Where [are] your stitches at?

There is one more week remaining in August.


Inquiring minds want to know how your Challenge projects are progressing.

What is still on the needles/hooks/wheel/loom?

What is an FO? What needs the final step? Feel free to mark it as a finished object before blocking ūüôā¬† We are looking for the projects that use our design challenge patterns as well as all projects inspired by our Challenge.

We want to see the WIPs and FOs so that we can update the list on our Ravelry group.¬† That way we can add you to our prize draws. Tag them with #mbff2018challenge on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook – make sure they are set to “public” so we can see your posts. Or send us a note regarding your Ravelry page.

Spin Me a Winner

Every skein of handspun yarn is a winner in my books.¬† I knit up all my first yarns. They provided delightful texture to simple projects.¬† Even now, after years of spinning, I wouldn’t assert my spinning to be great. I have uneven parts. Those are the sections that remind me this yarn was made by hand – by my hands.¬† I will even grant that a lot of those “character” characteristics are a result of simply not paying attention while I spin: I spin to relax; I spin while I am doing other things; I spin for the delight of making yarn, but not to create a perfect yarn that could be mistaken for commercial-spun yarn.

All of the above is my way of encouraging folks to show us your handspun yarns, even when you think it’s “not good enough”.

Did you join in with spinners across the globe this July for the Tour de Fleece? If so, you must have at least one skein of yarn to submit to the Handspun Skeins competition.¬† If you did not, I highly recommend adding this event to your calendar for next year.¬† It’s a great way to challenge yourself to spin.¬† (I made a decent dent in my fibre stash as a result.)

Perhaps you have been spinning all year and have an abundance of handspun yarns gathering at home.¬† Be they beautiful natural fibre or fabulous dyed yarns, we’d love to see them.


Handspun Yarns of all weights, colours, and construction are welcome!

It is equally possible that you have a stash of fibre waiting to be spun, or some unfinished projects.  You still have several weeks to spin and prepare a skein or two.


There is always more fibre to spin.

Whatever your tool of choice is, dive into those fibres.¬† Don’t forget that there is a special category for yarns made from a single animal when you have access to the raw fibre.¬† Sheep wool and alpaca each have their own subcategory, but there is a third subcategory for “other” animals, and I don’t want my chiengora (dog fur) to be the only submission.¬† Angora rabbit, dog, and mohair goat are all options that I know exist in Manitoba; let’s see what you have. You only need (at least) 2 oz.


Who could resist casting on with this merino-cashmere-silk?

Avoid the temptation to wind up that new skein of handspun yarn and use it in a project. I know it’s difficult.¬† I confess, I couldn’t hold off another day to cast on a new project using the yarn I recently spun from fibre I purchased this June.

I have no regrets.¬† I’d do it again in a heartbeat. However, if you can refrain from knitting/ weaving/ crocheting all your new handspun yarns, that would be great.¬† Start a new spinning project if you have to or at least save one skein if you have multiples.¬† You can finish knitting the sleeve of your handspun sweater after the festival, right?¬† Okay, I confess, I was really hoping to see that sweater knit up at the festival.¬† You can still spin another yarn.

Time to grab your fibre and get spinning.¬† You know you won’t regret it. Then submit a skein before the festival opens.¬† Thanks ūüėÄ

Details HERE.

Spinning Ahead

Spring has sprung. Yarns will be spun.

When do you find time to spin?  What is your current project(s)? What are you planning to spin? What has been catching your eye in your fibre stash (however big or small)? Or have the local fibre folk been tempting you with their wares?

Most importantly what are you going to submit to the 2018 Handspun Skeins competition?

We encourage you to challenge yourself to submit at least one skein. Submit more if you can.¬† Need to know how to enter? Start here for the basics.¬† It’s pretty simple: spin at least 2 oz of yarn, tie it up (and wash it), label it, and submit.

We hope to see more submissions by more individuals. Folks love to walk by and see your work. You don’t need to be a master spinner to inspire others to take up (or return to) spinning.






It Started with a Spindle …

When you are just getting started in the world of fibre arts and fleeces it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Julie Schneider shares her story of how she went from a novice spinner to the proud owner of a freshly washed fleece. We are happy to say that Festival workshops are helping her along the way!

