Northern Lights Lacemakers

Introducing another of our volunteer groups who will be demonstrating their craft at the Manitoba Fibre Festival —

Northern Lights Lacemakers is a small lace group based in Winnipeg. The group began formally in 2007. After several years of teaching bobbin lace, Ewa Kurnicka, (of Needlepoint Place) met with students Rise Thompson and Jocelyn Froese to create a lace group in Winnipeg. Jocelyn suggested the name Northern Lights and the women planned the first retreat, held at Laureate’s Landing in St. Norbert, Sept. 2007.lace

Ten lacemakers attended the first retreat and gradually more students of Ewa’s and other newcomers have joined the group over the years. We have members who knit, crochet, do tatting and bobbin lace. Northern Lights members meet regularly once a month and also participate in events by invitation.

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Visit Our Northern Lights Blog:

Follow us on Twitter: Visit our blog; the Twitter feed is on the right hand side of the page.

Like Us on Facebook!

Our lace group is listed on the Canadian Lacemaker Gazette website.


Winnipeg Embroiderer’s Guild

The Manitoba Fibre Festival is greatly enriched by the presence of volunteer groups demonstrating their craft. They share their skills and techniques with our visitors with endless enthusiasm. We welcome the Winnipeg Embroiderer’s Guild to the Festival for the first time in 2017.

The Winnipeg Embroiderer’s Guild (WEG) is a group of people interested in all aspects of the needlearts. In addition to the more familiar cross-stitch, our members learn and practice other forms, including blackwork, Florentine, goldwork, tatting, Hardanger, canvaswork, and crewel, just to name a few!

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Temari ball made by one of our members Kit Gates

The WEG was founded in 1973, as a project to celebrate Winnipeg’s Centennial and is the founding chapter of the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada (EAC).

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Crewel Embroidery

Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from September through June. Our meetings include a short business segment, a short presentation, or workshop, show & tell of our members’ work, and time for stitching and socializing with other members. We offer workshops throughout the year to our members in various embroidery techniques and meet regularly for Stitch-Ins. Meetings start at 7pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm. They are held at St. Mary’s United Church, 613 St Mary’s Road, Winnipeg.

Our annual membership fee is $65.00 and includes membership to the EAC.

You are invited to visit one of our meetings for free. We would love to see you! For more information visit our web page 

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Needle painting and stumpwork pansies designed by WEG member Beryl Burnett.

Why You All Should Attend

For the fibre enthusiast, those of us with experience at the Festival, the answer to “why should you attend the Manitoba Fibre Festival?” may be obvious.  So obvious you may not know how to describe it; it’s self-evident, isn’t it??

Perhaps, however, you or someone you know doesn’t quite know the answer. Or, perhaps, you don’t know how to entice the new-enthusiast; the future-fibre-enthusiast; your family and friends who keep asking you to whip up a lace-weight cardigan for them.

For all of you (the enthusiasts, the friends of enthusiasts, the folks wondering if you are an enthusiast, and the people who don’t know what we mean by ‘fibre’) I prepared this video. I hope you find it helpful.

(I’m not a sound editor and some refreshing breezes started to obscure the sound, so I have added the full text to the video for you. Select the Subtitles option on the video.)

The Flatlands Collection can be found over here. This video was recorded before the launch.

The Handspun Skeins competition information can be found here (or from the links bar above).

For all the available workshops as well as vendors, see the links in the navigation bar above!

Long Way Homestead

Today’s profile is from Anna Hunter, Manitoba fibre farmer, Festival vendor, and volunteer. In the short time Anna and her family have lived in Manitoba they have added much to our community. We love her energy and vision, and look forward to seeing Anna’s business grow.

Long Way Homestead is a small family owned and operated fibre farm and CSA in Eastern Manitoba, Treaty One Territory. We have a growing flock of shetland and merino sheep, and a mixed variety of other livestock. We want to encourage local and sustainable textile manufacturing in the province and country. family collage

Besides raising our sheep and selling yarn and roving we have plans to build a small-scale wool mill. In the Spring of 2018 the wool mill will be processing not only our own wool, but the fibre of other Manitoba farmers. We see this as an opportunity to support other farmers and fibre artists, but also a chance for knitters and crocheters to become more closely connected to the source of their wool!cairo.jpg

The “Sponsorsheep” program was started in May of 2017 and it allows us to directly engage and connect with the broader fibre community to create a greater understanding of the process involved in raising sheep, growing and producing wool/yarn. Not every fibre enthusiast has the opportunity (or proximity) to own or visit a sheep farm, so this program brings that fibre-farm experience to the consumer. Every sponsorsheep includes naming rights, monthly updates with pictures, opportunities to come and visit the farm, and at the end of the year wool from that sheep.

