Monthly Archives: April 2015

Earth Day at Roberts Creek

On April 26th Earth Day was celebrated at the Roberts Creek mandala for the 26th year in a row.


This is an event that celebrates the Earth and the vibrant Sunshine Coast community and offers an opportunity for local environmental and community groups to share their message.



We set off at 8:30 to put up the Fibreshed display.  The first job was to set up Lynda’s canopy.


Then we arranged all the lovely Icelandic fleece, naturally dyed local fibre, Olivia’s shawls, felted bird houses and Fibreshed signs.  We were quite delighted with the beautiful green glow over the display provided by the overhanging tarp.  We thought this was quite appropriate for Earth Day.


We had jars of pansies and arbutus bark brewing in the sun and samples of seasonal plant material to dye with such as lilacs, camellia petals, and grass.  It was fun having conversations about Rebecca Burgess’s origins of the Fibershed in California.  Many were particularly interested in this picture of her beautiful felted raincoat – from local fibre of course.


Lynda carded Roxy’s soft undercoat which fascinated the children and parents alike.  Lots of little kids were interested in the alpaca and of course that opened up an opportunity to talk about local breeders, show pictures, name the animals, etc.  We gave out little samples of the super soft rolag Merrily was spinning on her wheel and the kids loved it!


Merrily modelled her “Roxy” slouch hat which she spun from Roxy’s first shearing and Virginia designed and knit.  It is the first garment in her “Farm Fresh Fashion” project which she hopes to finish in a year.  Hopefully she will have a complete outfit from inner to outer, made from local fibre and designed and knit all locally.  Here she is spinning some super soft local alpaca for a camisole.  The kids at Earth Day loved the softness and warmth of the alpaca and so she gave out lots of little samples.  They were excited to see photos of Oscar and Bessie (alpacas from Thormanby Island).


There was a lot of interest in who we are, what we’re doing and the whole Fibreshed movement. Guild members dropped by, local folk engaged and future events wanted us to join in.  It was a wonderful, fulfilling day.  Thanks to all who stopped by.

Lynda D and Merrily


Coast Colours – Dandelion Flowers

Despised by many as pesky ‘weeds’, dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have long been appreciated by herbalists for their valuable healing properties.  The 17th century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper proclaimed, “You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in the spring.”  And indeed, dandelion leaves provide foragers with vitamin and mineral packed fresh spring greens.


Dandelions are also healthy for the soil, their long taproots growing deep into the earth taking up minerals that are made available when the leaves or plants die.  The flowers are a valuable early source of nectar and pollen for bees and their pollen provides early food for lady bugs.


I love gathering dandelion flowers in spring.  Their brilliant yellow colour and subtle sweet fragrance are a treat after a long grey winter.  When the first blooms started to appear I gathered a small basket from the roadside and ditches (my own mossy ‘lawn’ won’t grow them!).


I simmered them gently for a couple of hours and then added the fibre (pre-mordanted with alum) when the bath had cooled.  I held the bath just below a simmer for 2 hours.  It dyed a beautiful soft golden yellow.


In ‘Craft of the Dyer’, Karen Casselman says that to obtain a bright clear yellow (rather than a golden yellow) from fresh yellow flowers, they should be processed less than 45 minutes from the time the flowers and fibre go into the dye bath to the time they come out, and the temperature should be kept under 190F.  I followed this for a fresh batch of dandelion flowers.  At the end of 45 minutes the colour was clear yellow but paler than I wanted so I left them in the bath for 15 minutes more and then removed the flowers and let the fibre stay in the bath for 2 hours.  This resulted in a beautiful bright clear yellow.  You can see the difference in colour between the first bath on the left and the second on the right.


Heather Apple


The Three Circles – The Spinning Circle

Over the past years our Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild and its project the Sunshine Coast Fibreshed have brought together some special gatherings/circles of women deeply connected by their love of fibre.  The Fibreshed search for local fleece, local dyes and the artisans who transform them into products of special quality and design has taken us on a wonderful fibre journey.

Our  Fibreshed’s undertaking to source out local fibres from Langdale to Lund brought about not only a new awareness as to how we clothe ourselves but also a desire among many members to explore in depth the basics of from Soil to Skin or from Sheep to Shawl.  We realized that we needed to know about each of the unique breeds of sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas that share the Sunshine Coast Fibreshed with us and how to choose, prepare and spin the right yarn for that perfect project.


We have put into place three circles of women working together and sharing their individual knowledge in the preparation, spinning and weaving of fibre – the Fibre Circle, the Spinning Circle and the Weavers Circle.

