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Category: Other Fibers

Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow

Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow

Fibre 3, 2, 1

Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?

  1. 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.

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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.

 

  1. 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.

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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.

 

  1. 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.

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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.

 

General Questions

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.

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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

Kap Merino

19 micron merino Batt

Pre-felt (both in 40 x 40 cm sheets) and by the meter

Margilan silk

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

Viscose

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?

www.theolivesparrow.com

 

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)

Finishing the Flax  2020 Flax study group

Finishing the Flax  2020 Flax study group

I promise we are almost done, but I suspect you wanted to see the culmination shots from this year’s harvest!

This year we had planted two rows of flax, which did not look too excessive until we started to harvest it. Even with the flax being shorter this year, we still doubled the number of stocks we were dealing with. So, it took 3 Saturdays to finish the processing of the line this time. We did not finish all the tow into batts, there is a small bag of hackle waste left. This year we kept the best feeling drum carder waste to try combing the tow into top.

We were chilly but from Cathy Louise’s research, we needed dry, low humidity conditions for the final part of the process. Other than Remembrance Day on the 11th, which often rains, it is usually dry and cold in November here. Thus, we waited to work on it.  Sure enough, day 3 was about 4 degrees Celsius, which was quite nice in the sun but quickly lost its illusion of warmth when the sun hid out behind clouds.

Day 3  the plan – get the last of the Line through the hackles and finish tow from the hackle waste with drum carders.  We had Ann’s drum carder with the blue metal base from last week and Glenn had pulled out my two. One is chain driven; the other is belt driven. One is a bit coarser than the other but both are in the medium range.

 1 all 3 drum carders to finish the tow

To work on the line we had a coarse, medium and fine set of homemade hackles using nails. They had a hardwood base that had been predrilled before the nails were added. We also had an antique one that was between the medium and fine ones. The old one had blacksmith-made nails that tapered and had tin on the base.

 2 all the hackles

3-6  The New Hackles

    

7-11 the old hackles

While we worked, we compared last year’s line to this year’s. The colour is different and this years is finer (last years is in the plastic bag).

   

12- 19 working on the line and tow

The team worked hard until lunch arrived (more pizza). Glenn joined us after stopping at the farmers market to pick up butter tarts from Ann, it was very busy so he was running late and just in time for pizza.

 20  in the foreground; Cheese and mushroom pizza, mid-ground; flax going from the course to the medium hackles and in the background; the hackle waste to go to the drum carder.

The Cow supervisors were enjoying the weather and just generally looking cute decoratively draping themselves around the field beside the coverall barn.

 21 the Supervisors taking a break

Back to work finishing the last bit of line and deciding to leave the last of the hackle waste.

  

22-24 the last of the line

It was time to clean up the drum carders then gather and weigh the culmination of our summer’s work. Henry had brought the air compressor over to help clean the drum carders. It was a brilliant idea.  I do not think my carders have ever been so clean.

   

25- 27 Cleaning the Drum carders

Now it was time for the bagging and weighing. Cathy Louse had brought a scale and I had one of my wool washing buckets which we used to contain the fibre on the scale.  As Cathy Louse weighed it, Glenn wrote it down on the bag and Ruthann kept notes on the totals.

  

28-30  doing the math

We divided the line into 8 sections of 33 grams, bagged and labelled it.

31-34 Line bagged and ready to go

When the line was divided, we moved on to the batts of tow.

   

35-37 bagging the batts of tow

That left a bag of waste from the hackles that could be drum carded later and two bags of the waste from the drum carder. This we had set aside to try combing it since the test sample looked like it had potential.

Now for the Totals you have been waiting for!

Ruthanne said we got 271 grams of line, 556 of carded tow, 130 grams of uncarded tow and 573 grams of carder waste that we can try to comb and see what we get.

Cathy Louise and Henry calculated that we got 1530g of useable fibre from 400 square feet. Henry did the math and figured if we had done a full acre we would have had 29.52 Kg of line per acre and Carded tow 76.5Kg per acre.  If we tried an acre we would have to add Sundays as well as Saturdays or we would be working at it all winter! We would likely improve with all the practice but it’s still a lot of work!

We had a larger team than the final processing day. Some wanted to experience what it was like to process flax trying some or all of the steps. some were interested in the fibre to try spinning while others were not. It was a wonderful experience to be able to participate in.  It was especially welcome to look forward to seeing friends during the fibre work parties, especially during covid!  Thank you again to Cathy Louise and Henry for giving up a section of their Market garden, doing the ground prep and planting and the aromatic section of retting that we missed.  Thank you also to all the other members of the Flax Study Group 2020.