We believe that by reconnecting with the source of our fibre and the landbase it is grown on, fibre artists can support small farms, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and help restore natural pasture lands. We are thrilled to be apart of the Manitoba Fibreshed, and look forward to collaborating with farmers and fibre artists alike!


Sunna, a 2017 “sponsorsheep” lamb


Lace Enhancements with Mandy

Mandy Furney loves to knit lace. A lot of lace! She will share some of her favourite techniques with other knitters in her Lace Enhancements workshop at the Festival. This shawl that Mandy recently created as a gift to a bride beautifully illustrates these skills.

mandy's wedding shawl

Here’s how Mandy describes the class: 

Lace Enhancements – A Trilogy of Techniques

Have you ever thought to yourself …. this lace is lovely, but it could be better.

Me neither. Lace is glorious. 

Sometimes (okay, often) I do think I would like a little extra flair – with a few extra stitches.  I adore creating 7 stitches out of 5 stitches, 9 stitches out of 3, 15 out of… okay, I’ve never created 15 stitches in that way (yet).  I will show you how beautiful these stitches are and teach you the tricks to make these stitches easier to work.

Hold on to your needles folks; there is more. I’m going to share with you my favourite enhancement that you can use for texture in your lace. It rhymes with soups.  NUPPS.  Nupps are like bobbles for lace, only without having to work back and forth (and they are prettier).  I know more than one trick to help you create the noble nupp that will leave your friends in awe of your skills.

I understand that nupps are not everyone’s cup of tea (but you really must try them with me!).  Perhaps they are not shiny enough for you.  If so, I have one more enhancement up my sleeve: BEADS. Beads are a wonderful addition to any knit project – I use them on everything from lace- to aran-weight projects.  They come in a wide array of colours and sizes. I can show you the basics of what to look for when choosing your beads, how to place them, and the many tools available.

We will be working a sampler in the class. Yarn, beads, and beading tools will be supplied. Bring your favourite 3.5mm – 3.75mm (US 4 or 5) needles or borrow a pair (of straight needles). 

PREREQUISITE: You must have some experience knitting lace, even if it is the simplest of mesh lace. You need to be comfortable working yarn overs and decreases. This is not a beginner lace class.


Mandy Furney (Mandyz; the zed is silent) teaches about religion in the evening, but during the days while she is keeping kids out of trouble she likes to knit, crochet, and spin.  She also enjoys designing knit items with a focus on designs for hand-spun yarns.

Creating a Custom Colourway

Daria Rakowski of Cloud 9 Fiberworks discusses the process of creating our 2017 custom colourway yarn —

It was such a privilege to create the limited edition colourway for the 2017 Manitoba Fibre Festival. When Margaret asked me to write a little bit about the process of creating the yarn I happily agreed, not realizing how challenging it would be to describe over a month of experimentation in a clear and yet (hopefully) entertaining way.

The request was to create a custom, limited edition colourway for this year’s fibre festival based on the MBFF logo, designed by artist and sheep farmer Gerry Oliver.  

cropped-11898634_624971950977739_3527468810237243922_n.jpgThe sheep head is a very striking image with a lot of subtle colouring. The first step was to really examine the image; get to know it not in the broad strokes that we mostly associate with graphic branding but on a detailed, personal level. I printed it out (in colour, natch). Then I got my hands on a larger image and printed that. Ultimately, I had copies of it all over the house in different sizes to catch different light and moods – where your eyes can see things differently depending on all kinds of other factors. Soon I was seeing all kinds of variations within the design. A blush with some coral on the muzzle, deep burgundy and flashes of teal in the locks, greys and black throughout, and lots of beautiful colour movement. Now that I had a much better understanding of the palette and where this yarn was going, ideas were starting to come together.

Lately, I’ve been joining in with the love affair with speckles. Their popularity is very well founded – little shots of colour that add interest without hogging the spotlight so I knew they needed to be included. I also knew that it was going to be a great technique to capture some of the movement that the logo displays. This gave me some design bookends. A palette was drawn and one dye technique nailed down. Some nebulous ideas of what the finished product would look like as well as how it would knit up were noted and sketched in my notebook.

