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We have finally finished our big move from Milton Ontario to a small acreage, one and a half hours east of Toronto, midway between Campbellford and Warkworth, in the Northumberland Hills of Ontario.
Campbellford is a small, scenic, thriving little town on the Trent River, and the administrative centre of the Trent Hills Region. The Trent Severn Waterway connects Lake Ontario, at Trenton, to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. For those interested in nautical things, here is an interesting link to the The Trent-Severn Waterway.
Warkworth is a lovely little village which has developed into an artistic centre. The picturesque Main Street is lined with interesting shops, including the "100 Mile Diner", the focus of which is to serve meals made from local ingredients and to reduce the transportation from farm to plate.
Our new home backs onto the Trent River, where it widens into a large lake known as Percy Reach, and is adjacent to Murray Marsh - 50 square km of undisturbed marsh and wetlands. The area is home to large numbers of birds, including Great Blue Herons and wild turkeys - which were successfully reintroduced into the area some years ago. Right now the migratory birds are moving back, some to stay for the summer and some to keep going further north. As I write this, great V-formations of geese and ducks are passing high overhead - it's amazing. Our plans for the summer include canoeing, fishing and bird watching.
The new workshop/studio will be finished by mid April, and then visitors and customers will be very welcome to come and browse the fibres, chat, have coffee and tea, and enjoy our lovely surroundings. I am currently planning my felting workshops for the summer. These will include making bootie slippers, wacky hats, and shaped resist dyeing on felt. I hope to have dates and descriptions on the site by the end of April.
Things are finally getting back to normal after the big move and after all the construction and changes we had to make to our new place. My studio is finally finished, and it's great to get back to work. The new space has a good size workroom, kitchen and storeroom, so everything is together and close at hand.
I've been busy planning workshops which will be held through the summer and into fall. Among the planned workshops are:
- dyeing, resist dyeing, and discharging on silk scarves, for fabulous complex colours and patterns
- wet felting, dyeing, resist dyeing and overdyeing felt scarves, for more fabulous colours and textures
- felt scarves with silk inlays --- this involves making a shimmering sheet of silk “fabric” which can be cut and inlaid into wool when wet felting
- fun with felted hats --- plain or funky but always fun with the addition of spikes, bubbles, yarns and silks
- last but not least, the ever popular light and airy nuno scarf using superfine wools, silk fabrics, and novelty yarns --- the choices are endless and the result is a soft and drapey scarf for a cool summer evening
To celebrate our move into new facilities, we are having an Open House Weekend, June 20th and 21st. Come for a visit and enjoy browsing through the sale specials of wools, prefelts and silk fibres. And have a coffee or cold drink, relax on the deck, or stroll through the gardens. Everyone is welcome. We are situated on Percy Boom Rd, halfway between Warkworth and Campbellford. The area has lots to offer in the way of rolling hills, rivers, lakes, and lovely little villages and towns.
I missed the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners Conference this month, as it conflicted with the sale of our house in Milton. But we will definitely be at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar in Kingston in the second week of June.
Natural white prefelt yardage from England: This prefelt is somewhat thicker than our Fibre Fusion line - about 50% thicker. It is one metre wide, and as many metres long as you need. It has a noticeably silky soft feel. It felts fast with a lovely smooth finish, and the price is very reasonable too.
Stash Bags: Sturdy zippered plastic bags with mothproof mesh sides, ideal for storing your wool and projects. They come in two sizes 45x38x10cm (18x15x4") for $4.00, and 68x60x20cm (27x24x8") for $6.00.
I've discovered another unintended use for these: produce ripening bags. We have lots of underripe tomatoes - some with blemishes that the fruit flies get at. The stash bags are perfect for letting the air in, while keeping the fruit flies out.
An exhibition of textiles by the artists of ArtWear NetWork
As members of ArtWear NetWork, Bonnie Glass and I collaborated in the production of the following pieces for the Solstice exhibition of textiles at the Burlington Art Centre.
Bonnie's pieces incorporate some of my hand dyed and nuno felted fabrics:
- Sand washed crepe de chine - hand dyed and overdyed using the Bomaki Shibori technique.
- Nuno felted fabrics - superfine merino sandwiched between china silk and silk fibres, nuno felted, hand dyed, then over dyed using the Arashi Shibori and Mokume Shibori techniques.
