Pattern Ready For Testing


I brought a new pattern along to the Twist Festival this year. I had some great responses to it and now I am finally ready for other people to test it out! It is a triangle shawl with tiers of hearts. Either 3 hearts in the centre of the piece or layers of hearts increasing with each tier.

You can use any yarn you like. I have made a bunch of testers in hemp, linen and silk/wool yarns.

Please contact me with your email address for the pattern and testing criteria. It is in PDF chart form only at present.

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The Lineup


I searched high and low for any bast; through my personal stash of yarn, and then checked the work boxes just in case I missed any scraps! I’m so excited to be teaching at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival and this opportunity to show like-minded linen lovers how much variety is actually out there. I have been collecting bast fibres for more than a decade. Variety is surprisingly hard to find, and many of my fibres are now pretty rare.

The sample yarns…

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On the far left is my favorite linen yarn, Euroflax from Louet. The colours are extraordinary, and the feel, the hand of the yarn is in a class of its own. A great linen yarn should only get better with washing and drying (yes IN the dryer), and Euroflax never disappoints.

The next pile of colour (immediate right of the Euroflax) are the samples of all the yarns I have dyed over the years. And a natural skein for comparison. These original colours will be examined against the heavily washed samples that I have worked over (washed often and much abused to wear the samples in).

The final piles (on the right hand side) are samples of more linen & hemp yarns and samples of linen blended yarns.

The yarns for use in the class looks a lot more like this…

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I also went through my stash and picked out all the ends I have left over from various projects over time. Lately I have been making shawls from scraps of yarn, and it is hard not to start something new with all the interesting blobs of yarn when they are packed together like this. I can see colour combinations I want to explore!

The fibres end up being the most impressive pile…

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Top row from left to right:

Linen strick, Louet hemp from Germany, Louet Linen from Great Britain, Louet Linen from Begium, hemp from China

Bottom row from left to right:

Linen from Ireland, unknown sample from a friend, Canadian Linen fibres from local farmers, degummed hemp from China, and hemp from Romania.

The long line fibres to practice with in-class are all coming from (my generous sponsor!) Louet. But I so want everyone to have a chance to feel the variety of bast fibres that are available, and will bring at least one gran of each of the samples shown above.

And last but not least….

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Hand dyed (by me) Louet long line linen fibres! I dyed in three sunset colours, and I promise not to spin it all up myself before the show!

Now I really must stop drooling and handling these samples for a month (I think I can make it)!

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Linen Fibre Preparation


So much to do! I am building a flax break, and also a bunch of really dangerous ripplers (those nails)! I am also figuring out how to deal with around 120 lbs of flax. it smells quite strongly too…

I picked up a 25″x25″x25″ box to hold a bale. Also to be able to stack bales in storage. But a box that size is around $11 and I have 12 bales left. Too many to afford to put into boxes for long without any processing.

I have a number of smaller boxes around and started using them with the first bale of Vesta, that I have begun processing. Not difficult, but it is time consuming. I do this on the weekends as I’m back working days in Guelph.

All of the bales are off the floor in my farm house. Many on the smaller boxes the finished processed fibres will be going into.

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Starting with the Vesta bale, I remove the seeds and the bottom 1″of roots (mostly removing soil clods). I’m wearing very heavy hide gloves while doing this!

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The Vesta bale is first as it fell apart when I took it out of the car. Most of the bale got stuffed into a box. The trimmed pieces go in the done box for storage, and I can mark each box.

Start

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End

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I head back to the farm today, and I’m hoping to finish processing most of the Vesta. I’ll decide how many boxes to get (between 4-6) and keep working on prepping the remaining fibres for scutching and sales. I have been looking for long stem flower boxes locally with no success, but I know where I can go in Mississauga for packaging to wrap everything up.

For the next big task before scutching, I will be sending out another email to the volunteers for help in dealing with those last four plots of seeds on the UWO fields, harvesting, rippling and separating seeds from chaff.

Somewhere between Sept 12-14 we need to go harvest those seeds.

There will be dangerous nail ripplers clamped to plastic tables on giant tarps! And then a bunch of separating seeds from the husks. More stuff to make – graduated screens I suspect.

