The Manitoba Fibre Festival

25 October 2023

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For eleven years, fibre growers and crafters have come together in Winnipeg for the Manitoba Fibre Festival. The event is a celebration of all things fibre, offering a busy marketplace, a wide range of workshops, and close encounters with fibre-producing animals in the Hall of Breeds.

In the Annex, where the animals were on display, visitors to the festival were invited to meet sheep, alpacas, Angora goats (mohair), and Angora rabbits along with the farmers who raise them for their fibre. There were also shearing demonstrations and a fleece show that included fleeces from some of Manitoba’s top flocks. The public judging of the fleece show and a series of Fibre Farmer Chats introduced the audience to the wide variety of fibres produced on Manitoba farms. And the Ag Showcase wasn’t all wool. Flax growers and members of the Pembina Fibreshed hosted demonstrations of flax preparation for spinning and a talk on the benefits the fibres offer to both farmers and crafters.

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Just a few of the entries in the Pembina Fibreshed’s One Year, One Outfit display.

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More entries.

Inside the main building, the marketplace was bracketed between the results of the Pembina Fibreshed’s One Year, One Outfit Challenge and Shelly Nicolle-Phillips’s Prairie Alphabet Project. The marketplace hosted a wide range of artisans offering products from raw materials to finished handcrafted garments and household textiles, with toolmakers and local food and pottery sprinkled through the group. Here are some of the highlights.

LittleWingOddBirds is a flock of unique birds crafted from yarn by Jodie Jane. She has been making her birds since 2016, when she was inspired by a blog post about things to do with leftover yarn, and her business took flight from there. Each bird has its own personality and when they are not gathering at festivals and markets they can be found at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/LittleWingOddBirds and on Instagram and Facebook as @littlewing.oddbirds

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White Spruce Heritage Farm specializes in raising Navajo Churro sheep, then preparing their fibre for use by handspinners, knitters, and weavers. Shirley Harvey’s goal is to share awareness of this rare and endangered breed and the unique quality of their fibre, along with expanding the genetics of the breed to ensure their survival. You can find out more about Shirley and her sheep at https://whitesprucecreative.square.site/ or on Instagram and Facebook as @whitespruceheritagefarm

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Wool Mountain is your one-stop shopping place for over 200 different kinds of wool. Maureen Winniki Lyons recognized that each breed has characteristics that work for one purpose but not for others. So, to make all the different types of wool available to crafters, she has collected wool from sheep all around the world, building a literal mountain of wool. She also offers creative workshops that include weaving, spinning, and felt making in Winnipeg. Wool Mountain and Maureen’s workshops can be found at https://www.woolmountain.ca/ and on Instagram as @maureenwinnickilyons

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sunflowerknit is the brainchild of multi-craftual fibre artist Ash Alberg. Ash is a natural dyer, knitter, designer, and maker of magical herbal products. Canadian milled yarns are dyed with the palette produced by plants collected in Treaty 1 Territory, reflecting Ash’s love of all things plant related. You can find sunflowerknit and Ash’s other projects at https://www.ashalberg.com/new-home-page and on Instagram as @sunflowerknit

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And of course, Winnipeg is the home base of Anna Hunter of Longway Homestead and the author of Nine Ten Publications’ Sheep, Shepherd & Land. She is also a festival organizer and served as the sorter and emcee for the sheep shearing demonstration but took time to share her broad knowledge of Canadian wool and the sheep that grow it. She shares her knowledge and her lovely wool products at longwayhomestead.com and can be found on Instagram as @longwayhomestead. (If you have ever met Anna, you understand why I couldn’t get her to stand still enough for a photo!)

I honestly have to tell you that I’ve been to dozens of wonderful fibre festivals over the years, but I have never seen anything like the Manitoba Fibre Festival. It may well be the most joyous celebration of fibre in Canada.

All images by Michelle Boyd.

Digits & Threads Is a Member-Supported Independent Online Magazine

The articles, tutorials and patterns we publish about Canadian fibre and textile arts, crafts and industry are made possible by our members.

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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