 38 the team for the final processing, Glenn taking the picture this time!

Year 2 Flax Study Group, The Violent bit’s at the end!

Year 2 Flax Study Group, The Violent bit’s at the end!

A review of year 2 so far

This year the flax study group planted the seed we had harvested from last year. We had enough to double our planting and had 2 rows planted this year. We had 2 covid-modified weeding parties at 4 to 6 inches of growth but without the wonderful cake to celebrate successful weeding!

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The first part of the summer was very dry and hot so the flax was ready earlier than anticipated. We left the harvested bundles of Flax resting against the garden fence to dry.

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Then the weather turned and it rained and rained and rained. (I should not have been trying to wash those fleeces in the side yard! See the blog post about sentient weather.) The flax started its retting while it tried to dry. Once it had finally dried enough, we were back out (August 29th) to extract seed from stock. The seeds this year are MUCH smaller than last years, and lighter in weight. The seed pods were definitely ready to pick but the dry weather was hard on the plants (shorter in stature and smaller seeds). We used a number of seed extraction methods.  The double rakes were great and the pillowcases and rolling pins were effective too. Unfortunately, winnowing (using the wind to seperate chaff from seed) was not working, not much wind and the seed was as light as the chaff) we had the best success with Henrys Sieves from the grain silos. (Brilliant idea Henry!!)

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Next the Flax, now de-seeded, went to the spa. (large trough of water with therapeutic cinderblocks to hold it under!) With the retting complete, we were ready to move on to the violent part of the process; Brakes, Skutching and the lovely Hackles! We set a date in November that we hoped most of us would be available to meet again at Cathy Louises’ coverall barn (the part the cows don’t live in! They are very cute cows but I don’t want to have to share the flax with them)

 14 supervisors

Now that we are all caught up again, let’s get to the best part of Flax processing; the vicious violent bits!

11/07/2020 Covid canceled our Guild sale but that leaves the Saturday free to start in on the flax. We met at the coverall barn on a fabulously wonderful un-fall-like day. It was so nice we worked in front of the barn, enjoying mild weather, the sun and no rain!

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Step 1 Braking;

The first step was braking the flax stocks to loosen and start the removal of the outer stock covering (the boon) from the long inner fibres which will become the linen. Bernadette, Ann and Cathy Louise experimented with hand braking before sending it to the brake but that was not as helpful as we had hoped.  If you did not have access to a flax brake this may be an option for you but it would take a lot of working the stocks to loosen the boon.

 17-18

Glenn and Gord were our main brakers this year. Glenn’s knee has been bothering him (postal work has not been diminished by Covid) so he quickly gave up on standing and has perfected the seated braking position.

 19-20

We had a couple of flax videos posted on our OVWSG flax study group Facebook page they were unfortunately in German (about Hackling) and in Russian about braking. From the video, Glenn modified his technique on the second Saturday to add scraping movements to the end of the braking. This seemed to make the next step a little easier.

  21-22

The technique seems to be to hold the root end, start at the tip (where the seeds were) and brake towards the roots flipping which side of the bundle is facing up. This first pass was done vigorously. Then work from the tip towards roots a little at a time still flipping the bundle but scraping gently each section as it is finished. Then flip and work the roots, which often broke off.

  23 the fibre is handed off to the next step

Step 2 Skutching;

As we got going, we had two primary brakers and 2-3 skutchers and the rest of us were on Hackle duty or taking photos. Skutching is a percussive movement hitting or flicking the stocks to loosen and remove as much of the outer layer as possible. The Skutching team were finding that splitting the bundle (by gently tugging on the ends) then reorienting the stocks parallel and continuing to skutch was effective.

  24-29

   30 fibre is sent to the next step

There was an intermittent breeze that kept depositing fibre into the shrubberies. (Sort of like pre-Christmas tinsel) I am sure the birds were sorry we didn’t do this part in the spring.

 31-33 Early Christmas tincil

Step 3 Hackles!!

The next step is my favourite part, the Hackles. They’re like a very sharp multi-pitch Viking comb that is clamped to the table. The flax is dragged through the top of the sharp pointy bloodletting teeth, removing even more of the boon. I watched the German video about Hackles, it was highly informative even with my only random words of German. He definitely was adamant about the angle, I think? I tried to mimic his diagonal pull through with change of direction on exiting the hackles. I also tried the flipping one side up then the other for each pass. This left the flax quite clean.

