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Fibre Fest knits, spins and hooks crafters from the County and beyond

Alpacas visited from Oak Hills Alpacas in Stirling.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison

This big ball of fluff is Hermes, an English Angora rabbit.

A herd of alpacas joined a fluffle of English and French Angora rabbits and a flock of sheep as adorable examples of natural fibres at this year’s second annual Fibre Fest. The humans demonstrated the magical transformation of that fibre in myriad ways.

If it was spinning, knitting, felted or hooked it could be found at Picton’s Prince Edward Community Centre Saturday as the venue transformed into a festival of everything fibre.
Chains of crocheters, knots of knitters, skeins of spinners and a web of weavers were in attendance among more than 60 vendors from across Ontario and Quebec. There was a strong County presence complemented by vendors venturing from as far as Westport, Peterborough and Waterloo and Montreal, Adstock and Farrellton.

A small farmers’ market as well as many local food vendors and food trucks ensured everyone was fed and sustained for the duration. But it was the cornucopia of adornments and accessories, paraphernalia and supplies that held enormous interest for many – from an eclectic selection of wooden buttons to hand-dyed spun yarn in myriad colours, to wool felted mice and the finest millinery. From elegant to outrageous to whimsical, there was natural fleece and organic cotton, Shetland wool and roving, and buckles and brooches.

Five-year-old Sage, and 11-year-old Chloë,were visiting from Kingston and learned how to make a pom pom with Christine Johnson.

Visiting from Kingston were 11-year-old Chloë and five-year-old Sage who learned how to make a wool pom pom under the guidance of Christine Johnson. The pom poms are to be part of an art project Johnson refers to as the Pom Pom Tree Project.

Involving a seven-foot-tree made entirely of pom poms, Johnson expects she will need around 1,000 pom poms to complete her project.

“I realized early on that I needed help to achieve my goal,” said Johnson who is now encouraging others to make pom poms for her tree to be showcased at the Woodstock Fleece Festival in the fall.

“Once completed, the goal is for people to touch it and feel it,” she said.

Vendor Wendo van Essen, a fibre artist since 2001, travelled from Prescott to exhibit in the show for the first time. Her craft is needle felting, but laughs as she refers to the whimsical needle felted animals she makes as “vegan taxidermy”.

“I love the County,” said van Essen who visits as often as she can, and has friends here. “I don’t need an excuse to come here, it’s just beautiful.”

Classes and workshops took place throughout the day and included traditional rug hooking, beeswax candle dipping to the basics of choosing the right type of yarn for a project. Workshops included polymer clay button making, Shibori dyeing and beginner crochet.

For visitors who ventured to the livestock barn, full sheep shearing demonstrations took place as a small family of related sheep delighted gathering crowds and a couple of week-old bleating lambs stole the show. The first sheep to be sheared objected to the ordeal initially, as it was her first time, but soon settled down under the expertise of her shearer and in about 10 minutes was relieved of her thick, woolly coat.

Spinners, weavers and machine knitters demonstrated their craft

A variety of demonstrations through the day included weaving by the Belleville Weavers and Spinners, rug hooking by Quinte Isle Hooking, spinning courtesy of The County Handspinners as well as machine knitting.

Gil Minty demonstrated his vintage sock knitting machine

Vendor Gil Minty of Hopeful Shetlands travelled from Embro near Woodstock to demonstrate a Circular Sock Knitting Machine from the 1940s. He showed the laborious process of changing many needles to accommodate the pattern of the sock he was knitting, but didn’t seem the least bit phased by the meticulous process. “I love machines,” he said.

In a throw-away world, handmade is making a big comeback—some refer to it as the slow fashion movement—although otheres will say it never went away. The idea of returning to a grassroots way of doing things, of making and creating and growing and nurturing hits a chord for many artists and crafters.

From spinners to knitters and hookers to felters, the event was a hit for crafters from the County and beyond got their fibre fix. Organizers expected attendance to be around 1,800 this year, exceeding last year’s figure of just over 1,100.

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