Category Archives: Icelandic

Fibreshed’s First Fleece Sale

The commitment to a Sunshine Coast Fibreshed began 3½ years ago with an article in ‘Weaving Today’ on Rebecca Burgess and her quest to bring together farmers, spinners, knitters, weavers, dyers and clothing makers within 150 miles of her Northern California home.  Her commitment to caring about “how do we clothe ourselves?” was echoed from the book ‘The Hundred Mile Diet’ which made us aware of “how do we feed ourselves?”  Just after its 25th Anniversary, the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild accepted the Sunshine Coast Fibreshed as a project and the Fibreshed became the first official Fibreshed Affiliate in Western Canada.  The search for local fibre was then underway.

Now it is time to share the joy, excitement and pride we experienced with the incredible contribution of Yvonne and FibreWorks Studio & Gallery in hosting and managing this first Fibreshed Fleece Sale event.  The sun shone brightly over the many tables covered with eleven Icelandic fleeces from Leila Bee’s Round Table Farms.


Each was weighed and labeled with a picture of that particular sheep.  Yvonne had washed a handful of each fleece as the colour can change after washing.



A  Fibreshed display of books, samples of the wool processed as fibre and yarn, and knit and woven into hats, gloves and scarves showed off the beauty and versatility of the dual coated Icelandic Sheep and helped members see their chosen fleece’s potential.


The Team Roxy project included a 3 ply of the tog on the niddy noddy, a knitted hat and hand warmers, spun and plied skeins, some carded fleece and unprocessed tufts of Roxy.


This first Fibreshed Fleece Sale was limited to Guild Members only.  Buyers arrived prior to the one o’clock sale time, felt fleeces and measured staples.  Here Lynda C. is doing the snap test to test the strength of the locks.


At 1:00 sharp Yvonne conducted the sale by asking members to stand beside the fleece of their choice.  It went well – no arm wrestling was required.  Only three fleeces weren’t sold and these will remain at the Yurts for future teaching and processing opportunities.  Here Lynda D. and Merrily happily claim Stormy’s fleece.


Marie Claire shows off Bella’s beautiful fleece.


Leila Bee, owner and shepherdess of the Icelandic flock, joined us to share in the pride of her hard work of caring for these beautiful and gentle creatures whose fleeces are already growing anew and will appear again in another Fibreshed Fleece Sale in the fall.  With new lambs this year there may be eighteen plus fleeces.


Our incredible hostess Yvonne, who had organized and managed this event so well, brought out glasses and wine to toast and celebrate this wonderful day and milestone.  We shared sunshine, wine and a deep connection not only on a fibre level but in our spirits.  That one hour of a circle of friends celebrating the day’s event in answer to “How shall we clothe ourselves?” will remain a precious moment in time.


It was the day to celebrate the 3½ year odyssey of the simple notion that handmade cloth heals, not only with the making of the cloth and how we use it, but also with how it re-connects us to the farmers, the sheep and the soil.  It connects us all as artists and community to all the women who have gone before us down the Fibre Road.

Deanna B. Pilling with contributions from Lynda D. and Merrily


The Icelandic Fleece Project – Part 1 (An Overview)

In October of 2014 our Fibreshed team had the great pleasure of witnessing the first shearing of the small flock of Icelandic sheep at Leila Bee’s Round Table Farms.  See our blog of November 10, 2014 for the video Ron McInnis generously filmed and edited for the Fibreshed.


Needless to say the arrival of our first quality wool for spinning, weaving and knitting in our Sunshine Coast Fibreshed was an important turning point for us.  We had been searching our coastline, meeting local farmers and their sheep and not finding the quality of wool fibre desired by the experienced artisans of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild.  Yvonne Stowell of Fibreworks Studio and Gallery had established a local source of alpaca and llama along with a great selection of non-local fibres for our spinners.  The Icelandic fleece was the first local wool that we as a Fibreshed from Langdale to Lund could embrace.  Our Fibreshed was now on its way.