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   37-43

The hackling starts through the coarsest teeth then moves to finer and finer. Each step removes more boon. I was able to take out a few stubborn bits by flicking at them with a fingernail. We also were drafting off the hackles as the tow built up in it. The remnants still trapped in the comb, we bagged to process with the drum carder next week.

 44 some of the line

Just so you don’t think we were horribly overworked, we did break for Pizza

  45-46

We did quite well today but only got about half way through the harvest, well we did double the planting we did this year! So far, the flax is short but very fine. We bagged the tow for next week and made little stricks of the line. We did do a lot of work but it doesn’t show from the pile remaining!

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Some of the flax has a distinct hue of green.  The rest looks very familiar.

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11/14/2020  Day 2, similar in process to day 1 but with less sun or good temperatures.

It was much colder today, still no fluffy solid rain or serious cloud dandruff, yet (Yeah!!) so we moved into the coverall to work. The hacklers were by the barn door, while it provided great light there was a cool breeze. We continued to work on the braking and finished it off, leaving one bundle to compare with last years. We continued working on the skutching and hackling and added making batts with the tow.

  53-61

Our tow team today was Deborah and Cathy Louise.

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Deborah and Cathy Louise worked together to make batts of the tow.  We tried one pass but decided to try a second pass which was markedly improved.  They tried a third pass, but it was deemed very similar to the second pass. We found the waste from the drum carder to be very soft and have kept it.   We tried hand combing it with small 2 pitch hand combs with a good test result. We will collect the carding waste and comb it later.  Using the drum carder caused a lot of the chaff/boon to drop out underneath it.

    67-68 first and second pass

    69-70 Second and third pass

  71-72 Drum carder waste combed

We compared last year’s plant after retting to this year and saw a difference in height and this year’s plants are much finer in the stock. They were planted about 2 weeks earlier, but also harvested earlier than last year. We did not harvest too soon since the plants had flowered and were producing seeds so it was the correct time to harvest. It was extremely dry this summer until we harvested then it rained, a lot!

   73-75

We got most of the skutching finished today too.

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We bagged up the batts of tow we created today. We will be weighing the amounts of line and tow we have created likely next week.

 77

We will be back to work for our last day of processing this year next Saturday. There is a bit more to hackle then all the tow to process. When we are done, we will weigh out the tow and line and see what our yield was this year. Although the flax was definitely reduced in height the fineness of the fiber is spectacular, even the tow is soft and quite nice. I am looking forward to getting one of the flax wheels upstairs and put to work spinning part of this year’s harvest.

   78- 79

The spot we had the flax growing this summer is turned for winter and garlic has been planted there. It has been an amazing experience working with the flax team. Next year is a bit up in the air, we will hope to be changing planting locations or we may wind up taking a summer off.

 

3rd Quarter Challenge and Summer Poker Challenge in One.

3rd Quarter Challenge and Summer Poker Challenge in One.

My guild does a summer poker challenge every summer. first, you pick weaving or spinning or new this year felting. You pick 3 cards from a deck of cards to find out your challenge for the summer. The idea is to get you to try something you wouldn’t usually do.  I picked my card in June. I got blue, cotton and metallic.  Then Lyn and Annie announced the 3rd quarter challenge of a personal item to keep you warm. There is more about the challenge here:

2020 Third Quarter Challenge

The first thing I did was dye some open-weave cotton I had.  You can read more about that here in this blog post I did:

Cotton dyed and some new fibre.

All the pictures will open larger if you click on them.

My plan is to make a lightweight poncho for cool evenings. This requires a big layout. the start is 4feet by 4feet. I put the first layer of cotton down and decided to use thin plastic for the resist so it would roll up easily. I don’t need to feel the edge of the resist like you do making a hat.

I added the second piece of cotton and sewed around the edge using big basting stitches.

Then I took it all out and overlapped the edges and sewed it up again. The edge will be visible on the inside and I didn’t want the seam sticking out.

All sewn together

Next, I added a very thin and not perfectly neat, layer of medium blue. I want the cotton to show through. Then started adding the embellishments. Sorry about the pictures not being great but I am holding my phone as high up as I can, trying to get an overall shot.

This one is a bit better. Mostly the embellishments are wool in different colours.  I added the metallic threads to take care of that part of the poker challenge but didn’t get a good picture.

These are the 2 sparkly nylons I used for the metallic part of the challenge; bronze and steel. I only used a little. I don’t want to sparkle very much.

Next is wet it all down, and start felting- rubbing and rolling.