Thanks to everyone helping out in this gigantic project!

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Loads of Pictures! Starting with the Twist Festival in St Andre-Avellin, QC


I did not have a booth in the show (in any show!) this year, which meant I could finally attend the Twist Festival for the first time in four years.

The line to enter fluctuated during the morning, we did not have to wait long to enter.

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And if the line is long, that just gives extra time to oooh and aaah over the fibre animals. The endlessly cute alpaca. There were also very cute bunnies and sheep.

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I had a chance to take one picture with Deb from Yarn Indulgences (nice to see a local face at the Twist again this year Deb!) before the crowds swallowed up all the available space!

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OMG the crowds!

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The crowds make for an incredible show! I met so many people I have not seen in a year, and this time we even had time to talk!

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I didn’t really need a break from shopping, but at 12pm there was a Maypole demonstration.

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A couple of short video clips to add the sound to this part of the event!

Twist Festival 2016 Maypole demonstration

Twist Festival 2016 Maypole demonstration

I worked up an appetite, so I headed over to the food tent.

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Happy 5th Anniversary Twist Festival!

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I managed to squeeze in one talk during the show – how could I miss Sam from Trailhead talking about plant fibres! And I got a chance to hear all the fibre and yarn terms in French, a good refresher for me.

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I just love her gorgeous cotton and linen hand dyed yarns!

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I had to save the best for last! Another beloved Chanvre (Hemp) seller this year!

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So glad to see hemp represented, especially when I did not have a booth this year. And these folks are ready to lobby the government regarding hemp regulation and barriers to entry. This is my personal initiative as well. What with marijuana legalization being announced in 2017, hemp should be released from the restrictions to grow as well.

In the end I came home with only a pound of yarn (hemp of course!) and the dear husband still grumped about more yarn in the house. But I managed to keep most of the complaints at bay with local hard apple ciders and caramelized apple sauce!

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Thanks so much to K&F for putting me up in Ottawa. This whole not working thing is cramping my style way too much, thanks for helping me expand my Quebec yarn stash! My own mill/supplier refused this shipment of yarn and now I can’t wait to see how it wears in to show them what could have been.

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Fully Loaded


Who knew you could fit so much linen in a Prius? Driving around in this I feel like I’m in the clown car of linen…!

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And don’t forget safety – I can still do a shoulder check, just!

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So in a rough estimate I think this harvest could total 120 lbs. The expected rate to produce fibres from this mass is around 20%. So for 100 grams of sticks I hope to get 20 grams of fibre. The colour inside is quite a beautiful honey gold, not at all what I expected, I thought it would be much darker. I look at these piles of flax and wonder now, when will I get back to knitting? And how much will I need to process to weave with?!?

But then I think, oh man, this is fun stuff to be working with and I squish off more of the chuff pieces with my fingers while I make little bundles of fibres!

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Canadian Flax – almost linen now


We bundled up the flax yesterday to remove it from the field and stop the retting process. At first the report was that all the flax is over retting as we have had a bunch of rain days since our harvesting. Also the report is that this year has been a very hot growing season and there is not as much flax in the stalks to yield.

Upon further inspection and testing we immediately found two varieties that have great breaking strength and dented my fingers pulling it apart, but the lesser harvest per stalks seems to be accurate. All of the flax is spinnable, and in the weaving vernacular, some will be great for warp but some will only be great for weft. When it comes to knitting, all of it should be fabulous for knitting projects, even with breaking, the staple length is longer and the fibres are stronger than cotton. I brought home the dew retted Chantal (white flower) variety to start scutching (by hand for now). I need to find out how much work it will take to make a hat!

When we left the fields after the harvest it looked like this:

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Today we bundled it up and the fields look like this:

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The large bundles are for processing into fibres and the small ones are for the UWO Field Research station for records.

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Everything is carefully tagged and I am quickly learning the names and characteristics of each fibre bundle. We removed them from the fields to store until they can be moved to my farm in Arthur, ON.

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It looks like only a little in the trailer, but only about half of the bundles fit in the car for transport!