Having caught the spinning bug 3 years ago, I progressed from a Capar drop spindle, to my grandfather’s spinning wheel. I took Joanne’s Breed Tasting class ( * like wine tasting – but for wool*) – where I discovered wool that came in something other than a roving or top!Feeling like I needed some more information before delving into the world of wool and fleeces, the next year I took Susie’s Fleece to Finish class where I felt confident enough to try my hand at the fleece auction. I came away with a beauty of a Texel-Romney fleece!

My fleece then sat dauntingly in my sewing room all winter.
Summer came along and I asked myself, “Can I really wash fleece while watching my 4 and 2 year old kids play outside? Is it really that easy!?”
Yes, it was that easy.
Now, I knew it was pretty and white, and I knew I could wash it – but how do I process it after!?
It was a pleasant surprise when I came upon this year’s workshop lineup and saw that Diana was offering a class on hand carding!
It’s almost like the universe is telling me I need to go to a class and buy more wool….


Excellent message from the universe — attention everyone — take a class — buy more wool — take a class — buy more wool … ¬†¬†Susie’s Fleece to Finish class gives you all the information you need to shop with confidence in the wool auction at the Festival. ¬†Wondering what to do with that beautiful fleece? There are still a few spots in Diana’s class Hand Carders: A Spinners Best Friend.¬† So, maybe dyeing next year, Julie?


The Sheep-ish Spinner

Suzanne Budlong of Winnipeg answers our new vendor questions today ¬†–¬†

Hi!  My name is Suzanne and my business is The SheepIsh Spinner and I sell handspun yarn.  Quite a bit of my yarn is hand dyed using either plant material or food colouring, but I also have a lot of stock that is acid dyed fibre.  After a number of requests, I now have a selection of roving that I have naturally dyed.

I was taught to knit by my wonderful 4th grade teacher during indoor recess but it’s only been in the past ten years that I’ve really started to explore knitting and fibre more. ¬†I picked up a drop spindle about 6 years ago and started spinning for myself and then last year I bought a spinning wheel and fell in love with it. ¬†I had people asking me about buying my yarn, and so on January 1st The SheepIsh Spinner went into business.


I’m finding that inspiration comes from surprising sources. ¬†A sunset or a garden, but also children picking odd colour combinations. ¬†I’ve even done a few skeins inspired by military camouflage.

My favourite item? ¬†That’s difficult. I think one favourite would be a pair of fingerless mitts that I made from one of my first attempts at using my wheel and my first attempt at dyeing using pumpkin cinnamon tea. ¬†I wore them inside all winter and the delicious smell is faint, but still there.image1 (7)

Welcome, Suzanne!


Sons of Lugh Living History

 The Sons of Lugh Viking era living history group have added colour and drama to our Festival every year. Visit their demonstration area to see ancient fibre crafts such as spindle spinning, nalbinding and tablet weaving.

Thank you to Kathryn Drummond of Sons of Lugh for this story of the making of a linen shirt.

The Gift of a Shirt A Historical Perspective

In the modern world, a shirt is a nice gift to give someone. It’s practical, thoughtful and fashionable and costs about $50 (or the equivalent of a few hours of work), more or less. But was it always that way? During the Viking era, what we would think of as a very simple shirt was considered a very special gift indeed. To understand why it was such a treasured gift, let’s take a look at the steps it takes to make a linen shirt.

The first step to a Viking linen shirt was growing a crop of linen flax; linen flax is related to the flax you see all over Manitoba, but the plant is taller, so that the fibers you get from it will be longer. When the crop was ready, the plants were pulled out of the ground by the roots rather than being cut, to maximize the length of the plant fibers. The plants were dried and then the seeds were removed by threshing. The growing and drying took several months.

The dried plants were laid out on the ground and dew retted. Dew retting is the process of softening or rotting the outer layer of the plant by allowing the dried plants to be repeatedly wetted with dew and then heated by the sun, causing the outer layer of the plant to ferment. This step took about two or three weeks and could be quite smelly! The retted plants were bundled and then dried again,a process called stooking; this made the outer layer more brittle, so that it could be removed more easily.

