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Newsletter 2010

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15 June 2010

Spring Newsletter

I'm late, yet again, with the Newsletter! We've been waiting for some new supplies to arrive so we can update the website and give information on the various new items. Some still haven't arrived but I'm going ahead with the Newsletter anyway. The volcano in Iceland has played havoc with the mails, as most people have discovered. Customs have been super busy and parcels have been waiting for clearance for several weeks.

Because of rising prices in the wool market, we've been researching other suppliers with the goal of continuing to supply high quality wools for felting and spinning, but at a reduced cost. Also, we've found another supplier of merino prefelt which we've managed to get a good deal on. For the time being we're trialing these products with the idea of possibly stocking a good selection of them in the future. We're asking for your patience as this process goes ahead. Sometimes we might run out of colours, as it is difficult to determine in advance just how each colour will sell, so we're buying limited amounts at first.

New Products

M23D - Fine merino dyed top is ideal for spinning and felting. Customers who have already sampled this are very enthusiastic, so we've ordered a good selection of colours. The price is very good indeed for this quality of merino. The felt I've made with this fibre is firm yet fairly soft, not scratchy, with a lovely sheen.

FMP19 - Superfine merino prefelt yardage, from Europe. The weight of this prefelt falls between our more substantial natural white prefelt from Europa Wools, and our finer prefelt from Fibre Fusion. We have started with a good supply of black, red and forest green. This prefelt is 120cm wide, and is sold by the running metre. A single layer makes a fairly lightweight scarf or lightweight garment. It really is lovely stuff, and is very reasonably priced.


Spring workshops were successful and a lot of fun:

My "away" workshops included nuno felted scarves, working with prefelt, and making vessels. Here are some examples from the Belleville Weavers & Spinners Guild prefelt workshop:

Prefelt Prefelt

My "at home" workshops included "all you can learn in two days", and were a great success. This is something I'd like to continue. Everyone who participated was really pleased at how much they had learned, and were very appreciative of the individual instruction and flow of ideas between participants. A maximum of four meant we could really tailor the workshop to an individual's skill level and needs.

Here, Naomi shows her first-ever felting project, and Sue models her textured wrap:

Wrap Wrap

I have a number of workshops scheduled for the summer and fall.

I'm really excited to have a guest instructor, Haydee McFarland, who will be holding a special workshop in my studio. This technique, which Haydee has perfected, requires some felting experience, especially with layout of fibres. The resulting scarf is luxurious and eye catching. It reminds me of the ruffles on the dress of a Spanish flamenco dancer. Classes are limited to four people per workshop, and we may hold it on two days depending on how many people register.

Haydee McFarland Scarf

A mind stretching weekend with four other experienced felters

One fabulous weekend was spent in my studio with four other experienced felters. The idea was to stretch our abilities, break old habits, try new things, and just generally share our findings. It was wonderful and we plan to repeat it in the fall. We all learned so much from each other.

Here we are, in an impromptu fashion show, displaying an eclectic sampling of our creations.

One fabulous weekend

Left to right:

  • Suzanne Towns
  • Diane Lemire
  • Ann McElroy
  • Haydee McFarland
  • Maureen Harding (me)

One fabulous weekend

Ann and Haydee laying out their nuno projects

One fabulous weekend

Maureen getting serious with her bath mat of leicester and border leicester wool

One fabulous weekend

Ann playing with locks

One fabulous weekend

Ann's finished sampler

One fabulous weekend

Suzanne making a resist from thin plastic foam

One fabulous weekend

Diane begins work on the neckline of her garment

One fabulous weekend

Suzanne and Diane trying many techniques at once on two very long scarves

One fabulous weekend

Maureen and Haydee also trying different techniques on two long scarves

Other News

In addition to business things, we've been busy extending and planting our veggy garden. It's now about a third bigger. Spring this year was a heck of a lot warmer than last year, and everything seems to be several weeks ahead.

It's very hot, and where is the rain? There wasn't much snow over winter, and I don't think it's rained more than two or three times since. Luckily the water table here is fairly high and we have a deep well for irrigation. Our plan is to keep everything very well mulched with straw to conserve the water in the soil.

Here's our lovely shade garden - the lupins are two weeks ahead of last year, I'm sure. And here's Russell - he found a bit of shade and no way is he coming out from there to go for a walk. It's hot as blazes, over 30 degrees, and he's staying put.

Shade Garden Russell

2 July 2010

Big Price Reductions on Discontinued Merino Top

We are in the process of introducing new lines of high quality merino top at lower prices, therefore:

  • we have reduced the prices of the discontinued merino lines
  • these new low prices will be in effect while existing stock lasts

22 October 2010

Website Changes

Our new product lines are almost in place, but there are still some changes to be made. We have limited colours of the Treetops Nuance merino still in stock, plus some sheets of Fibre Fusion's prefelt.

From time to time you may find that we drop a colour, especially if a very similar colour is available in the other lines. So please bear with us, we'll be fine tuning the website as we go.

We are really happy at the reception of all these new colours. The intent was to continue to offer quality wool at more reasonable prices, and it seems to be working!