The Icelandic sheep is a primitive and extremely versatile breed and was the mainstay behind the formation of the Icelandic society.  The sheep were brought by ship to Iceland by the Vikings from their Scandinavian villages where their milk, meat, hide, bones and wool met the needs of this new society in many ways.  The wool is dual coated, with long guard hairs to shed water and a soft downy undercoat to keep the sheep warm in a harsh and sparse environment.  The Vikings used every part of the fleece, using the down (the thel) to make undergarments and the long guard hairs (the tog) to make ropes and sails.  The combined fibres (the lopi) were used to make wonderful warm and sturdy outerwear garments.


In November I had the great pleasure of attending the Viking Exhibition at the Royal Museum in Victoria.  As I looked at the weaving, tools and replica clothing I felt how we are keeping alive the skills and traditions of this past with the Icelandic fleece project of our Fibreshed.

It was interesting to see some of their spindle whorls that have survived.


Their clothing is similar to what we like today – layered, paneled and functional.  The photos show a display of replicas of the clothing made for men, women and children.



There was also an original tapestry.


Since the shearing day at Round Table Farms we have held two Fibre Circles at Fibreworks Studio and Gallery to share in the skirting, sorting, washing, combing, carding and spinning and show a small dedicated group how to handle this versatile and lovely fleece.  See our blog December 30, 2014 and its video December 29, 2014 to share again in this process.

7skirting the fleece

From this Fibre Circle we have formed three teams to take the four fleeces from Prince (the ram) and his ladies Bella, Roxy and Ginger and bring them to finished garments and accessories to be showcased at our annual Fibres Plus Sale in November, 2015.   An upcoming series of blogs on the Icelandic Fleece Project will follow the progress of each of the Icelandic Teams as they work through the seasons with their fleece.  Part 2 will begin with Team Prince and Ginger (the two white fleeces) and then parts 3 and 4 will cover Team Roxy and Team Bella and their two beautiful gray fleeces.

Thank you Leila, Ron, Yvonne and Jeannie for all your help in bringing this Icelandic Fleece Project into being.

Words and pictures by Deanna B. Pilling (proudly an ex-Viking)

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.


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’.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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

Fibre Circle Video

The raw fleeces sheared from the Icelandic sheep (see blog November 10) became the focus of a newly formed Fibre Circle hosted and facilitated by Yvonne Stowell at the FibreWorks Studio and Gallery.  We met for two days to learn how to skirt, wash, comb, card and spin this beautiful fibre.  (See the upcoming blog “Coming Full Circle – Fibre Circle” for more details).

Ron McInnis of Imaginary Image created a beautiful video recording this event.

Icelandic Sheep Come to the Sunshine Coast

(The Icelandic sheep is an ancient Northern European breed that was brought to Iceland by the Vikings in the Middle Ages.  It is possibly the oldest and purest domesticated breed of sheep in the world today.

Their double-layered coat is well suited to cold and wet conditions.  While they are usually raised mainly for meat, their wool is a valuable by product. The inner layer is light and insulating while the outer layer is long, strong and water repellent. Carded together these layers make lopi, a versatile wool used to knit traditional Icelandic sweaters.

The spring shearing yields wool that is coarse and generally used to make carpets while prized lopi wool comes from the autumn shearing.   Deanna, Heather)

Last week I had the privilege of spending time with Leila at her organic farm just outside of Port Melon.  The 58 acre site includes greenhouses with the most amazing organic produce sold primarily at farmers’ markets and there are plans for much more.

Currently, Leila’s small flock of hens create a colourful display as well as laying eggs.  They’re enjoying the additional green vegetation.


Leila acquired 4 Icelandic sheep this spring – Prince, the ram; and Belle, Roxie and Ginger, the ewes.  Their first clip happened a few weeks ago and I had the privilege of taking some sample fibres for washing and evaluating.  The original owners fed from a hay rick so there is a lot of vegetable matter in this fleece, however, Leila will be feeding differently and the fall clip will be cleaner.  (Oh, yes, two shearings a year!)

The lambs (3 of them) are all male and will become lamb chops, so we will have access to some lamb fleeces if Leila can bear to part with them.

Prince – he loves the camera and showing off his wonderful horns!


Belle is a lovely grey – very “traditional” Icelandic sheep colouring.


Roxie and Ginger are light, warm colours.


Sam. the llama keeps an eye out for predators.


Text and photos by Yvonne, FibreWorks Studio and Gallery