The dried stems were crimped, or beaten with a wooden mallet against a wooden board. This breaks apart the layers of the plant, revealing the long plant fibers inside. A wooden scutching knife was used to separate the chaff, or outer layer of the plant from the inner fibers. The long bast fibers were straightened and separated from the shorter tow fibers by combing the inner fibers through a heckler,¬† or bed of nails. The tow fibers wouldn’t have been used to make the shirt, but might have been spun into a lower quality thread, used as stuffing for mattresses and cushions or used as tinder to start a fire.IMG_0006

The long bast fibers were then wet-spun into linen thread. It took about 10 km of fine linen thread to make one shirt for a small person; this represented at least 200 hours of spinning with a drop spindle!1 The linen thread was woven into fabric, using a warpweighted loom . This fabric would have been woven to the width and length needed to make the shirt and would have taken a few days.IMG_0008

The pattern for a basic shirt of the time consisted of rectangles and triangles to make the most efficient use of the very valuable fabric. The hand sewing would have only taken a day or two. Once the shirt had been made, it might have been embellished with a decorative band made using a technique called tablet weaving,which would only have added another day or two of work.

All told, it has been estimated that one shirt represented approximately 400 hours of labor 1, which is¬†10 weeks of eight hour days. The average Canadian salary in the manufacturing sector in 2016 was $56,446. So, in today’s terms, that simple shirt was a $11,000 gift ! No wonder it was such a treasure!

At the Manitoba Fibre Festival, make sure to visit with the Sons of Lugh to see some of these traditional fibre skills and more in action.

The Sons of Lugh is a Manitoba-based Viking re-enacting group that was founded in 2005 by the McFarland-Welbourne family and has since grown to almost 30 members in various parts of Manitoba, including Brandon,Winnipeg and Gimli.  The aim of the Sons of Lugh is to learn historically accurate skills and present them to the public. We participate in several events throughout the year to bring our passion for this era to others.IMG_0010


  1. http://www.ribevikingecenter.dk/en/learn-more/flax-in-the-viking-age.aspx
  2. https://www.decktowel.com/pages/how-linen-is-made-from-flax-to-fabric
  3. http://sonsoflugh.info/

Diana Twiss, Instructor

Diana is an experienced fibre arts instructor with a background in adult education and fine art. Passionate about fibre, fabric, colour and texture, she has introduced many beginners to the wonders of making yarn and has helped experienced spinners experiment with technique, colour, and fibre to take their spinning to a new level.


She especially loves spindles because of their simplicity, beauty and portability. Living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Diana is a regular fibre arts instructor for the Langley Weavers and Spinners guild as well as at Fibres West in Cloverdale, Knit City in Vancouver, and Valley Yarns in Surrey. Since 2010 she has travelled to Haida Gwaii on three amazing occasions to teach 2-day workshops in spindle spinning for the Haida Gwaii Arts Council. Diana taught 4 full-day spinning classes at Old’s College Fibre Week in 2016. She is on the roster to teach again at Olds College Fibre Week 2017, at ANWG 2017 in Victoria BC and the Vancouver Island Fibre Festival in May 2017 in Campbell River, BC.  And, we are happy to say, at the Manitoba Fibre Festival in September 2017.

Diana will teach Wild About Colour 1.0 where participants learn about colour theory and how to spin coloured braids. This is a full day class on Friday.2016-08-07-07-07-46-768x432.jpg

On Saturday she will teach Knitting with Handspun Yarn, and Hand Carders: A Spinner’s Best Friend. ¬†Details about these classes and registration information can be found on the 2017 Workshops page.



More about Diana and her experiments with fibre:

Here is an interview with Diana on the Welford Purls blog 

Diana’s blog, “100 Mile Wear”

Diana on Instagram and Twitter

Tour de Fleece?

Yes, it’s that time of year again when wheels are spinning all over the world in sync with the classic bike race, the Tour de France.