When it was starting to shrink I opened one corner to be the hole for the head and opened the bottom 2 sides.

Here it is finished.

And the cotton sides

Here are some closeups

The cotton side

The wool side

And the metallic bitts, they don’t shrink so they get wiggly.

I am very happy with the result. The wool separated out and let the cotton show through. It has a nice light feel and I think it invokes the feel of moving water or ripples on a pond. It should work well for cool nights.

More sewing shenanigans (but still no waistcoat)

More sewing shenanigans (but still no waistcoat)

If you’ve been following my waistcoat sewing adventures, you’ll know I was fairly optimistic I’d have a finished (or, more advanced) garment to show you by now.

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Here she stands, in a corner, mocking me…

The thing is… I’ve hit a snag. After finding out the shoulder area needed more work, and realising the pattern I’d bought was more or less useless, I got discouraged. The major mental roadblock was finding out I’ll probably need to remove all the tailor interlining I’d hand sewn in order to fix the shoulder problem; also knowing my pattern-making skills are still in their infancy and therefore can’t be trusted, isn’t helping.

Of course, I’m nothing if not a great procrastinator, and therefore do have something new to show you.

In my free time (ok, when I’m stressed) I managed to follow a commercial pattern and make a new rabbit, as well as her garments.

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She’s got a lovely dress as well as some cute boots, plus a very proper-looking jacket!
The jacket was the most complicated make (I also found a couple of tiny instruction mistakes) but the most fun. She looks cozy, doesn’t she?

I had some leftover material and decided to create a smaller version of the bunny. I’m still undecided on gender. This is important as it will define the wardrobe. What do you think, boy rabbit or girl rabbit?

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Made from scraps of felt. I’ll probably change those weird eyes!

I had my bunny family sitting on a shelf in my studio. They looked alright there, but… incomplete.

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My studio library isn’t fibre-centric at all…

Suddenly I remembered I had a pattern for an armchair, part of the rabbit collection. It looked both complicated enough to be entertaining and simple enough to be finished in a short amount of time. I had to make two.

Well… the pattern had a couple of mistakes (this is starting to become a thing with me, isn’t it?) so I did have to take some time away from it after realising I’d cut the fabric too short in some places. After some consideration, a solution presented itself and I managed to finish one armchair.

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I did it in patchwork fashion for a trendy look. I’d never done this type of fabric assembly before, so if there’s anyone reading who understands how it works, feel free to point out any mistakes I might have made.

All in all, I think it came out quite decent, and my rabbit looks comfy and elegant sitting on it.

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Now… there’s a tiny bit of felting to be had in this story. See the chair’s rounded arms? The pattern tells me to use some wool batting, roll it up and hand sew in place. I had a better idea: I receive a weekly food box that has an insulating padding made of recycled bottles, and I thought, “this would be a great way to reuse it!” Will it felt, though? I brought out my needles, had a go, and success!

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Needle felted plastic, who would’ve guessed?

This will be going in the other armchair that I haven’t finished yet. Wish me luck, I hope this second one comes out looking similar, or I’ll have to create a story in my head as to why one rabbit is more deserving of comfort than the other…

So… maybe next post I’ll have a waistcoat? Don’t hold your breath, but fingers crossed.

What have you been up to lately? Any miniature furniture sewing? Tell me all in the comments section.

 

First Mer-Pet

First Mer-Pet

First Pet for the Mer’s (“it followed me home, can we keep it?” begged Mer-Teen “Only if you take it for walks and clean its litter box” replied Mrs Mer.)

This has again been a busy week. We were off to see if the walker had arrived on Friday and found out that they had received 2 walkers they hadn’t ordered and not the one I had ordered. So maybe it will be this week.  Saturday we had a trip out the Farmers Market at the log farm not too far away from home. Ann and her Husband have a booth there. (go for the butter tarts, stay for the cookies, sausage, meat pies, bread …. And that is just at Ann’s booth. Ann is multi- talented!!)

 

    1-4

 

I added the fingers and hands to my Mer-Teen and worked on musculature for the forearms  I did a bit more musculature on the tail giving it vestigial quads, Knees, gastrocs and even Glutes (I may have to upgrade the gluteal endowment on her parents!! They are sadly lacking.) I now have the under-structure about to the stage I want for the Mer’s. So I ordered some coriadail.  Most were for possible skin tone blending from our local fibre store, Wabi Sabi on Wellington St.  They were doing order on-line with pick-up 2 days a week. Glenn kindly said he would go fetch the fibre for me.