Then, I began to play. Truthfully, this is the fun part. I had made up small skeins to test out ideas, techniques, colour blends – you name it, it all went through a practical vetting process. Getting that blush tone to my satisfaction was the first hurdle. It really needed to be a compound colour, which always requires some experimentation. This part looked a bit like a mad-scientist lab with bottles of dye solutions, my trusty dye notebook and tools all over the place. Eventually this led to a colour composed of three different dyes, blended together to get that soft, earthy blush tone. With the first dye hurdle conquered, I moved on to techniques.

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Daria demonstrating dyeing techniques at our St Norbert Farmers’ Market display in 2016

As a dyer, you have a lot of options for getting colour on to fibre. This can be a blessing and a curse; sometimes you have an idea and dozens of different ways to potentially make it happen. There is a Goldilocks zone where everything is just right and the results feel perfect. This is where the test skeins really came in handy, showing me what techniques could be layered effectively and which ones just ended up looking murky. It was a really useful experimental time, both for this project and for showing me new ways to add colour and movement to my dyeing. In short, all of the (many) failures in getting the MBFF 2017 yarn just right were incredibly helpful in refining techniques for future projects. To me, this is the best part of the creative process. It helps the experimentation process a lot knowing that black will cover nearly everything if it looks absolutely terrible. I have a few black skeins.

Eventually I settled on a 2 step dye process for this yarn. Each skein starts with an immersion dye bath with several colours layered on so that the water can move it a little but not too much – Goldilocks dye moment! Then, after the immersion bath is exhausted, it moves on to sprinkle therapy. I won’t get too technical here but I planned out the sprinkle patterns throughout my test skeins and once I was contented with the sprinkles the yarn had those colours set. All in all, each skein of the 2017 colourway has 8 different colours layered on to it to capture the nuances in the MBFF sheep.

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Manitoba Fibre Festival 2017 limited edition custom colourway by Cloud 9 Fiberworks

It certainly isn’t the fastest colourway to create, but there is, in my entirely biased opinion, great colour nuance. No one element dominates, much like the logo and indeed, the wider Manitoba fibre tribe. There are many moving parts that come together with just the right blend of contrast and compliment – the Goldilocks spot.

The 2017 Manitoba Fibre Festival Yarn is available in limited quantities in worsted and fingering weights. It will work well with most of the patterns in our Flatlands Collection which releases on August 1. Pick up your skeins at the Festival, or if you just can’t wait — we have early shopping options! 

Wolseley Farmers Market, Tuesday August 8, 3:30 – 6:30 pm, R. H. Steen Community Centre, 980 Palmerston Avenue

Proutopia, September 2 & 3, Runs With Scissors Studio, Winnipeg Beach.

Val Fiddler, Wool Judge and Fibre Farmer

Introducing Val Fiddler, in her own words:
In the fall of 2004, a little flock of 20 Corriedale ewes and 2 rams came to us at Newland Ranch near Webb Saskatchewan. Life as we knew it would never be the same! The following spring after the first shearing, I wanted to keep the wool rather than send it to the Canadian Cooperative Wool Co-operative. Sending it away would mean that after it was graded, it would be put on the world market to be exported in a big, homogenized boatload. However as a fibre artist, I had always dreamed of limitless amounts of wool! This was it. I took the leap into wool and have never looked back.

Master Spinner and Weaving classes at Olds College have been fun and invaluable! However, my understanding of wool was forever changed when I took the Wool Judging Certification. Learning to evaluate a fleece by  “the degree of fault” in each category of specific fibre characteristics has increased my love of the everyday lives of sheep.  I recently took level 1 Wool Grading. There are so many uses for wool, and every grade of it has value and a use. As a wool grower, more knowledge helps me focus on things that will affect my sheeps’ quality of life and their wool like genetics, health, physical environment and weather, feeding methods, food quality, stressors, contaminants, etc.


Val at Olds College wool show

Nothing stays the same, and  our first little flock have evolved and become two groups. A flock of tiny Black Welsh Mountain sheep  help me with yard work (they are wonderful lawn mowers and tree pruners). And a spinners flock – the original Corriedales have retired but their daughters’ daughters are here, along with their offspring from crossbreeding programs with Romney, Rambouillet, Shetland, Columbia, Dorset, Clun Forest,North Country Cheviot, Blue Faced Leicester, Cotswold, and Lincoln.  I usually have about 150 fleeces of my own to skirt and evaluate after shearing. Friends sometimes bring fleeces over to be skirted too. There’s never a dull moment.  Every fleece has merit and is dear to my heart when its on the skirting table!
Thanks to Val for sharing this story. Look for her and her fleeces in the vendor market and be sure to welcome her to the Manitoba Fibre Festival!