Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow
Fibre 3, 2, 1
Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?
- Swiss Mountain Sheep (Walliser Sheep – Valaise Blacknose —
I just love this fibre because it makes both amazing wet and needle felted items. It comes in batt format in 49 dyed and 9 natural colours. At 27 micron it is a rougher fibre and has a moderate staple length of 3-5cm.
I fell for this fibre not just because of its felting qualities, but also because the product is made by happy sheep that spend their summers up in the high Swiss alps — travelling on ancient roman roads to get there. After they are shorn in a traditional manner, the wool is transported to a small Swiss family business where it is washed only with washing soda (aka sodium carbonate or soda ash is a natural cleaner and a powerful water softener. It’s very basic with a pH of 11). The washing process is environmentally friendly and the wastewater is safely returned to the local mountain stream. The wool is dyed carefully and without any harsh chemicals — using just natural vinegar and acid dyes. The wool is dried outside on warm metal roofing (weather permitting). In winter the warmth created by the dyeing process is used to heat the building.
The fibre is exceptionally clean as the carding machines have special vacuums installed to remove VM (Vegetable Matter naturally occurring in sheep fleeces) and ensure it doesn’t get back into the wool.
Due to the ease of felting with Swiss Mountain Sheep wool, kids love working with it. The fibre can also be laid out very thin to create transparent felts.
Combine Swiss Mountain sheep with Maori or other Bergschaf yarns. You can also combine it with 18/19 micron to create an inner layer that is next to skin soft when making garments. I love making slippers with an inner layer of 18/19 micron merino batt or Kap Merino and the outer layer being Swiss Mountain, combining softness with hard wearing wool.
- Yak and Mulberry Luxury Roving
A custom blend made for The Olive Sparrow — this is a commercially triple-blended roving/top which mixes the silk with the yak to create a lovely variegated roving. Although it requires some gentle coaxing to wet felt due to the high content of mulberry silk, the resulting felt is an absolute dream to wear right next to the skin.
The yak fibre is naturally fawn coloured, the mulberry silk is undyed.
To produce yak fibre for felting, the soft fine under hair is the desirable element of this animal’s coat and is removed commercially by dehairing, which separates the soft under hair from the coarse outer hair, known as guard-hair.
This also makes a lovely spun yarn.
Using acid dyes on this fibre is very interesting — the yak and its brown/yellow undertones combined with the undyed silk to absorbs colours differently and will make mottled/variegated tones. As the fibre is very fine, it lends itself to be dyed after felting or spinning.
- Mint Fibre
The fibre length is 75-80mm.
I love using mint fibre in the same way as mulberry silk — the softly off-white colour and the slight mat sheen give a look between the extra shiny mulberry silk and the much softer gloss of tussah silk.
Mint is a new biodegradable cellulose fibre that is infused with mint powder that is extracted from peppermint leaves. It does not smell of mint and has a lovely soft and cottony texture. This soft golden fibre has antibacterial properties and natural cooling properties. Mint infused roving can be dyed using natural plant dyes and mordants or other dyes suitable for cellulose fibres. Perfect for spinning and blending with fibres such as cotton, silk, wool and Linen. Great surface inclusion for wet felting. A wonderful vegan needle felting alternative.
Q-2 Two tools you use all the time?
I use my ball brauser — I generally have two on the go at the same time. I also love the hand-pumped vegetable sprayers from the garden centre to wet-out large areas. When doing a sculptural piece, handheld massage tools make shrinking of specific areas very fast. Thin painter’s plastic as one layer on bubble wrap — and I always use the bubble side down when initially starting to felt.
Q-1 One fibre art technique you love the most?
Having been blessed with learning handwork techniques from grade 2 onwards, my arsenal of techniques means that I often will blend them all together in a project. Because of the shop keeping me quite busy and still being needed as a mother, most of my creative time I spend making dolls or knitting simple items. Yet especially in doll making, I frequently wet felt garments for the dolls. Doll making lets me use all my skills. In wet felting, I love making long voluminous shawls — generally using at least a 4m length and 30” width. I also love working with Teeswater locks — washing, sorting, dying them. I sew them into wefts for my dolls and use them as fringes in shawls.
What is your business?
The Olive Sparrow.
Good Hand-Made Goods made by You and Me
Here is a bit of background information about how this all came to be:
The Olive Sparrow is me, Monika Aebischer, I am a felter and a natural fibre doll artist. I quite proudly call myself a crazy when it comes to collecting books about wet and needle felting. In a previous life, I was a mixed media artist with work in galleries across Canada. Sadly during the 2008 financial crash, the art market collapsed and I was forced to re-invent myself. As I had fallen in love with felt making during my student years at the Ontario College of Art and Design and had taken some wet felting workshops in Switzerland, it seemed to be the right direction to go. It also worked very well with my doll making — I needle felt the heads of my dolls and also make felted clothing for some of them. While growing up in Switzerland as part of my apprenticeship in selling women’s clothing, I studied fibres and textile manufacturing.
