skirting, washing, preparing for combing/carding and the best technique for spinning either woollen or worsted, depending on the final product.

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We are pleased and proud to end this year with another fine video production by Ron McInnis (see blog December 29).  Ron’s video with Yvonne’s guidance will explain a lot of what we accomplished in these two Fibre Circles.  We have formed three teams to take the fleece from Prince and Ginger (white) and Bella and Roxy (beautiful gray) to comb, card, spin and design and create garments or accessories to be showcased at our Fibres Plus Sale in 2015.  We also invite you to review our year with the blogs of the events of 2014 and perhaps you may care to join us in 2015 as a member of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild to share in all that we do by coming full circle with our goals and dreams for our Fibreshed.

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On December 23rd I was pleased to present Leila Bee with her own copy of the book The Icelandic Fleece, a fibre for all reasons by Elizabeth Abbott (self-published – available only from www.geminifibres.com) to say thanks in a small way for bringing her beautiful Icelandic sheep to the Sunshine Coast Fibreshed.  Leila in turn showed me the seven beautiful new Icelandic ewes she added the day before to her flock.  Her flock has grown to twelve now, with many lambs due to arrive in spring.  What a great gift of fibre coming our way in 2015.

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Needless to say we are extremely proud to end this very productive year of 2014 for the Fibreshed with an amazing array of botanical alchemy from gardens and forest and the promising magic of natural and local fibre.  This progress with our Sunshine Coast Fibreshed is fulfilling not only to our creative muse but to our hopes for a gentler, cleaner, locally connected and kinder world.

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When I read the dedication given by Anita Mayer in one of her books: “For the women of yesterday and today, whose hearts nurture and love and whose hands pass on the traditions of a people,” I think of the wonderful women of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild.  Have a wonderful and a fulfilling New Year with warm blessings from your Fibreshed Team.

By Deanna B. Pilling
Photos by Deanna B. Pilling, Yvonne Stowell, Heather Apple

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