Category Archives: Humming Bee Farm

A Good Day to Dye

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a “good day to dye” event at my place.  I pulled all my dyes out of the cupboards and shed, dug up skeins of handspun yarn and all kinds of fibre and called my girlfriend.  She signed on and brought bags of loose fibre, rovings and skeins of yarn.  We had more than enough to play with.  The weather was perfect for this, sunny skies and the bugs stayed away for the most part.

Here is a photo essay of our day.

This is the dyeing studio a.k.a my back porch.

We threw some loose fibre into dye pots and we also painted skeins of yarn and then steamed them.  The skein being dyed here is from the fibre cleaned in my rain barrel experiments.

Here’s my friend painting a merino roving.  After the painting, it got rolled up in cellophane, left to sit for a spell and them put into the steamer.

One view of the drying rack with all the finished projects.

Next day view of the drying rack.  When the rovings were fully dried, I opened then up and am very happy to announce there was no felting at all!

From left to right:
Blue and pink shiny fibre is caesin — the silky fibre from milk proteins; grey/blue roving — straight up corriedale from Humming Bee Farm; pink/orange roving — merino/silk blend; grey/pink skein — cheviot two-ply; yellow/blue skein — polwarth two-ply spindle spun; blue/purple skein — hodge-podge of singles hanging about the studio that got spun into two decent sized skeins.  Variety of fibres. This may be hard to believe and you may think I am making this up, but I actually have plans for every bit of fibre here and each skein of yarn. Stay tuned so I can prove to you it’s true.

The Spinning Workshop in Tlell, on Haida Gwaii

Last Friday I took a whirlwind trip to Haida Gwaii to do a 2-day spinning workshop.  It was heavenly.

On Friday, loaded down with three suitcases and a huge purse, I flew from Vancouver to Sandspit — a mere 1 hour 39 minute flight.  Beng, the organizer of the arts event met me at the airport along with her lovely daughter.  We drove to the ferry, crossed over and then drove to Tlell.  I stayed at the Toad Farm Guesthouse.  A newly renovated home — and I had it all to myself!

All my meals were prepared by my host and hostess and served in the main house.  After I got unpacked and set up for the workshops the next day, I grabbed my bottle of chilling white wine and headed over to meet everyone.  Dinner was divine — roast chicken, potatoes, gravy, salad.  I don’t tend to eat much before I fly, so by this time, I was ravenous. Well fed, and full of wine and good stories, I headed back to the guesthouse relatively early as I still had things to set up for the next day.  Despite my excitement about the upcoming workshops, I slept like the dead.  Must be the air over there.

I was up early the next morning and took a walk to the shoreline to see the waves crashing in.  There was weather coming in so the water was rough and the waves huge.  It was also the only place where I could get cell reception.  I didn’t much mind that overall, it’s nice to take a break from the blackberry.  But I did want to check in with hubby and see how things were at home.

Folks started arriving at 9am and we learned about spindles and spinning until they couldn’t take it anymore, around 4pm. Of the thirteen participants, about eight were beginning spinners.  Five of them were absolute beginners.  By the end of the day, everyone could spin a continuous thread and was able to make a 2-ply yarn.  That’s a lot of learning.

Here’s what people saw as soon as they came in the door:

The spindles are Henry’s Dervish by Houndesign.  The fibre along the window sill is strips of drum carded batts.  There was lots of other fibres used in this workshop and the one the next day, but they are all on the sideboard, out of scope of this photo.  C’est domage.

In the evening of the first day, we hosted a Spin-In for anyone and everyone.  One of the participants is a Haida weaver and she showed me how they make warp yarns by thigh spinning.  Mostly folks hung out, spun a bit, talked about fibre and such.  I got things ready for the next day.

The workshop the next day had nine participants.  They were more advanced spinners, or people who had taken the workshop the day before.  Again, we did an overview of spinning and plying techniques, but on this day in addition to the wide variety of wool fibres, we also played with mohair, silk and alpaca.  We made blends:  wool/mohair; wool/silk; alpaca/silk and so forth.  It was a good exercise in blending fibres and also seeing how the addition of another fibre impacts the yarn.

