Vancouver 2023 – Fibers West Friday

This trip, I took a lot of video clips instead of so many pictures. This means I don’t have a lot of pictures to show you of what I actually did. You can now see the video I put together on Rachel’s latest livestream! The montage starts at 6:59, linked in the show notes.

Another way to tell the story of trip is via the stuff I bought! So I’m going to do that, without apology, without justification, without guilt, without going into the specter of consumerism that always looms over us. I bought these things, I’m proud of the fact that I stuck to my list and my budget, and I’m excited about the plans I have to work with them.

Friday morning we headed out to the main event: Fibers West. Organized by Penelope Fiber Arts, Fibers West is a spinning-focused fiber festival that takes place every year at the Cloverdale Agriplex in Surrey, BC.

Now, I grew up going to the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival, which is the largest fiber festival in North America. It’s impossible not to compare these two events. Fibers West all fits in the equivalent of the Main Barn at MDS&W, and that includes class space and eating area. It’s small. But it’s focused in on all the things we handspinners love the most, and it gives you time to really enjoy what’s there, instead of being caught up in the enormity of hundreds upon hundreds of vendors and events.

Rachel and I took our time arriving in the morning; I think we got there around 10:30. We did a leisurely circuit of the vendors, getting derailed by conversation more than once. We met a few Wool n’ Spinning members, who I should have taken pictures with but forgot. Marjorie and Tessa, it was so lovely to meet you!

I did some shopping for Alide and my mom, and for myself. Here is a list of my favorite vendors, as told by their purchases.

CraftyJaks Boutique

You knew I was going to stop at Katrina‘s booth. I didn’t have anything I needed to buy there, but this was one stop where I allowed myself some leeway, because I want to support her, and just love her work.

I snagged a skein of sock yarn for my mom, and for myself I picked up two of her colourways that I haven’t tried yet on bases I haven’t tried yet.

This is “Always Believe” on Swaledale, which looks to be a coarse and kempy fiber. I look forward to unusual breeds like this as they are often fun to spin, even if you wouldn’t wear the final yarn on your neck. It’s perfect for a sweater yoke.

This is “After the Storm” on a BFL/Kid Mohair base. This is a truly intriguing sock blend that I can’t wait to try, and I adore the idea of those bright rainbow colours with grey. It’ll be great to compare this colourway with the total rainbow colourway of hers, “Summer’s Delight,” which I have on Targhee.

Disdero Ranch

Rachel is a big fan of Disdero Ranch, and has spun and knit with a ton of her stuff. It was great to briefly meet Laurie and see the new yarns she is having spun up. I didn’t find exactly the yarn I was looking for, but I did buy one half-skein of her Copaca DK.

This is a Corriedale-Alpaca blend, a 2-ply DK weight. I would have bought a mountain of this if it had come in white. I was on the hunt for 2-ply DK- or sport-weight in natural white, to use in projects framing my Year of Colour samples. I didn’t have much luck on that super-specific hunt. This is the peril of being a handspinner looking for a commercial yarn; you know enough to be too picky. I’ll be playing with this, though. It has a really nice hand in the knitted samples Laurie had to hand.

West Coast Colour

I visited Lynne and Anne’s booth a number of times over the course of the day. Their booth had a special place in my heart, because of memories of visiting the pop-up shop at Anne’s house three years ago. Anne said, and I agreed, that if we’d known then what we know now, we would not have had or attended that little event she organized!

Lynne dyes super fun colours on a number of bases, and keeps her prices exceptionally reasonable. It took a lot of self control not to fall all the way down with my credit card in her booth. Mercifully, she also sells her undyed bases, which included a perfect ingredient for my Qiviut Blending Project: a great whack of Targhee top. Targhee is a breed of sheep related to the Merino, but it has a longer staple (staple is how long the individual fibers are), making it nicer to work with. It makes very squooshy, sproingy yarn.

Seriously, though, she sells enough exciting colours and bases to keep me busy for years. Why get into dyeing, Rebecca, when there are artists like these around?

Sarah Elizabeth Fibre Works

It was exceedingly cool to finally meet Sarah Elizabeth, whom Rachel has talked about for ages. She’s super fun to talk to, and her booth is full of art batts and mix-ins to make your own. I actually didn’t buy anything from her until Saturday, when Diana’s colour play class convinced me that I needed to go home with some sparkle. I acquired two colours of sari silk:

And three of Angelina:

These quantities are tiny, but are enough to keep me going for a long time on my blending board.

