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Newsletter 2008

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1 January 2008

We wish all our customers and their families a very happy and prosperous New Year. May you all have lots of fibre fun in the year ahead.

Thanks to all who stopped by in December to look around and have coffee with us. It was lovely to see familiar faces and to meet new ones. Please feel free to pay us a visit, but contact us ahead of time in case we plan to be away from the studio.

We are now into our sixth year in business - the time has flown by. Our focus has gradually changed since our first foray into retail at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar in Guelph in 2003. From producing mainly custom blended batts of luxury fibres, we have gradually moved into selling luxury fibres and supplies for felters and spinners. But although we offer fewer special blends via our web site, we still make up luscious spinning batts for sale at the various Seminars and Conferences throughout the year.

Felting is becoming very popular and Maureen is increasingly busy holding workshops on the various felting methods. We can also hold small workshops of up to five people in the studio, please contact us for information.

Check out the new colours of merino and silk from Treetops:

30 January 2008

I spent the last two weeks of January visiting family in England, and took the opportunity to visit the Peak District of Derbyshire and the Yorkshire Moors. Such beautiful areas, with small towns huddled in the valleys and the wild moorlands all around. Sheep were everywhere, some just tiny dots on the hillsides. The wool trade was very strong here, and the mills are still standing, some abandoned and some being used for other businesses.

I visited a family-run business that I have bought wool from before, Europa Wools in Slaithwaite. Dave Morsley, his son Richard and daughter Gina, plus the dye master Leo Wilson, run a large business catering to crafters, spinners and felters, as well as industrial customers. They showed me round their warehouses, full of huge bales of different wools, smaller bales for the craft industry, and all kinds of plant and synthetic fibres, and blends. Europa has all kinds of unusual wools that I haven't seen on the market before, everything for hand spinners and felters, and yarns for knitters. I could have spent hours there poking around. I have ordered several different kinds of wool, and they will probably be on the website next week. All in all, Europa is a very nice company to deal with.

I came home with lots of samples, including a gorgeous Blue Faced Leicester which is finer and softer than I'd seen before, and Masham which is very similar to Wensleydale. The Masham staple length is an amazing 12 inches and the colour is creamy with lustre. It felted very quickly into a smooth strong felt, with a curly appearance due to the wool remembering the lock structure when wetted again. Lovely stuff!

But it's great to be home! Rod was holding the fort while I was away, filling orders and answering questions, so now it's back to business as usual. We are getting ready for a very busy spring with workshops and seminars. This will be our first year as a vendor at WASSOON, this year being held in North Bay. For those unfamiliar with Ontario's spinning and weaving scene, this is the northern Conference of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners, which is held alternate years with the southern OHS Conference.

Me, in front of an old woolen mill, Slaithwaite, Yorkshire

Old woolen mill, Slaithwaite

Me, with Richard Morsley, Europa Wools

Europa Wools, Slaithwaite

Typical Peak District scene

Peak District

6 April 2008

New workshops

Exciting workshops planned for the summer:

Introduction to shaped resist dye methods (shibori) on silk, cotton and felt fabrics (2 days)

  • Day One: A day of sampling and experimenting with silk and cotton fabrics. We will use MX fibre reactive and weak acid dyes in a low water immersion bath, to produce a multicoloured fabric. This will then be stitched, clamped and wrapped, resulting in fabulous patterned cloth.
  • Day Two: Using the knowledge gained from Day One, we will make a felted article such as a scarf, a cushion cover, or a square or rectangle suitable for a wall hanging. The techniques learned in Day One will then be applied to felt, to produce a wonderfully textured surface.
  • Classes will be held throughout the summer, and participants choose the date convenient for them. It is possible to take just the Day One workshop, but if taking both days, then Day One must be taken first. Groups will be small to allow plenty of time for individual attention and discussion. Dates will be posted soon, but meanwhile feel free to contact me for more details.

Felted vessels with Ann McElroy

  • Ann is an accomplished felter from the Ottawa area and will be holding a one day workshop at my studio in Milton, June 28th. Topics covered in the workshop will be how to make a very sturdy felt into a lovely vessel such as a bowl or vase shaped vessel. Surface decoration and carving of the felt will also be covered.
  • This is a very enjoyable but intense workshop, so bring lots of energy and ideas! Classes in my studio are small, which allows time for individual attention. There are only a couple of places left, so if interested contact me fairly soon.

New Products

Teeswater: This fleece is from coated sheep, and processed by myself, resulting in superb quality and handle. It is has a micron count of 26 to 28, and a staple length of 13-18cm (5-7"). This fibre is gorgeous, bright white, very fine for a lustre longwool, silky, and felts easily into a lacy strong fabric. It is great for spinning too, making a lustrous and strong yarn. Teeswater dyes well, like mohair, into bright and brilliant colours. The fleece is available as curly washed locks, in natural white and various hand dyed colours.