 

 5-6

While I was waiting for the fibre pick-up day to arrive, I considered possible pets that the Mer’s should have. So I browsed Google image for sharks and found I liked the great white and the huge one that had some particularly good photos taken of her.

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Armed with a substantial selection of sharkness from many different angles I set to work building an armature. Using the aluminum wire from the dollar store I made a basic skeleton with lower jaw, pectoral, dorsal, second dorsal and caudal fins.

14 14

Working from the same, now quickly shrinking batt of alpaca, (thanks Ann!! I hope you find another one you don’t want!), I started at the head/jaw and worked towards the tail.  As you can see, I was watching Sara’s Felt along flowers while building a juvenile great white shark.  Just to the right is my photo reference to help me get the jaw and head the right shape.

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After the felt along was finished I switched back to playing Runescape while felting (Multitasking!! That is my greatly missed Dog’s character in the gold armor. I got him an account because it wasn’t fair that the cat got to have an account and he didn’t.) You can see I have reached the pectoral fins and the nose angle and jaw line are now closer to realistic.

16 16

Eventually I put on an audio book and really made some progress. Now I’m only a few fins short of a shark.

  17-18

A quick break for gardening and it was on to the missing bits to finish her off.

   19-21

So now I have the Mer-teen under layer reasonably close to what I was hoping for and the female juvenile great white shark under layer done .  I have one more pet underway but I will show you that later.

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Today I was off to Wabi Sabi to pick up my wool order (Coriadail and Shetland). I separated each colour into its own bag with a tag so I can reorder, as I get low. (This will help a lot since I don’t always remember where I got a fibre)

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Tomorrow I am hoping to start some colour blending, now that I think I have the base colours I want to work from. I still have to find the alpaca I was looking for and part of that bump of white South American coriadale I got quite a few years ago. I think I saw them in the living room last, now where could they be hiding?

 

Stay healthy and keep your hands in warm soapy water with wool.

 

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2020 Flax project year 2 (Coronas Virus version)

2020 Flax project year 2 (Coronas Virus version)

Last fall we harvested and processed the flax grown over the summer. As part of the process, we removed the seeds from the stocks. We got quite a bit of seed. Some of which will be used to make flax-dressing (also known as elephant snot). It is a truly disgusting mucus looking substance that makes spinning flax much easier. But you don’t need very much to make a reasonable quantity so we ended up with more seed than we started with. Since everyone wanted to have a second year of the project, we put aside most of the three harvestings of seeds.

Technical details

– First, and largest harvest, was expected to yield the finer flax but less ripe seeds (500g)

– Second and third harvest were a smaller patch we had kept in reserve to check the increase in coarseness of the fibre and to obtain fully mature seeds. (550g)

At the density planted last year this would allow us two rows and some left over for flax dressing.

 

April 25th 2020 – a beautiful day at Cathy Louise and Henry’s Farm

Flax 1 1 Henry with the two flax plots

The ground is free of snow, has been tilled and Cathy Louise and her husband Henry plant the seeds in two  4′ X 50′ plots.  The east plot is on the left and has the second and third harvests seeds (550g), the west plot on the right has the first harvest seed (500g).

By May 8th 2020 , undaunted by late snow flurries, the seeds are sprouting and looking like a green mist on the ground!

Flax 2-east side 2 East plot – second and third harvests seeds

Flax 3-west side 3 West plot – First harvest seeds

4-5 Close ups of seeds

 

May 18th 2020 (the long weekend for those of us who are getting lost in as to the date), Cathy Louise checks the progress of the flax.

flax 6 east side 6 East plot – second and third harvests seeds

Flax 7 West side  7 West plot – First harvest seeds

At this point, it looks like the first harvest seeds may be a little slower or have a slightly lower germination rate but they are pretty close.

 

May 28th 2020, Next growth check. The flax is 4 inches tall and filling in

Flax 8 the east side   8 East plot – second and third harvests seeds (some of Cathy Louise’s Market garden is visible to the left of the plot.)

Flax 9 the west side  9 West plot – First harvest seeds

 

The weeds are starting to show and are about the same height as the flax. It is time to call in the weeding crew. We have a quick email chat about weeding dates at first booking the weekend so everyone can help out, possibly in shifts. It was quickly realized quite a few of us did not have plans for Monday! This time the ill fortune for many of us on reduced hours or off work completely is to our advantage! (Finally a good thing has arisen from all the bad.)

So adding masks to gardening equipment we will be heading out to see Cathy Louise and Henry on June 1st!

