Fibre Week in Olds, Alberta

2 August 2023
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Every year in mid-June, Olds College of Agriculture and Technology in Olds, Alberta, hosts Fibre Week—a week-long celebration of fibre and craft. This long-standing festival features a three-day vendor marketplace, short workshops on a variety of fibre and textile crafts, social evenings, and a fashion show featuring handcrafted textiles.

The centrepiece of the event is the college’s Master Spinner and Master Weaver Programs. The Master Spinner Program (my alma mater) is a six-year program consisting of five days of classroom learning followed by twelve months of home study. The home study portion consists of a series of exercises to spin yarns that reinforce the classroom learning and the homework is turned in at the end of the twelve months for marking. The sixth year of the program is a testing level, with five days of spinning to specific requirements followed by the student preparing an in-depth study. Each in-depth study is on a topic chosen by the student and consists of research and experimentation to examine one aspect of making yarn by hand.

The Master Weaver Program follows the same format of five days in the classroom followed by a year of home study, but is only five years long. The first four years cover the fundamentals of loom weaving and the completion of the assigned samples for all four levels earns students an Artisan Certificate. For students who wish to earn a Master Weaver certification, there is a fifth year of self-directed study leading to presenting an in-depth study on the weaving topic of their choosing.

Information on both the Master Spinner Program and the Master Weaver Program, along with Fibre Week’s short courses and marketplace, can be found at the Olds College website.

The vendor marketplace, held in the Werklund Agriculture and Technology Centre, hosted an eclectic blend of local artisans and specialized fibre arts shops. Most vendors are directly related to the spinning and weaving communities, making the Fibre Week market a unique resource for fibre crafters.

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Danware Artistic Woodturning crafts a variety of spindles and other spinning equipment for discerning crafters. When Jan Bjerreskov retired, he took up woodturning and one day his daughter Vanessa asked him if he could make her a spindle so she could learn to spin, and Danware was born. Vanessa is now an instructor in the Master Spinner Program and Jan and his wife Eva sell beautifully crafted spindles, yarn bowls, and spinning accessories at select festivals in Alberta and on their website.

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Sarah Elizabeth Fibre Works is back at the festival after a brief haitus while Sarah opened her brick-and-mortar shop in Rossland, British Columbia. Sarah provides a bit of everything for fibre and textile crafters and she brought along a sampling of products for spinners, weavers, needleworkers, felters, and even macrame artists. Her booth is popular at Fibre Week where she is known for her carded fibre batts, ranging from smooth soft fibres to her highly textured Kerfuffle batts. 

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SpinHeartSpin is the creative outlet of Master Spinner instructor Kara Perpelitz from Saskatchewan. Her shop sells everything from hand-dyed fibre to Kara’s multi-technique fibre artwork. Kara also teaches workshops in spinning, felting, and needlework. You can learn more about Kara and her work on her website, linked above.

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Doodlebug Studio (formerly known as Dewedlebug Fibre Emporium) is a one-stop spinning fibre shop. Master Spinner student Gail McCaskill and her husband Paul, along with Susan Vallentgoed, offer a wide range of spinning fibres in small amounts for spinners to learn and experiment with, spinning tools, a variety of felting fibres, and hand-carded batts. They are also now an authorized Louët dealer.

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There is something for almost every crafter at Fibre Week, which may be why some of the regular attendees have been coming for over twenty years, and many of us hope to come for another twenty more.

All images by Michelle Boyd.

Copyright © Michelle Boyd except as indicated.

About Michelle Boyd

Michelle Boyd is a Master Spinner, weaver, and writer who lives in Olds, Alberta, located in Treaty 7 Territory, the ancestral lands of the peoples of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Michelle learned to spin in 1995 when her local yarn shop closed, and she became obsessed with the art and science of making yarn. She has taught workshops across North America and instructed for the Olds College Master Spinner Program for fifteen years. She is also a frequent contributor to both PLY Magazine and Digits & Threads and is currently completing her first book about spinning.

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