Sarah Elizabeth also had a display of a blanket project that I believe is called the Witness Blanket project. I may be remembering it incorrectly; I’ve reached out to Sarah Elizabeth and will correct if I’m wrong. Basically, it’s connected to the discovery over the last couple of years of thousands of unmarked graves of children lost to the residential school system in Canada. That is a really long story, but this project in particular is deeply intriguing, and one I’d like to learn more about connecting with our people in the north, who have been so deeply affected by these discoveries.

Small Bird Workshop

The one shop I fell down really hard at was one that I was so pleased to see at the festival. Small Bird Workshop is all about using the Canadian Fibershed – Fibershed, being a term like watershed, to refer to the fibers available locally within a region. Canada is such a resource-heavy nation, and there are a ton of sheep here, but a huge proportion of the wool in Canada is just burned. The sheep are raised for meat, and the wool isn’t even worth the cost of gas to get it to the mill. A few intrepid spinning suppliers are working to change that, to show off the amazing qualities of the wool available in this country, and highlighting some other excellent local breeds from other parts of the world. Catherine at Small Bird Workshop is forefront among them.

And, her fibers are exactly what I wanted for the bulk of my Qiviut Blending Project.

This is BFL from the UK. I bought this to supplement the BFL I already have in two different blends, although that BFL is hand-processed fleece from an island off the coast of BC. BFL is a great part of this experiment because it’s a fine wool, but it’s also a longwool, with more of a wave than a crimp.

This is Tunis from Ontario, another very soft but longish wool breed. It’s one I’ve wanted to try for ages.

These freakishly long oatmeal-coloured braids are Rambouillet from Wyoming. I would have bought a sweater quantity of these if she’d had enough, but there were only 200g available. That oatmeal brown is exactly right, you know what I mean? Rambouillet is another finewool, I believe a Merino relative, and this is going to be a treat to work with.

My aim was 300g of each fiber, so since I could only get 200g of the Rambo, I added 100g of this Rambouillet/Alpaca blend from the same flock. The alpaca was black, which toned the oatmeal down to a really beautiful grey.

This is Cheviot from the UK, and contributes a down-like wool breed to the collection. I also love the light grey colour. Including a few different natural colours in the experiment will provide interest in the final blanket (did I mention it’s going to be a blanket?) as well as some more subtle colour experimentation.

Last but not least, this is Romney wool from Barnston Island, which is right in the region of Fibers West. I don’t think I’ll use this to blend with qiviut, as it’s quite long and wavy and not very fine, but I picked this up to spin singles. Many of my Year of Colour samples are singles, and I wanted to spin some faster singles to frame those samples in projects.

I felt so lush buying all this fiber at once. It was so much that the three people working the booth all expressed a satisfying amount of shock. One of the absolute highlights of the day was walking around the corner to where Rachel was sitting, and seeing her almost fall off her chair with shock at my armload of wool. One less polite lady said “what’s all that for?” I said “It’s for a blanket.” She said “Big blanket,” in a skeptical tone, and walked away while I stood still chuckling. Oh, how funny it so to be one of those people sometimes!

Mawdsley Fiber Arts

One of the fun things for me about this day of visiting at the festival was just riding Rachel’s coattails of awesomeness. It’s so fun to see her in her element, as she is a force to be reckoned with in this community, and has impacted so many people for good.

Mary (I hope I am remembering her name correctly) won the prize for coolest Rachel-fan of the day. The way she just leaned right into her fangirling made me feel really seen – which is ironic, because I don’t think she saw me at all. Anyway, totally lovable human. She makes beautiful hand-turned tools for handspinning, and she sent Rachel home with two of her spindles that she wasn’t 100% happy with. Rachel, being generous herself, sent me home with one of them.

It was truly inevitable that I would have to try supported spindling at some point. I’m practicing a little every day right now, and I’ll write about it when I finally succeed at making something like yarn on it.

Diana’s Spindling Lecture

We capped off the afternoon by sitting down in the lecture area to listen to Diana Twiss talk about spindles. She brought myriad examples of all types of spindles, both suspended and supported, and explained the history and usage of each.

Of course Greta had to hand me a supported spindle, and just the feel of it spinning in my hand was gorgeous. It was helpful to hear about the histories of the different types of spindles, which was all new for me. I wish I had taken notes. It’s enough to remember that spindling developed independently in many, many cultures around the world. Making yarn with these unique artifacts, and learning about their provenance in space and time, is a really special way to connect with those places.

I was so drained by the end of the day, much more so than I expected. I went to bed early, ready for a long day of learning in the class I signed up for. More about that next time!

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