Here’s an explanation, ¬†from the Interweave Press blog entry, June 15, 2016:

“In 2006, spinner and knitwear designer Star Athena inspired us with a new challenge: Tour de Fleece. For a decade, flocks of spinners around the globe have looked forward to the famed cycling event, the Tour de France, with new interest. The idea is that handspinners can set their own courses and make time for spinning each day the Tour runs. We spin along in spirit with the cyclists, including rest days and challenge days throughout the event. As the Tour de Fleece guidelines say each year, ‚ÄúThe concept is simple: challenge yourself, spin, have fun.‚ÄĚ “

The Tour, from July 1 – 23 this year, is a great way to focus on your spinning practice, even if it is just to challenge yourself to spin for a few minutes each day.

You can join a group (or several) on Ravelry to share the fun. ¬† Team Canada on Ravelry host a Tour de Fleece group every year that is friendly and fairly low key. It’s inspiring to see what ¬†participants accomplish. Often there are prizes donated by generous members of the group to add to the incentive to reach your goals.

And of course, if you are spinning so much this summer you will have some lovely skeins to enter in our Handspun Skein Competition!  There is a category for almost any kind of yarn you create. We would love to add your work to the display of skeins at the Festival in September.


Handspun and photo from Mandy Furney

Susie Gourlay of “Knit Natural”

Susie has been with the Festival since the first year, so many of you will already know and appreciate her talents as a teacher, spinner, and designer. She lives in Regina, and we are lucky that she and her husband Jeremy travel to Manitoba regularly for our festival in the fall and the Blue Hills Fibre Festival in June. If they can combine the trip with a football game, all the better!

Susie has judged our wool show for four years, approaching each new fleece with a keen eye and a fresh desire to learn about the qualities of the fibre. Susie is passionate about natural fibres and loves to share her knowledge.

In 2017 Susie is teaching three classes at the Festival: FLEECE TO FINISH is what we think of as ‘core curriculum’; the class where people acquire the confidence to buy a raw fleece and start the magical transformation into clean fibre for spinning and felting. Her HANDSPINNING WITH A DROP SPINDLE class is the perfect first step in turning ¬†beginners into competent spinners. We love making more spinners! New this year is the SUPPORTED SPINDLING class where Susie will share her techniques for success with this design of spindle. Here’s the link to workshop information and registration.

susie gourlayWhile Susie is busy teaching, Jeremy will be minding ¬†the Knit Natural vendor stall where you can buy Susie’s wonderful handspun yarns. Go say “hello, and thanks for being here at our festival”.

Prairie’s Edge Wool Farm

Barb Mulock from Prairie’s Edge Wool Farm, Kleefeld Manitoba answers our questions this morning.

What do you produce and make?
I raise Shetland sheep and Angora goats.  I sell raw and processed fibre from my animals, including washed fleece and angora locks, batts and rovings of various fibre blends (wool, mohair, alpaca). While I also sell hand -spun yarns, I primarily cater to spinners and felters.


How did you get started in fibre arts ?

By chance, about 15 years ago¬†I¬†a met a wonderful group of spinners who taught me the art. ¬†From there is seemed completely¬†reasonable to buy a farm, move to the country, and start raising my own source of fibre ūüėä

2016-03-25 08.58.00.jpg

What inspires the work you do and things you create?
I love seeing a product from beginning to end. ¬†That is –¬† raising the animals, shearing, skirting, washing, carding to finally spinning or felting. ¬†Each fleece is different and unique to work with.
What is your favourite piece that you’ve ever created?
The first sweater I knit from my own hand spun wool from my first ram sheep. (priceless – literally)
Experienced festival goers head straight for Barb’s booth to stock up on local fibre. This year be sure to also find¬†Max, her bottle baby angora goat and our unofficial mascot!

Wild Wind Naturals

Vendor Susan Sydor lives near Brandon, Manitoba. Here is her story about her business, Wild Wind Naturals:
My addiction to fibre happened when I attended an event called the Honey Garlic Festival in a small town in Manitoba. I was making bath and body products, but had always had an interest in alpaca. Baloun Alpaca Acres was there, and on her table she had a basket of cria fleece. I made the mistake of sticking my hand into it…and that was the beginning. ¬†I took the fleece home with me, didn’t know the first thing about spinning, fibre, making yarn, none of it. Within a couple of months, I had a wheel and a carder, and the rest is history.