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I had brought some of the harvested Chantal variety home so people can practice water retting (people are back from vacations and we can get started, but I’m working full time, which is delaying things!) A batch of the Chantal harvest was dew retted and the final batch is the upright bundles from the harvesting pictures.

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The bundles are in the process of being water tub retted at the field station.

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OMG the smell! It’s quite rotten and raunchy! You can see the bubbles created by the organisms that are breaking down the outer fibres.

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Helmut is not loving the way this fibre is retting at present, and was showing us how he tests it out from the tub. It is not peeling the way he likes just yet.

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I will start taking some videos and close ups of what is happening in the scutching!

 

 

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2016 – More Focusing on Linen


In 2016 my life has become a little like a sad song…My father in law and my grandmother both passed away, I am no longer employed and my car is a bit broken. But life is not all bad news. In 2015, I applied to teach at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. Along with the generous sponsorship of materials from Louet, in October, I will be teaching people the art of spinning linen fibres using a distaff.

Having an unreliable car means I can’t travel around very much and all farmablefibres plans have ground to a halt. Since this is not far off what was already occurring, its not all bad. Though the farmhouse shop won’t likely be open in 2016 now. But my house in Waterloo cleaned up beautifully (finally) and I can have guests over to knit, spin and weave together. Even if the living room ceiling is (still) exposed!

Unexpectedly, a very interesting opportunity presented itself this year. Back in 2012, I was a advisory member of a Fibre Flax growing initiative in Southern Ontario. You can see the report that was published here. A hard copy of this report is also available for $20 from Helmut (hbecker@uwo.ca ). This year I am part of the Upper Canada Fibreshed group that will be growing linen in backyard plots. I looked for a bit of guidanceĀ  and met with, a few members of my former group at a UWO growing station to discuss growing flax and research topics once again. I am personally interested in the fibre flax seed varieties, germination and storage. We know we are late to apply to grants in 2016, and we have agreed to look into 2017 opportunities. I think a year (or two) of research is just what I need right now.

On April 20th, 2016 the research station planted a variety of fibre flax in their fields. One hundred days later the crop is ready, and on July 28th a group of volunteers came together to harvest the crop. Thank you everyone who came out to help. This is labour intensive work that is made possible by everyone helping and working together!

This is the view from one side of the fields. The flax is planted in square plots two wide by many long. This year has been very warm and as a consequence, the flax has not grown very tall. It still looks so beautiful to me.

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The view from the other end of the field.

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This end plot is flax with white flowers, rather than the usual blue.

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Harvest in progress. Helmut brought his personally designed rippler.

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He showed us how to remove the seeds, tie them, and stack them up. Tying the sheaves up is its own side art to learn! I only managed an overhand knot. I will have to look into this knot in rope before I will ever be able to master it with fibre stalks on the field! If anyone knows any names of the knots used historically to tie flax, please let me know, it will really help my knot search (……runs off to consult the personal linen library).

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OK back! Ahh finally finished; post harvest. The flax has been pulled and laid down (as per UWO guidelines) for dew retting.

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The rows are set up so the flax can be turned using a long stick (kind of like a spatula) to ensure the dew reaches all sides of the flax equally.

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Not all the flax was rippled. The four plots at the front of the fields were left to grow and produce seeds, they will be harvested last, well after the 100 days to give the seeds a chance to fully mature.

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The coolest thing about working at a field research facility, is that they grow really neat looking stuff. This is a peruvian linen. It is grown in a different section of the fields. The plant is smaller than the european varieties. The flowers are a stunning blue, and you can really see the colour in the petals that have fallen to ground below the plant.

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This is our group picture that I corralled at the end of the day. In the end our harvest party group was fourteen strong, and Ed really deserves an extra mention for doing double the harvesting! Thank you to everyone who came out, especially those who came at the last minute. I know the people who could not make it yesterday are anxiously waiting to see these pictures! A part of me is thinking about 2017 now, and thinking maybe next year we can meet again to do this in the communal 10×10 plots we could set up at my farm in Arthur…. lets discuss that at a meeting I have promised to host there this summer!

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