 

June 1st 2020, Weeding part 1 (we saw people we don’t live with!! it was wonderful!)

flax 10 10

We arrived at 10am and were impressed with the amount of growth from the flax. We quickly got to work.

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11-14

Looking at the flax we suspect we will increase the seed density next planting. At this point both plots look quite healthy. Here are a few close ups.

15-16 East plot – second and third harvests seeds

17-18 West plot – First harvest seeds

As you can see we had a number of different weeding techniques today. Glenn used his now traditional horizontal weeding position and Bernadette preferred the milk crate over the kneeling stool we had brought. We also had examples of kneeling and standing, with back supported by resting one arm on the upper leg (Quads). All techniques worked since you can see the carcasses of the extracted weed army littered about the valiant and triumphant weeders!!

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19-26 different weeding techniques

The rows, being quite long,  we all were able to keep socially distanced while still being able to chat. It was wonderful to see everyone. We got a good amount done but we wore out, let us say we made a strategic withdrawal from the field  before getting both rows fully free from the weeds. We hope to finish up the first batch of weeding on Saturday.

Here is today’s work crew. As we wearily wandered from the field leaving the flax, a few remaining weeds and the silent member of the group to watch over the flax, so no one nibbles on it before it’s ready for harvest.

 

flax 27 the socialy distanced foto of todays team!flax 28 close up of silent member of flax group

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Degumming Silk Throwsters Waste

Degumming Silk Throwsters Waste

Today we have a throwback post. It was originally posted by Zed in 2011. Jan is ill and can’t make a post and I thought this would be interesting to everyone.

A few years ago I was given some gorgeous multi-coloured Throwsters waste in a fibre swap. I’ve always used it sparingly, worried it’d run out and I’d have to begrudgingly pay a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny handful. Then a few months ago I was ordering wool and fibres from World of Wool and thought I’d take the plunge and order some gummed throwster’s waste since it cost less for 100g than most people charge for 10g dyed. I had no idea it’d be so stiff and dull! The complete opposite of what I was used to. I had absolutely no idea how to de-gum it either 🙂

A couple of days later after a few hours searching the internet, I was confident I’d pieced together enough info to try de-gumming for myself. I thought I’d probably have to try it a few times before getting it right, but was pleasantly surprised to see it work first time with excellent results 🙂

If you’d like to try it yourself or are just interested in the process, I’ve made a tutorial with lots of photos and an easy to follow table for working out quantities.

Degumming Silk Throwsters Waste

I’ll be following up later this week with a tutorial for direct dyeing small amounts of animal fibres with acid dyes, which can be used to dye your degummed throwster’s waste some gorgeous colours 🙂

I have to say Thank You to foragingfibers whose pictures convinced me it was worth trying to degum my own throwster’s waste 🙂

Flax Study Group Part 3

Flax Study Group Part 3

Flax Study Group Part 3

(sorry this is a Long Post if you make it through to the end there are videos! make sure to check out the one on flax dressing its really horrible looking stuff but works exceedingly well)

After a break for the guild Sale and Exhibition we resumed the Flax project on Saturday, November 16th at 10am. It included a potluck lunch.

A quick review of what went before:

– April 4, 2019 Waiting for the soil to thaw and dry

– May 5th  Prepare the ground and plant the seeds; germination expected in 10-14 days.

– May 13th Sprouts are seen

– June 08 2019 – Weeding party

– June 28 2019 – The first flowers have appeared

– July 7 2019 flax flowering is slowing down,  seed pods developing

– July 9th added extra support ropes to keep flax from collapsing during impending torrential rain storm

– July 13 flax survived storm – wind and heavy rain

– July 18 Seed pods are showing signs of turning yellow

– July 27, 2019 at 10 am First Harvesting  (1/4 of the crop has been left to be harvested in 2 parts later)

– July 29 Bernadette tries rippling, not yet ready.

– August 10 2019 Rippling and Winnowing the flax then beginning of the retting

– August 15 the remaining crop is ready to harvest for the seed

– August 17 2019 continuing threshing and winnowing. Retted flax laid out to dry

Which brings us up to November 16th at 10am. We converged at Cathy Louise’s Coverall barn where the flax was waiting for us.

11 kiddie pool of first harvest, retted flax

We kept the flax in the three sections of harvesting. The first harvest in the kiddy pool, second harvest on one end of the metal troughs (it’s the darker colour) and the last harvested, saved for the seed, which is the lighter colour and at the other end of the trough.

