Get Out Your Woolies

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that in addition to my work in the the art studio, my husband and I also run a mixed farm of some forty acres. And on this farm we have some vegetables, small fruit, chickens, turkeys, ducks and, of course, our famous flock of sheep. Famous flock of sheep? If you don’t believe our sheep are famous, just ask the neighbours. Maybe infamous would be a better description.  I mean the sheep, not the neighbours.

When I have a little spare time, I work with the wool  which we have in bountiful supply from our Border Leicester ewes. I like to spin the wool and I like to knit, although I am not especially adept at either. Still, it’s the closest thing I have to a hobby. Through keeping the sheep and working with their wool, I have also met a number of interesting and talented people. One of these people is Johanne Ratelle of L’Ourse Qui Danse alpaca ranch in Godmanchester, Quebec.
Johanne has been buying some of our wool clip to blend with her alpaca fiber. So when I received the invitation to attend the opening of an exhibition featuring the workings and wares of L’Ourse Qui Danse, of course I had to see what Johanne and her business partner/co-pilot Chantal were up to. And they have been up to quite a lot!
This huge contraption is a nineteenth century barn loom.

Some of Johanne’s beautiful weaving.

Skeins like candy!

More handiwork.

And more skeins- these with natural dyes and a detailed explanation of dye plants, materials, and mordants. The mustard yellow colour of the shawl below left was produced with onion skins. 

The red and candy pink dyes are made with cochineal. Yes folks, that’s ground up dead bugs. Sounds gross, looks great!

Below is super talented handspinner and knitter Amanda Carrigan giving a spinning demo on her nifty little portable wheel.

I feel the overwhelming urge to knit! Or spin! Or both!