We also have new wools in stock from Europa Wools in England. My criteria for buying fibres is that they are of excellent quality and good for both spinning and felting.

  • Blue Faced Leicester: in white and "humbug". This is lovely fibre, soft and fine with a micron count of 26. The humbug spins easily into a lovely heathered yarn, and both are fast felting, with a nice tight and smooth finish.
  • Corriedale ecru: This is a nice soft fibre, micron count of 28. It felted quite fast in my trials, and will make an excellent choice for sturdy but smooth felt for vessels, booties and outerwear. The fibre is easy to spin and makes a nice bouncy yarn.
  • Masham: Named after a market town in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, and pronounced "Massam". The Masham sheep originated by breeding Teeswater rams onto either Dalesbred or Swaledale ewes. The micron count is 35, the staple length is an amazing 25-30cm (10-12"), and it has a very nice lustre. It is very similar to Wensleydale. I have been having lots of fun with this wool. I haven't tried spinning it yet, although that should be very interesting. I've never spun such a long fibre before. As far as felting goes, it felts very quickly, which surprised me. It is a great choice for making felted "lace". The amazing staple length give a lot of strength to the delicate looking lacey felt. In a recent workshop here in my studio, four new-to-felting ladies made lovely lace scarves using Masham.

31 May 2008

We unfortunately missed our date at WASSOON this year, due to family illness, but we'll be able to attend next weeks Ontario Handspinning Seminar in Barrie. Always very enjoyable - we're looking forward to it.

I was able to take a mini working holiday this month:

Enuff Farm in Enterprise Ontario

On my way to Picton to conduct some workshops, I took a detour to meet with Chris English of Enuff Farm in Enterprise Ontario. Chris, for those who don't know her, is a very knowledgeable shepherd whose Romney fleeces are superb. Chris has been carefully crossing her Romneys with Icelandics to get more colour in her flock, and I wanted to buy more of this wonderful cross bred fleece. It's lovely for spinning and felts really well too.

I chose a number of fleeces that I liked, and they will be sent to the mill to be processed into batts. However, I did bring one fleece home to do myself, and it's just lovely. The fleeces combine the best of both breeds, crimp from the Romney, and very fine thel like fibre from the Icelandic. We will be offering batts for sale in the fall. It was a warm and sunny day, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around Chris's farm and meeting the sheep.

Enuff Farm in Enterprise Ontario

My felting workshops at Rose Haven Farm Store

Then it was on to Picton to Linda Swaine of Rose Haven Farm Store, where I spent the next three days giving workshops. Linda was my generous hostess, and in the evenings we saw the sights of Prince Edward County, eating very well indeed and having an overall very nice time.

One of my workshop participants was a Shetland sheep breeder, Bill Stearman of Willow Garden Shetlands in Consecon, Ontario. Bill brought some of his fleece along, and wow, it is gorgeous. I hadn't tried Shetland for felting before, and I'm very impressed. I'll be ordering some soon, and it too should be ready for the fall.

So next week is the Ontario Handspinning Seminar in Barrie. See you there!

15 September 2008

I haven't been able to get to the Newsletter for a couple of months. Life got in the way in the shape of family health issues which had to be addressed urgently. Now things seem to be getting back to normal.

Fall is here already and there's a lot of catching up to be done! Unfortunately, I just haven't been able to do all the dyeing and processing of the new fibres I bought in the spring, but I hope to get to it in the next few months. Meanwhile, they are taking up just about no space at all. Vacuum storage bags are perfect for those of us who never have enough storage space.

I was recently honoured with invitations from the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, to offer my scarves and wraps for sale in their gift shops. The AGO is currently undergoing extensive renovations and will be opening in mid November. They have purchased a number of my pieces for the grand opening.

In addition to the art galleries, I will be exhibiting my work at the "PieceWORK" show, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, from November 7th to 9th, and at the "Holiday Treasures" event, Dufferin Museum, from 22nd November to Dec 7th.

New Products

Interweave Felts by Interweave Knits magazine. This special 2008 felting issue contains many excellent articles on wet felting and needle felting.

Ball Brausers from Germany. These are actually bonsai waterers, but are great for wetting down felt projects. They consist of a bulb and spout. Squeeze the bulb and place it in your soap solution to fill. While it fills, you can use a second Ball Brauser to spray your work. They wet everything very evenly, and save a lot of time and finger fatigue compared to spraying with a little pump sprayer.

New prefelt colours:

  • Juniper - a lovely heathery reddish purple
  • Laurel - a blend of Moss and Prussian Blue; a nice rich mid-green
  • Tom Tom - a reddish orange, somewhere between Turkish Red and Peri Peri

7 October 2008

World commodity prices and freight rates continue to climb, so we've had to re-visit our pricing for the first time since February of 2007.

We're reluctant to increase our prices, so we've decided to change the free shipping threshold from $50 to $100.

Starting from today, we will provide free shipping to anywhere in Canada and the Continental USA on orders of $100 or more.

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