Over the last six years, my fibre love has taken me into creating wonderful fibery things for other fibre lovers, including batts, dyed braids, hand processed dyed fleece from all over the world, and I spin, knit, and weave.


I absolutely love color. I see it in every landscape, in the sunsets and the morning sky. It’s everywhere, and we’re so blessed to be able to see it, and to try to share the lusciousness of a gorgeous cormo lamb fleece with those colors in it. It’s divine.

I can’t say I have a favorite of the things I produce, because it’s all the stuff I’m in love with. I can tell you that my project I was most proud of was my first six foot shawl I produced on my tri-loom, made entirely from hand processed, hand dyed, and hand spun fibre. It included some of my own alpaca as well, which was really great.

Thanks for this introduction, Susan. See you at the Festival!


An interview today with fibre producer, dyer and spinner Tammy Ivanco of Manjusha Farm, near Lorette Manitoba.
What is your business, and what fibre items do you sell or produce? 
We go by the name Manjusha for our small hobby farm and kennel.  It means box of jewels and totally describes our life.  Manjusha has raw and processed fleeces, hand dyed roving and top, hand dyed yarns, and occasionally hand made soap and honey. img_2554
How did you get started in fibre arts or with your product?
I learned to knit so long ago, and I have no memories of really learning.¬† I watched my grandmother and picked it up. My mother did crochet, and the granny square blanket was definitely in my background.¬†¬†I also had some spool knitting, and children’s weaving mixed in there. When I was young, I would crochet pencil holders that were sold at charity teas.¬† More recently my husband decided he wanted sheep.¬† I do not think he realized what would happen when the fuzzy creatures arrived.¬† I decided I should be involved and went to watch someone spin.¬† I thought “I can do that”, and I ordered a whieel like hers and just started spinning.¬† I really enjoyed the natural wools and really came to appreciate them more than the acrylic style yarns I had used earlier. My mother and grandmother always claimed wool was itchy, but they never felt some of what I now work with, I am sure.¬† I never thought of dyeing anything, but started with some hot fuschia dye on a brown heathered fleece of unknown type. ¬† It was beautiful and I was hooked. I started dyeing skeins of wool, washed fleece, and top.¬† I now have multiple wheels, a big floor loom, a counter covered in dyeing supplies, and a basement and spare room full of fibre.
What inspires the work you do and things you create?
I love¬†colours and mixes¬†that are inspired by nature.¬† Seasonal¬†colours are wonderful for the dyepots.¬† If I see a lovely sunset, flower, or scene, I am often heard saying, “I need wool that colour!” ¬†My ipad and phone are full of pictures that might someday be used as dye colours.¬† On some days, I wet the yarn or top and wait for it to tell me what to do.¬† Some of my inspiration comes from Maureen, of Tog and Thel, who I will share a booth with at this fibre festival.¬† Maureen had introduced me to the spinning group that I love and she had been very encouraging on my first hot fuschia dyeing experience. She is always motivating me to try more and do better, and the sharing of ideas and outcomes has really been important in the overall development.
What is your favourite piece/item/colour/etc that you’ve ever created?
It’s so hard to have a favourite, but maybe I can narrow it to¬†a couple that highlight my journey.¬† One of my early handspun yarns was dyed with splashes of goldenrod and madder, and turned into a big, warm, winter shawl. It gets me all kinds of compliments and led me to love shawls even more.¬† I had seen a pattern for a shawl that was so beautiful and wanted a yarn resembling a fall leaves ¬†for it.¬† I envisioned fall leaves on a forest floor and dyed an angora-merino blend in softer fall colours of pale yellow, olive, orange, and brown.¬† I loved how the colours turned out, but the nature of the wool, with a slight halo, just worked so well.¬† I am not finished the shawl yet, but I am looking forward to it.¬† I had dyed a fingering weight yarn with variegated blues, purples and burgundy that was purchased by someone in my¬†spinning group. ¬†She really promoted the yarn in her project, which was a shawl with my yarn and a solid colour. It was stunning.

Shetland lamb in the Manjusha flock

Look for Tammy and Maureen and their beautiful fibres in the booth they share at the Festival!