The Olive Sparrow shop started as a way to bring supplies to my felting students — I taught a 5-day felting intensive workshop at Loyalist College for 4 years every summer from 2011 – 2015. Every year I would import specialty felting fibres from Europe for my students. These students then wanted to purchase fibre after the workshop. Learning that there are several Fibre Festivals around Ontario made me realize that there was an opportunity to share these fibres with other felters. My painting studio slowly turned into a shop — alongside my selling on Etsy. I decided that the shop was going to focus on Felting supplies and not be another general fibre shop. I also decided that the focus will be on European felting fibres, rather than local fibres.
After 20 years in that space, I was forced to move in 2018, as the old building was being turned into condos. Now located in the East end of Toronto, the shop is in an industrial building — and open by appointment. There are about 600 square feet full of fibre, commercial 100% wool felt, Waldorf doll supplies, Sajou notions from France and select other items. The shop is also somewhat flexible, in that it can be transformed into a workshop space for 1-3 students.
Before we were in this Pandemic, the Olive Sparrow could be found at various fibre festivals — Twist, Picton, Woodstock, Peterborough, Knitter’s Frolic, Kitchener/Waterloo knitters festival, and other smaller events. 2020 has meant a focus on building out the online presence and extending inventory.
What kind of items do you sell?
Too many to list, however, here is a sampling —
18/19 micron roving in over 100 colours
24 Micron roving
Swiss Mountain Sheep batt
19 micron merino Batt
Pre-felt (both in 40 x 40 cm sheets) and by the meter
Maori and Maori/Bergschaft batt
100% wool felt by the sheet and many colours by the meter
Unicorn Power Scour
Premium locks – Teeswater extra length
Wool felt balls/hearts/stars from Nepal
Silk – Mulberry, Tussah
The Olive Sparrow is an official DHG Dyehouse reseller — carrying all of the pre-felt colours, as well as an extensive selection of 19 micron roving, 19 micron batt, sari silk waste, mulberry silk and a variety of other fibres.
What do you think makes your business different from similar ones?
Unique premium products from Europe — all our goods are imported from Europe. Volume discounts to help small-scale makers. Teaching workshops – private and customized — creativity counselling. Very hands-on knowledgeable. A brick and mortar shop that is open by appointment and sells online.
Where are you located?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada – at 19 Waterman Avenue — which is an industrial area just south of Eglinton and just off the Don Valley Parkway.
Where can we find you on the internet?
Monika is doing 2 Giveaways
To enter leave a reply below. Do not post your email but make sure there is one associated with your post. You can’t win if we cant reach you. The two winners will be announced on June 4th
Giveaway #1 — 100 grams of premium washed Teeswater locks 12″ undied/unsorted ready for you to decide what you want to do.
Giveaway #2 – 150 grams of Swiss mountain batt (you can choose the colours if your name is chosen)
48 thoughts on “Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow”
Now that’s what I call an Alladin’s Cave! I’m just sorry it’s not local to me (SW England), but then perhaps it’s as well as I could see me spending too much time (and money!) there whenever I could get the chance.
Oh my goodness , a wonderful reason to take a trip to Toronto. My mouth is watering…ok no drooling actually. Cmon Canada let us in soon! ❤️
Love the eye candy colors of the Swiss mountain wool! Will love to feel how it felts!
Wow Just WOW!
We love Monika and The Olive Sparrow. I have had the opportunity to visit her wonderful shop (pre-Covid) and can’t wait to make another journey to the Toronto area once it is save to do so again.
We love using Swiss Mountain for needle felting. It gives a lovely finish and felts nice and firm. I would really like to try those long locks too. Someday I’ll get to her shop!
I totally agree – Swiss Mountain is fabulous fibre.
I recently found an old receipt from a purchase from Olive Sparrow. I’m so happy to read more now.
I look forward to being allowed to enter into Canada. I’m excited to see your shop and work with new fibers. So exciting!
Wouldn’t it be lovely to go to fibre festivals again? Some day but in the meantime we can shop at wonderful shops like Monika’s. thanks for the give away.
Great to read more about your shop and how you got started. I have ordered a number of items from Olive Sparrow and used the lovely wooden buttons on a sweater for my granddaughter.
Wow! What a great shop. I would love to try the Swiss Mountain as well as these beautiful locks!
Oh my, that Teeswater is lush! Your shop looks fantastic, Monika 😀 I hope you can get back to doing workshops after the pandemic is over, I’m sure your students had a lot of fun. Greetings from Scotland!
I love Monika and The Olive Sparrow. Not only does she create and curate the most magical things but she is such a warm person who you will feel an instant connection with. She’s kind, generous and a really kind soul.
Thank you for showcasing The Olive Sparrow, a new to me shop. I suspect my wallet is not going to be happy.