After that we learned about cabled yarns and each person made a 4-ply cabled yarn using 4 different fibres or colours.

By this time everyone was tired and nearly spun out.  But we had one more activity:  I brought silk caps for us to play with. For those who have never spun with silk caps, it is a crazy fun thing to do as you open it up, peel apart one of the layers, stretch it out and then get down to spinning some amazingly strong and fine thread.

Here’s my piece — this is a lace weight spindle made from Cocobolo.  The spindle is a gem and the thread is a terrific colour.  I am going to try spinning it a bit thicker and then using it to ply with a wool single or some other fibre.  Mix it up a bit. Have some fun.

That was an action packed, fibre filled two days.  The next day we went to Port Clements and took a wee walk along the Golden Spruce Trail to see where the mighty tree once stood.  Then a dash to the ferry and I was on my way home again.

The best part of the trip was without a doubt the wonderful people.  I made new friends and saw old acquaintances from my workshop two years earlier. It was a lot of work to organize, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Just have to figure out what to do next. . . .

A special thanks to Beng for organizing the event; Keith and Elizabeth at Toad Farm for their warmth and hospitality; David and Cheri for providing me with high quality spindles for the workshops; Felicia at Sweet Georgia Yarns for the specially dyed Falklands wool and other fibre braids; Humming Bee Farm for the corriedale and yearling mohair; Kim from Claddagh Fibre Arts for the alpaca, silk and terrific idea to dye and use silk caps; and all the spinners who came and added to the day. I hope to see you soon.

Humming Bee Farm

When I first got into spinning, I had romantic notions about raising my own sheep and alpacas, with the occasional angora goat — a fleece flock I called it. That was before I spent some time with friends who actually raise sheep. It’s not a money maker — it is a labour of love. Animals need a lot of attention and the time you spend on them is time you can’t spend spinning and doing fibre preparation.

So in my development as a fibre artist I decided that I would do all I could to support those who are raising these fantastic animals — especially those who are doing it as small scale farmers. For as much as my crafts of spinning and fibre preparation need to be continued into the next generation or we’ll lose them, so too is the art of animal husbandry. The art and craft of taking care of domestic animals.  They don’t take care of themselves.  They need a lot of looking after for a healthy and stress free animal provides the best kind of fibre — and meat.  Sorry to the vegetarians, but it’s a fact. 

In my teaching workshops, I am committed to using and promoting locally sourced fibres. So as I begin getting materials ready to teach 2 full-day spinning workshops in Haida Gwaii in mid-May, I start by looking at what the local fibre producers have to offer.  This weekend was Fibreswest and I was thrilled to meet Devon Stringer and her mom from Humming Bee Farm there.  They had just the kind of fibre I was looking for — and a great story.  From her website:

At Humming Bee Farm we breed and raise high quality, purebred white and colored Angora goats. Angora goats are on Canada’s Rare Breed Conservation List and we are very pleased to be helping protect them from becoming an endangered species.  We shear our goats twice a year, once in late March and once again in late September. On average we get about 10 pounds of lusterous white mohair from each goat, each year. Mohair is a wonderful fibre and in much demand by our local spinners and weavers.”

Here is some fibre from Humming Fee Farm  that I purchased this weekend for the workshops. I bought 4 1/2 lbs of lovely corriedale and 1/2 lb of yearling mohair. I’ve spent the morning portioning the mohair into bags and making the wool into braids.  The braids on the right are 50 g braids and the bags in the plastic box each contain 15 g of the yearling mohair.  The corriedale will be used in both the Beginning Spindling and Advanced Spindling workshops. The mohair is for fibre blending in the Advanced workshop.  There are many more fibres to gather and prepare (alpaca, silk and other kinds of wool) but this is the start. 

And a grand one it is thanks to Devon and her family.