22 the later harvests darker, below, harvested before the lighter on the top of the picture

Starting with the largest amount, we began the breaking. (Let the Violence begin!). The Brake breaks up the outer fiber to start to access the long linen fibers within. We eventually figured out this was a very important step. Cole who has processed many local bass fibers (dog strangling vine particularly) had the most experience with the equipment. He had built his own brake, we had the loan of an antique and Gord had found a good rugged one for sale.

 

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3-6 Using the Brake

After the fiber had been cruelly beaten by the brake its fate turned dire as it was firmly thwacked by a skutching sword. The best one seemed to be the Lilac branch that had been split and slightly shaped. It was a bit more flexible than the kitchen implements Cathy Louise had tried or the wooden swords similar to my Viking sword beater. Cole had brought a massive timber and a board with a hand-protecting hole cut in it. Both worked more ergonomically than the boards we had started with.

7-8 Skutching Knife made from Lilac

9-11 Skutching tool  formerly a kitchen impliment

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12 -16 our various skuching boards, note the handy safety hand hole to keep your finger safe.

The next step was the Hackles. This is the sharp part!! By this point, you really do need to have your tetanus shots up to date.

1717 setting out the hackles

We set up a coarse, medium and fine set. We had been lent both old and newer Hackles, all were very sharp and really should be used with gloves. I found them highly photogenic.

1818 i got a few really cool shots of these viscous implements of plant torture

We ran the flax through the teeth to separate the line (the long really good fiber) from the tow (the shorter pieces that are not as sought after but still will spin and weave up nicely)

192019-20 drawing the flax through to hackles removes more of the shorter fibers and leaves the high quality line linen. you can see the tow stuck in the hackles and on the table.

We worked from the course to the medium to the fine. Producing small amounts of line flax.

21222324 21-24 Hackles and a growing pile of Tow

As you can see there was a lot of tow for as little bit of flax. We suspect that we will get a better yield with greater attention to breaking and possibly slightly longer retting. This is our first time and we suspect the growing season was not prime for flax so we hope for a better harvest next year. The Line flax we got from the process was very nice; most of it seemed quite fine from the first batch.

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25-26 inspecting the flax and checking out the cows

While we were torturing plant life on one end of the coverall our neighbours were having an extended lunch or maybe it was second or third lunch. Like cats, cows seem to feel that there butt ends are one of their best features. I had trouble getting a shot that wasn’t mostly butt shots. (I had promised the study group not to take them but not all the cows would cooperate.)  Thinking of lunch it was time for ours so off we went back to the house to enjoy it and get a bit warmer.

Lunch break Pot Luck:

 

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27 – 35 Lunch

After lunch, Cathy Louise showed us her CPW (Canadian Production Wheel) she has an amazing spot to sit and spin in her loft.

Then it was back to work

36 – 40  thump thump thwak thump thwak thwak

At the end of the day we had 2 bags of floor findings from the Brakes and the same amount from the Skutching and possibly a bit more from the hackle leavings. We kept them separate to work on as part of the final days processing.

This was the amount of line linen we produced.

41424344 41-44 our days work, a little bit of good line linen and lots of tow

Final day of flax processing

45 45 the coverall barn that we were sharing with the cows and some annoyed birds

Saturday November 23 at 9:30 am, one week later and we were back at the coverall.

46-47  Alison had brought her course drum carder to try on the flax

4848   First batt off the drum carder looked promising.

49-50     Bernadette arrived with the dew-retted flax she had done. It was a darker colour. She also had big English combs in her bag to try out with the flax.

51 -53 4 pitch English combs by Alvin Ramer

Unfortunately the combs were not as successful as we had hoped ( it shredded both the long and shorter fibers) so we continued with the drum carder.

54 -55   Here is the difference in colour between the two types of retting (field and trough)

56-57  We finished possessing the last of the flax and put most of the tow through the drum carder once before we cleaned up for lunch.

5858 Cole made a quick bit of rope out of some of the coarsest waste. He used the strange wooden tool on the table to make the rope.

Lunch Break Pot Luck!

 

59-62 Lunch!

After lunch, we measured and divided the flax seeds. We kept part for next year’s planting from the late harvested plants. We each got a portion to either plant at home or make flax dressing from. (This is used instead of water when spinning the flax or to size a warp for weaving. Bernadette made some it was truly an interesting viscosity but worked extremely well for spinning.

 

6565  We then weighed and divided the line flax.

66-67 the line is ready to be divided

We looked at the difference between the two methods of retting and tried to determine if the second and third sections harvested were much coarser than the first.