Just wish this shop was local.
I love Monika and her shop can’t wait to go visit her again
How exciting to find a new supplier with fantastic sources of wool in vibrant colors and those locks are gorgeous. I’d love to stop by as soon as allowed to see them in person and meet. I’m thinking some of these will make great hats.
So great to get to know more about you and see so many beautiful products and finished objects. Thanks for the intro to your art and business.
I wish you were closer!
I love learning about new suppliers, and look forward to exploring!!
Would love to visit someday. Lovely article
Would love to visit someday.
Que genial sería traer todo a Uruguay!!!
What a shame about the stretch of water between us – your shop looks so inviting!
Very informative, colourful and interesting post. Thank you.
What a beautiful looking shop
How exciting to see more about Monika and her lovely shop! I purchased some class kits and other supplies here and had such a great experience! Hope to come visit in person one day!
WOW – what a comprehensive post! This is definitely a ‘keeper’. But then, I really would not have expected anything less from Monika (whom I ‘met’ through Wendo van Essen – another incredibly generous felting artist). I was lucky enough to meet Monika at her studio/shop and to browse her fabulous array of fibres. She has a super network of suppliers and artists and she is incredibly generous with advice on supplies and techniques and it is always a pleasure to see her again – although one needs to plan extra time to enjoy her enthusiasm and advice.
Lols.. yup.. I am rather verbose… <3
Not at all what I meant Monika! I love that you provided such useful and well-presented information.
Hey Monkia, Lovely post – broadening awareness of Olive Sparrow and your most wonderful supplies is a great thing. Love your products! and appreciate the little bag of ‘extra goodies’ in my last order.
I’d never heard of Allister or mint, good to know. They sound interesting. Good luck with your shop!
The Olive Sparrow is really fun and Monika is such a wealth of knowledge and talent! Her dolls are positively beautiful (Hugs from Tamina and I!) and opening a parcel from The Olive Sparrow is such a treat! Can’t wait to visit again!
I love all your answers, you seem like my kind of person. So glad you found your way to happiness, and a fulfilling life! 🤗
What a lovely shop and such a variety.
What beautiful wool! I am in the states so not likely that I will get to visit but I can drool here. What a lovely business..
Lisa — I ship internationally — lots of my clients are in the US — and those packages ship via USPS or UPS from Niagara Falls, NY .
Gorgeous fiber! Thanks for sharing some great information. The yak and mulberry combination and the mint are now on my list to try.
Danke fur deine super post Monika….it was lovely to read & informative.
Sadly there is too much water between us for me to visit. If I did, I’d need to bring a sleeping bag because I’d be there for days taking in all your glorious offerings.
Alles gute für reste 2021 u viel Spaße
i have missed saying hi to you in person with this horrible lack of Fiber Festivals i have not had a chance! i always enjoyed stopping by your booth, both the shopping and the photography options were always amazing! i will have to take a closer look at those batts when next we can meet in person! it will be so nice to see you again! i loved your post and the photos, take care and i will hope to see you at a fiber festival or even in Toronto some time soon.
Reading these ‘meet the suppliers’ has made me start creating a bucket list of places I want to visit when I have more time and ability to travel. The Olive Sparrow is definitely on that list. In the meantime I’m headed to that website right now!
I have purchased from and followed Monika and The Olive Sparrow for years via local Fibre Festivals and last year had a WONDERFUL socially distanced visit to her shop (when we were allowed to do such things). I was just overwhelmed with the riot of colour and beautiful items that greeted me in every direction that I turned! SOOOOOO many possibilities! Monika solved my specific problem in that visit plus showed me so many other options – I’ve been purchasing online from her over this year as well – shipping is fast and opening her packages is so much fun! Monika and The Olive Sparrow are VERY highly recommended (by me!) as an incredibly fun and creative resource and supplier!!! 🙂
Sandy Hall – Burlington, Ontario, Canada 🙂
Don’t envy me, but The Olive Sparrow is just down the street from BeadFX, where I work, and teach (when we’re allowed to). Monika’s shop is colourful, friendly, and full of temptation, but I am strong, sometimes. LOL! Do visit, when you can, or explore the convenience of shopping on-line. You won’t be disappointed!
I would get in terrible trouble living so close. The temptation would be overwhelming. Last time I was there I left with two large IKEA bags full of supplies (but to be fair, I live in Ottawa and had just been introduced to Monika and her fabulous selection). I do look forward to another visit after COVID though – seeing the vibrancy of her fibres in person … sigh, it is so beautiful.
Great person, great shop!!💜💜💜
The Olive Sparrow is a dream come true shop for felters and fibre artists. If you need it, Monika has it. She even has things you don’t know you need… but you actually do! All this on top of being the loveliest person. Can’t highly recommend this shop enough! ❤️
Thanks for such a thorough article. Will definitely order.
What a great interview. Thanks for sharing. I hope to make it across the border to your shop one day.