New Products

M19D - Superfine Merino Top, dyed, 19.5 microns Our new line of superfine merino is excellent quality at a very reasonable price. We also carry matching prefelts for many of the colours -- product code FMP19

FMP19X - Superfine Merino Prefelt, die-cut shapes are great fun for adding to projects.

FMP19S - Superfine Prefelt Blend, 80% dyed merino, 20% natural silk is a wonderful product that felts to a flexible and soft fabric. It can also be dyed. The silk takes the dye beautifully and makes for an especially brilliant effect.

Mississippi Mills Fibrefest

This two-day event in September was held at the Textile Museum in the historic village of Mississippi Mills near Ottawa. What a lovely little town. This was my first time at this event, and it was really enjoyable.

There were many artists selling their wares, and two felters, myself and friend Ann McElroy of Shepherd Spring Farm. Ann makes great hats, along with her other lovely felted and nuno felted garments. Here she is in her booth next to mine. And next door, in my booth, here I am showing off one of her viking hats.

Ann McElroy Maureen Harding

Just For Us Originals

This year, Just For Us Originals was held at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. This was my third time at this event, and each year it gets better. As well as workshops and artist/vendors, there were fashion shows at intervals throughout both days. I was thrilled that my felted hat and boa were chosen for the Finale - here modelled by Carla Winter.

The locks are Scottish Blackface, a new experience for me - see below for more on this fleece. The locks are super long, about 12 to 14 inches, and hairlike with a slight wave. They were felted (not needlefelted) into the body of the hat and boa, which was a crossbred fleece, Romney and Icelandic, which felts strong and hard. But oh boy, that fleece takes a while to start felting and fulling. Lots of work. But when it does finally co-operate it is worth the effort. I called the pieces "Paris Fashion 10,000 BC". They are hairy and itchy, and shed a bit, but I figured any self respecting Stone Age woman would take that in her stride.

And here is a picture of a delightful little girl who fell in love with this crazy hat and just had to buy it. She looks lovely. Grace plays the cello and plans to wear the hat at her next recital.

Paris Fashion 10,000 BC Bubble Hat

Some more about Scottish Blackface fleece

After being given some local Scottish Blackface fleece to play with, I was really intrigued. It is unlike anything I have tried so far. There wasn't a lot of usuable wool in this particular fleece, so I looked on the net and found a breeder in Alberta, Carolyn Nordin of Nordin Farms.

Wow. That's all I can say. Great service, good price, and a wonderfully clean and well skirted fleece with very long locks, some as long as 14 inches. I can heartily recommend this breeder, and this kind of fleece if you are looking for something quite different. It spins up well too, into a very hardwearing yarn.

Scottish Blackface is used mostly for carpets and for making Harris Tweed. Rare in Canada, it is the most common breed in Scotland. It's a very handsome breed too, both sexes have horns, for those who are interested in such things!

Local fleeces

My experiments with local fleeces goes on. What a pleasure it is to do it right off the sheep's back, so to speak. I love the feel of a raw fleece, the smell, and the way it behaves when spun or felted. It's quite a different experience from working with commercial preparations - it seems to have more life and body.

We are very lucky in this area to have some really good "spinners flocks" that are of excellent quality and very clean. Notable fleeces so far:

A Leicester ram fleece from Grace Clare of Campbellford - it's lustrous, long and curly. This fleece felts well, also it is great for spinning, resulting in a strong yarn which dyes beautifully. Some of this I dyed and felted into a small rug, 3 x 4 feet. The dyed locks were placed on a thick layer of carded Leicester. No effort was made to keep the locks from felting to each other, as I was going for a very plush effect.

Rug: Leicester fleece

Some Tunis fleeces from Wendy Pullan of Thistledew Farm near Belleville. This unusual breed has a lovely, springy fleece which is similar in colour to a light moorit. The fleeces I have felted so far result in a sturdy, strong and slightly spongy felt. Here's my "40 below hat", the flaps come down and fasten under the chin. Note the curly little locks on the surface. This particular fleece had lots of tight little curls which I just felted "as is", without washing or carding first.

Hat: Tunis fleece

A very curly, dark grey Blue Faced Leicester fleece from Gillian Mullins of Stirling. I haven't had a chance yet to do anything with this fleece. It won't be carded, those tight little curls will be used for surface embellishments, or felted as is for a very textured effect. It's in a clear bag in my store room where I can see it and drool over it, and get ideas.

Other News

Summer was long and hot in our area and, surprisingly, our busiest summer so far. June and July are usually slow months for us, giving us lots of time for gardening and doing other things. This year was different - I'm not sure why. It could have been the great sales we had going on, or people just kept felting all summer!

The garden was quite neglected with us being busy and because of the very hot weather, the mosquitoes, and the deer flies. But we still hauled in loads of tomatoes which were canned, frozen, and made into sauces, until we were almost, but not quite, sick of them. Still to be brought in are the spuds, which are going to be a bit hard to find now the tops have died down.

Our experiment growing potatoes in straw was a bit of a failure. Voles and mice have eaten chunks out of much of the crop. The straw was a safe haven for them while they chewed away. So that's an experiment we won't repeat!

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