Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Lower Mainland Sheep Producers Association’s Wool’n Ewe A-Fair (LMSPA)

I returned home from our amazing road trip to California with one last fibre mission to accomplish – to attend the annual Lower Mainland Sheep Producers Association’s Wool ‘n Ewe A-Fair held at the Cloverdale Fair Grounds on October 10, 2015.  Merrily and Lynda had returned home two days before and I stayed back to have some time with my daughter and to attend this event.

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There was a little reluctance on my part to attend a gathering where only the language of sheep breeds was spoken but it quickly turned into a feeling of being in a wool candy store when I saw 83 newly shorn and skirted fleeces all nicely displayed in clear plastic bags on tables in the centre of the building.

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There were also various fibre related vendors placed against two walls with another wall devoted to the shearing display, which sadly I missed.  The remaining wall was seating for the demonstrations and presentations.  All fleece and vendors were from the lower Mainland.

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They were also auctioning off this large ‘yarn bombed’ rooster for a fund raiser.

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Being fairly new to processing and spinning raw fleece, I was daunted by the range of breeds to know and understand what qualities to look for in selecting that whole fleece.  My relief came quickly when I saw that each bag had already been judged with all criteria attached along with its weight and a starting bid.  The fleeces would be auctioned off in an orderly fashion and sold by Class from lowest judge mark to highest judge mark.  They noted that “low marks by Judges do not mean it is a bad fleece, but be sure to read ALL Judge comments”.

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The Classes were Down, Primitive white, Primitive colour, Fine white, Fine colour, Longwool colour and Longwool white.  My breed by breed study could now wait for winter reading of two excellent books on the subject -“The Spinner’s Book of Fleece” by Beth Smith and “The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook” by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.

My reason for being there was to source some producers of quality fleece from within British Columbia for our Fibreshed’s Resource list.  To have an ongoing access and connection to the list of Lower Mainland Sheep Producers I registered as a Bidder and got Bidder #130 and the Fleece Auction Booklet.

I took some time to inspect and admire a few high scoring fleeces and fell in love with two Shetland fleeces by Johanna Clark of Windy Hill Farm which won a blue ribbon in the Primitive white class.  I also fell in love with two gorgeous black Icelandic fleeces from Shannon Sigurdson (about whom I couldn’t find further information).  So many to look at and touch, but as my stay there was limited, I needed to move on to the producers themselves.

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From the various vendors exhibiting I selected four for our new Fibreshed Resource list, being that they raised and bred their own sheep and arranged their own processing, milling and spinning.  The other vendors were showing commercially dyed co-op batting and roving and were not suited to our Fibreshed needs.

Perhaps the producers I met at this event will also be at Fibres West in 2016 when our Resource list can be further expanded, but for now here are four producers I spoke with.  Please check the list of British Columbia fibre sources in the Resources section of this website for more information about the producers mentioned.

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First was Black Mountain Farms in Pritchard which has purebred CVM/Romeldale and Dorset Horn sheep.

Then I enjoyed meeting Lori Giesbrecht of Redeemer’s Garden from Chilliwack.  Lori sells yarn, rovings and fleece from her cashmere goats.

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Next was Marianne Iberg of Butterfly Fibres who had both Shetland and Alpaca in batts, rovings and yarn which she has processed in the Maritimes.

The highlight for me was Johanna Clark, shepherd and artisan of Windy Hill Farm in Deroche, also a member of the Langley Spinners and Weavers Guild.  She raises Shetland and Mohair, blending it 80/20 for her yarns which she has processed and spun in Carstairs, Alberta.  Johanna knew all about Fibreshed and is committed to starting one in her area.  I was pleased to offer our support and help to get her affiliated.  Johanna’s contact info is (604)826-3625 or johannaclark@rocketmail.com.

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Now it was time to take all my notes, grab that last coffee “for the road” and add the last 100 km’s to our 4,400 km road trip and Fibreshed Odyssey and return to Sechelt, home and turkey dinner with Mission Accomplished.

