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Fibre Fest brings modern twists to ancient craft of spinning wool

Working with wool is an old craft with many new twists, as discovered at Prince Edward County’s first Fibre Fest.

Fibre artists Jackie Sylvester and Esther Grav holding, and wearing, some of their creations.

“It’s an old craft,” said mixed media fibre artist Esther Grav. “In Europe they always felted in the northern climates because they didn’t have access to anything else to make things like hats and boots and rugs.”

Now felting is becoming a thing of art, she notes, as wool became finer and artists found they could be more diverse. Grav, who is a dyer, felter, spinner and weaver, also likes to put silk in her scarves, jackets and purses to add glitter and highlights.

The combination of the old craft with new techniques makes already durable wool fashionable, functional and creative.

Kelly McLeod transfers her painting skills to fibre art.

Kelly McLeod is an artist who has transferred her skills over the past year from painting, to fibre art.

“I work from a picture and using the fibres, I layer my colours from the background to mid-ground, then my foreground,” said McLeod, who attended the show from Markham. “The resulting stack of fibre is quite high, until she “wet felts” it using boiling water and soap then puts plastic over it and rubs to agitate the wool, bonding the fibres.

“In the world of art, it’s now being more recognized. I fell in love with the colours. That is what got me going on it. I paint. Now I paint with wool. I see colour so I build these exactly the same way I paint, mostly landscapes, but also storms and fires.”

Dozens of diverse vendors carrying fibre, felted garments, hand dyed wool, fleece and yarns were greeted by a big crowds at the Fibre Fest, held Saturday in the Picton Community Centre. They shopped and learned from vendors and took classes in felting, spinning, knitting, button making, and more.

Lillian Purdy and Mary Porritt examine socks made by Gil Minty, of Hopeful Shetlands.

Gil Minty at work creating a sock

Gil Minty has been making socks for about eight years. He got into the hobby after refurbishing an antique circular sock knitter his wife Michele found online.

“My wife bought the machine many years ago but we could never figure it out. Later we went to a show in the states and somebody showed me how to do it and then I got addicted to it,” said Minty.

When he’s not making socks, he’s refurbishing the machines that were made in England, Toronto and Buffalo.

The not-for-profit Fibre Fest was hosted by Rosehaven Yarn Shop and the County Community Foundation. Proceeds will go toward support of community projects.

Pam Duncan demonstrates traditional rug hooking.

Anne Munro takes Emma Telfer-Crum up on her slogan ‘Come Feel Our Balls’ – a catchy twist on words Emma’s financee came up with for the Northern Bay Fibres handspinning company in Muskoka.

Mary Anne White, of Andjareenas Place, in Trenton show some of her colourful wares.

Handmade washcloth with soap all in one.

Deep in discussion about natural County fibres.


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