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.
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.
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.
They were also auctioning off this large ‘yarn bombed’ rooster for a fund raiser.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Please check our Resources list of British Columbia fibre sources for more information about the producers mentioned.