In the summer I received my long awaited Watson "Marie" spinning wheel. What a fabulous wheel this is, fast and smooth. I fell in love with it at a show where Andrew Watson had some demo wheels, and have waited almost a year for it. It was worth the wait. My interest in spinning, which had been flagging for some time, has been revived. I've been busy making up novelty yarns for embellishing felts, and yarns for my own knitting projects. One of the pleasures in life is to wear a sweater that has been processed by hand from start to finish -- fresh fleece, gentle scouring (no carbonising!), carded, handspun, and hand knit. It is a great exercise in learning to take things slowly and carefully, and appreciating the process as it slowly takes form.
Our first summer in our new home was very busy, planning and planting a vegetable patch, exploring the area and the waterways right next door. Summer was very cool right until August, but we finally had some hot steamy weather just in time to ripen the tomatoes, almost a month later than is usual here in southern Ontario. Even so we have extra produce to can and freeze for the winter. The bugs were really bad though, and bug helmets and jackets were essential if we wanted to do anything outside. Thank goodness they have mostly gone.
Fall is almost here and it's time to plan and start all those wintertime fiber projects. My favourite time of year. We were thrilled to find that our place is populated with a family of wild turkeys. Earlier in the summer we could hear a female clucking in the bushes. Then a few weeks ago she finally appeared with five little ones. Now the turkeys seem to be grouping together. Several females and a whole whack of half grown youngsters frequently parade through our gardens, looking for all the world like a day care outing, with the adults chattering away together and keeping an eye on the young ones.
Teeswater/Wensleydale top. A blend of Teeswater and Wensleydale, this top is gorgeous. The staple length is 8 to 10 inches, the top is bright white and lustrous. It's suitable for both felting and spinning. You can make a sturdy hard wearing felt or a "felt lace". When the top is wetted and manipulated during felting, the fibres revert to their original curly structure, forming an open lacey fabric which is strong and durable when well felted. This fibre spins fast and easily into smooth dense and lustrous yarn, which is perfect for hardwearing applications like socks and outerwear. It also dyes like mohair, resulting in rich and brilliant colours.
I've been looking into the availability and "feltability" of local fleeces, with the idea of using them for my own projects, and also having some available on the website. So on the "other fibres" section of the site you will find batts for felting and spinning, some Tunis, and some Leicester/Corriedale adult and lamb. These fleeces were processed by myself with no harsh chemicals (i.e., no carbonising) so there is a small amount of chaff in them. I found both fibres to be fairly easy to felt, more work than merino obviously, but each forms a nice firm felt.
The Tunis is an interesting fleece, it is a creamy white with light reddish patches, and some scattered red hairs throughout. It's bouncy, and I think would make a lovely knitting yarn, but haven't got around to spinning any yet.
The Leicester/Corriedale cross fleece (adult) tends more to the Leicester as it is very curly. It felted quite quickly, with a smooth firm surface. The lamb fleeces were also curly, softer, and felted quickly.
Fall has almost gone and winter is right around the corner, although you'd hardly know it with the mild weather we are enjoying here in Southern Ontario. The fall colours were glorious this year and we managed to see them at their peak on a camping trip to Algonquin Park (a huge wilderness area about 3 hours north of us) where we heard wolves howling at night, and caught sight of bear and moose.
Now that the year is winding down, and all the shows are over, I've had time to do some experimenting with different wools. I decided to do a trial with two different wools, making simple booty slippers, to see how the fibres compared, and also to compare durability of each slipper after wear. One slipper was made with 5 layers of grey Finnwool, and a sixth layer of dyed Finnwool. The other was made with the same layers and colours, but using a crossbred Romney/Icelandic fleece.
The Finnwool felted faster than the Romney/Icelandic, and the surface is tighter and smoother. But even so the Romney/Icelandic took less work than I had thought. The big surprise was in the final appearance. The final colour of the Finn slipper is very muted and greyed, while the Romney/Icelandic colours are more vivid. I am guessing that the shorter fibres of the Finnwool migrated more easily through all the layers, "diluting" the top dyed layer. The Romney/Icelandic has longer and stronger fibres and the greyed effect on the surface is much less. Pictured here, they are waiting for their suede soles to be sewn on. The finn slipper is on the left.
And while I was in a boot making mood, I thought I'd try a version of Russian Valenki boots, using Finnwool. While the slippers are light and flexible (75g of wool each), and took about 3 hours to make the pair, the Valenki boots with a Canadian flavour are much sturdier (200g of wool each). The Finnwool felted down very hard and firm, and took me nearly two days of hard labour with frequent rest breaks. Rod called the first one "Das Boot", after the German submarine movie, because it was so huge.
Down the garden path to the end of our trail - looking across the little bay towards the Trent River. A lovely place to relax after all the hard work.