6868  We kept aside samples for comparison later.

Then it was back to the coverall for a quick peek at the cows and to give the tow a second pass through the drum carder.

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-73 We divided up the tow, did a final clean up and headed for home.

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75 75  (Glenn took this just to prove I was actually there since I wasn’t in any of the pictures!)

I took  a number of videos while we were processing the flax and Bernadette’s experimentation with flax dressing. If you would like to see all the videos please consider joining the OVWSG Flax Project Private Group on face book https://www.facebook.com/groups/642029912915854/?fref=nf

Cole using the Brake:

Cole Skutching

The Hackles

Drum carder with the Tow

 

this is the culmination of this part of the Flax study group.   Bernadette has boiled 2 tbs of the flax seed to make a flax dressing which is used to size warps that are being difficult and to add in spinning flax.

11-25-19 flax dressing – Bernadette with wool and flax spinning using Flax dressing.

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed the Flax study group as much as i did participating (well i did more photography and not as much hands on but it was still a blast and i hope to be able to participate in next years study group).  if this appeals to you too you mite want to join next years study group or maybe start your own.

PS it takes a lot longer to upload a video than it dose a picture so its much later than i expected it to be and i think i best head off to bed now.

Flax Study Group Part 2

Flax Study Group Part 2

Flax Study Group Part 2

In my Last post, we got up to the pulling of the flax plants, tying them in small bundles and laying them against the fence to dry. But this was not the worst fate for these unsuspecting plants. I was unable to attend this section of the processing but the rest of the group worked hard to Ripple and Winnow the flax.

 

1 aug.7 The flax bundles were moved into the barn out of the rain Aug. 7th

August 10 Most of the flax group got together for a rippling and winnowing party. To Ripple the flax will separate the seed heads from the stocks. The flax from the first part of the harvest should provide the best fibre but the seed will not be as mature. The two sections we left till later should have coarser fibre but better seed viability.

We had a couple suggestions of how to get the seeds separated from the stocks. The use of two rakes did not work out well but Bernadetts’ description of pillow cases and rolling pins had a much better result.

 

Now that the flax stocks have been decapitated it’s time for winnowing. This will remove the chaff from the seeds. The instructions suggested a breeze was required.  After a bit of experimentation it was determined a strong breeze or wind worked well.

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7 winnowing flax sead after winnowing

Success, the seeds remain but almost all the chaff is gone.

There is worse in store for this poor unfortunate plant.  At the end of the day it is thrown into a trough and weighted down with cinder blocks. This will not be a spa treatment or a mob execution.  It will be a retting.

8 Retting

Day 1 Aug 10 the water is the colour of apple juice,

9 retting day 2day 2 Aug 11 the colour of tea, then the retting really starts on Aug 13th.

10 Retting fermentation has started

Tuesday August 13 2019, 10:30 am

11 Retting Aug 13 later afternoon fermentation has startedAugust 13 2019 5 PM

12 Retting Aug 14 Aug 14 th

13 AUg 14 the testing a stockOn Aug. 13 Cathy Louise tested a stock of the retting flax  for separation of the boon from the stock. Some is still sticking to the fiber. so it needs a bit more cooking.

14 Flax layed out to dry after rettingAug 17 All the first batch was removed from the trough and moved to the field to dry.

15 Pulling strands of fiber from the flaxAug 17 the fibre is separating from the flax stalk.

On the Same day the second harvested batch went into the trough in the same water that had been used to rett batch one. There was hope that this would speed up the retting process. It seemed to have changed the colour (the second batch was darker than batch 1)  but I’m not sure if it went faster. The final batch went into fresh water to rett after this batch was out.

16 retting batch 2 aug 17

18 another batch drying aug 21another batch drying in the field

17 finished drying batch 1 and back in the barn Aug 21Batch 1 is now dry and is sent to the barn to await an even more terrible fate but first we had the guild Sale and exhibition in early November. So we took a brief paws.

A quick review: We tore the heads of the flax by stuffing them head-first in pillow cases and crushing them with rolling pins. Then took their severed heads and threw them skyward; letting the chaff separate from the seeds. Then off to a spa experience you would never want to experience. Submersion under cinder blocks until rotting starts. Next they were pulled out and left to dry over uncomfortable sticks in a field. Lastly bundled into the barn where they may be safe.

But wait!  There is more indignity to come for the poor flax plant!  it only gets more violent,  We still have the breaks, skutching and hackles to deal with!!  But I think I better make that part 3, I promise to have videos in the next installment. (And of course lots more violent fun fiber torture! I am sure it will all be worth it in the end!)

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