Deanna Pilling

Please check our Resources list of British Columbia fibre sources for more information about the producers mentioned.

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Grow Your Jeans – California Road Trip, October 3

After two long days of I5 driving we were welcomed by the Zen Monks and volunteers of the Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center at Muir Beach, CA.  We had the most amazing vegetarian meals three times a day all grown and prepared at Green Gulch.  We enjoyed quiet meditation sessions in the Zazen (Zen Temple) at sunrise and tours of their Center, the gardens and Muir Beach.  Our accommodation was lovely and the two days spent at the Center is a treasured memory.

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We then drove the coast highway stopping at the famous surfing mecca of Stinson Beach before arriving at our prime destination – the Mann Family Farm in Bolinas, CA.  What an amazing event awaited us, making our 2,000 km drive for a four hour event well worth it.  The focus of the Grow Your Jeans event was the coming together of Sally Fox’s organic cotton, dyed with Rebecca Burgess’s Japanese indigo and designed, hand woven and sewn into a beautifully soft and fashionable blue jean.  It was very fitting, as Levi Strauss introduced the blue jean during the California Gold Rush in this same San Francisco area.

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Sally Fox of Viriditas Farm dedicated three decades to breeding a natural coloured cotton with lint long enough to be spun by machine. She farms in the Capay Valley, CA on her certified organic farm and grew the non GMO cotton for the California Fibershed to create denim for the jeans.

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These flowering cotton plants are Gossypium barbadense. Sally’s cotton balls grow in various shades of green and brown so can be used without dyeing. She waters her crop every 17 days and harvests in late fall.

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Her organic, non GMO cotton was spun in a North Carolina mill, creating a soft cotton thread for the jean fabric.  Sally Fox (second from right) is modelling a handwoven raglan shirt made from her colour and white organic cottons as were all the jeans the models were wearing.  (Photo by Paige Green)

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Weaver Leslie Terizan Markoff threaded her floor loom at 64 ends per inch in a warp faced 2/1 twill weaving pattern using thread dyed with Rebecca Burgess’s local organically grown Japanese indigo for the warp. The natural coloured ecru thread was used as the weft at 32 picks per inch.  This creates the diagonal pattern typical of denim, although this fabric is so soft and not like the commercially, chemically produced denim. Designer and award winning pattern maker Daniel DiSanto created a custom fit jean pattern personalized for each wearer. Below he is wearing a tie he designed from scraps of denim left from the jeans with stripes from the selvedges matching the naturally coloured cotton flower on his shirt. (Photo by Paige Green)

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Demonstrating hand spinning cotton at the Grow Your Jeans event was Susan Sullivan Maynard (on right) using a charkha spinning wheel. This direct drive, hand turned wheel was used by Mahatma Gandi to spin cotton and assist his people in achieving independence. Due to the typically short cotton fibre it has always been a challenge to spin it.  Susan will be highlighted in the spring Ply Magazine on cotton.

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Indigo blue was definitely the color of the day.  For nearly 5,000 years, cultures around the globe have loved the intense blue from many species of indigo.  The Japanese indigo plant grows well in our temperate climate and has become popular with Fibershed communities throughout North America.  The pretty green on the left is colour produced from pounding indigo leaves onto damp cotton to make a print.  On the right we have another shade of indigo in the form of dreadlocks.

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The three of us blended into the crowd wearing our locally grown, hand-spun, indigo hand-dyed, felted and knitted garments.  It was fun to finally meet Mary Pettis-Sarley of Twirl Yarns. We first discovered her beautiful Fibershed Yarns in shops along the way to the event and even spotted bags of Twirl fleece waiting to enter the carding machine at the Yolo Wool Mill.

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As we moseyed around the Mann Family Farm, mingling with the Fibershed community, we encountered a rack of exquisite “grass-fed” tops and now famous Fibershed blue jeans, later to be modeled in the fashion show.  We learned that Fibershed denim blue is derived wholly from 2 certified organically grown plants:  Gossypium barbadense and Ploygonum tinctorium.  This is done without the use of any toxins.  The synthetic colour of conventional denim when washed, releases dangerous chemicals into the environment.