Personally I am deeply focused on the Icelandic sheep and was pleased to be part of the Fibre Circle where four Icelandic sheep fleeces were laid out on tables at the FibreWorks Studio & Gallery and Yvonne and Jeannie instructed us in the skirting, sorting, washing, combing and carding of raw fleece.  (See video Dec 29, 2014 and blog Dec 30, 2014).


As the actual spinning was a weak link in my fibre art abilities, I was delighted when members organized a Spinning Clinic to be conducted by Birgit, our very own Olds College Master Spinner.  We gathered together for our first Spinning Clinic fortuitously during the week of St. Distaff’s/Roc Day where in many European traditions women resumed their household work after the twelve days of Christmas (Epiphany).  The distaff, a medieval symbol of women’s work, is a tool which holds the unspun fibres (usually flax), keeping them from becoming tangled.  Spinning was an essential activity then as it was the only means of turning raw wool, flax or cotton into thread which could then be woven into cloth.  Women carried their spindles with them during the day and used their wheels in the evening.

3St. Distaff's day

Although centuries may have passed since those medieval times, as contemporary women we were eager to gather our wheels, our fibres and get back to the spinning that matters so much to us even today.  Three Spinning Clinics were held over the first months of 2015 in members’ homes where Birgit talked about fibre supply, carding, equipment, wheel ratios and tension.


The techniques of woollen and worsted spun yarns, plying from a bobbin and using an Andean method of plying were all covered and demonstrated by Birgit. We also learned about spinning balanced yarns, making a skein with a niddy noddy and the washing of the finished yarn.  We thank Birgit for sharing her spinning knowledge and Jana and Lynda for sharing their homes with such an enthusiastic group of brand new and older members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild.


As well as the Spinning Clinics an essential part of our Circle of Spinners is our Spin-ins.  Once a month spinners gather in the home of one of our members who lives in the southern part of our lower Coast.  We spin, knit, card, share what we know and carry out that age old tradition of women coming together to work and visit.  Once a month we also gather for our northern Spin-in at Yvonne Stowell’s beautiful FibreWorks Studio & Gallery.  There in Yvonne’s studio in one of the yurts we sit in a circle, happily surrounded by fibre and looms, taking a break at noon to enjoy a gourmet potluck lunch.


Now it is up to me to take this knowledge back to my studio and home and take my Icelandic wool from raw fleece to beautiful hand spun yarn from which I shall weave a special garment to show at our Fibres Plus Sale in November.  I love the deep feeling of a re-connection to the spirit of all the women who have gone before me on this fibre journey.

Deanna B. Pilling
Photos by Lynda D, Deanna B. Pilling, Yvonne Stowell

Distaff Day, Wikipedia

Suggested Reading
The Spinner’s Book of Fleece, a Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose, Beth Smith, Storey Publishing
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, More than 200 Fibers from Animal to Spun Yarn, Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius, Storey Publishin

Seedy Saturday 2015

On March 28 the One Straw Society and the Sunshine Coast Seed Collective held the 11th annual Seedy Saturday at the Roberts Creek Hall.


It was a wonderful day for gardeners and other members of the community to buy and exchange seeds and live plants.  There were a number of interesting workshops and a farmers market outside.


The Sunshine Coast Fibreshed was invited to participate and we were there with our display of fabric and fibre dyed with plants grown on the Sunshine Coast, local fleece and beautiful naturally dyed pieces of clothing made by members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild.


There was great interest in our naturally dyed items which highlighted the wonderful range of beautiful colours that are available from plants that grow right here on the Sunshine Coast.


Some of our Guild members felted delightful bird houses to sell as a fundraiser for the Fibreshed.  These were very popular and we sold a number.


There’s a growing awareness that we need to be more responsible in our clothing choices and many visitors to the display expressed a deep appreciation of one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing made by artists and artisans in their own community.  There was a great interest in the traditional arts of spinning, weaving, natural dyeing and fleece preparation.  A number of visitors enjoyed watching Kimberly demonstrate carding.


An exciting moment for the Fibreshed was the presentation of a sign to our first Certified Producer of local fleece – certification only being given to knowledgeable producers who produce high quality fleece in a sustainable and responsible way.  The recipient of the sign was Leila Bee of Round Table Farms who raises beautiful Icelandic sheep.  At the presentation Deanna wore a lovely handknitted hat that is the first piece of clothing coming from these sheep – the wool being washed, combed, carded, spun and knitted by Guild members.


We had a wonderful day sharing and networking with visitors to our display and other Seedy Saturday participants.  It’s encouraging to see such an interest and commitment in our community to local sustainable living.

Heather Apple
Photos by Heather Apple and Deanna B. Pilling