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This gorgeous Veronika knit top is a blend of Cormo, Corriedale and Targhee sheep from three different sources, spun at a local spinnery, naturally dyed with indigo grown by Rebecca Burgess and hand knit locally. The pattern was from a local designer.  The price tag was $550.

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These fun, felted and knotted bangles were dyed with indigo grown by Rebecca.

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Outside the barn, demos and mini workshops were happening, such as this play opportunity with the indigo dye vats.

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Back inside the barn, the fashion show was about to begin and Rebecca introduced the evening with a moving talk about the importance of shedding light and awareness on what we wear and put on our skin, and the need for developing relationships and reconnecting with those who make our clothes. She addressed how the industrial fashion industry needs to be revisioned into a fiber industry, where we ask ourselves in the morning if we are going to wear a plant or an animal today.  She emphasized the need to divest from the chemicals contributing to climate change – those chemicals that provide the stretch and synthetic blue in traditional denim – and was pleased to announce they have removed 100% of chemicals in the Fibreshed denim.

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Lovely, sensuous, drapey, indigo dyed tops were the hits at the fashion show.

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The final runway item was a large American Flag made of Kentucky grown hemp – the first of its kind in over 100 years.

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Outside again we were honored to meet and chat with Craig Wilkinson.  He gave us a quick overview of their Fibershed indigo dye making project.  Craig worked with Rebecca to increase the size of her indigo project from a backyard scale into a 6,000 plant commercial farm in just a few years.  They now have 4 growing sites and many volunteers.  It requires 5000 plants to produce the 440 pounds of dried leaf needed to create a hot enough compost pile.  Bacteria that are added to the compost love heat and eventually break down the leaves leaving the blue pigment called Sukumo behind.  All this requires 100 days of composting with the pile being turned every 7 days.  And to make things even more exciting the Sukumo is built on a special breathable floor made of rice hulls, sand and tamped clay.  Once the Sukomo is done, the fermentation process using hardwood ash begins in the dye vat and eventually the dye is ready for adding to local cotton or wool.  What an inspirational day and immersion into the world of organic “BLUE”!

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“The land that feeds us is also the land that clothes us” was the source of the most amazing food and beverage offerings prior to the Grow Your Jeans Fashion Show.  What an amazing display and offering of food and wine grown in the California Fibershed’s landscape!   There was far more food and drink offered than we could comfortably (or politely) indulge in.

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After a little more socializing, sadly it came time to leave and drive the dark winding coastal road back to our last night at the Green Gulch.  After one day of touring Sausalito then by ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco we made the drive to San Anselmo for our “Executive Lunch” with Rebecca Burgess, Dustin Kahn and Jess Daniels.   The day had finally arrived for the long anticipated meeting with the heart and soul staff of the original Fibershed in northern California.  There are to date thirty eight Affiliates around the world.

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We talked about so many topics such as cotton, hemp, and linen production and milling, woolen mills, carbon farming, likely and unlikely partnerships, community outreach, funding opportunities, clothing designers, the textile industry and cottage industry collaborations.  We came away with such a wonderful feeling of hope for the land and the climate with our shared vision for Fibreshed and the Earth.

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What a treat it was to finally make personal contact with these dedicated women who had inspired, supported and helped us make our own Fibreshed – the first Affiliate in Western Canada – something we can all be so proud of.   Four long years of e-mails back and forth had now transformed into a tight personal connection with these three visionary and lovely women.   Cotton, colour, carbon, community and collaboration had brought us to California and we left with so much inspiration, pride and an even stronger commitment to the Fibreshed vision.

Merrily Corder, Lynda Daniells, Deanna Pilling
Thank you to Paige Green for the use of her photographs.  See Paige’s Facebook album for more photos.
For more information please go to: growyourjeans.org and fibershed.com.