What can farmers do with all their wool fleece after shearing season?

Our November 2022 post talked about how the Campaign for Wool organization is attempting to address the lack of resources abroad and here in Canada related to processing and using wool as a sustainable product. Here on Vancouver Island farmers are facing these challenges head on. Please read this newspaper article about local issues and possible solutions.

The Times Colonist newspaper published an in-depth article on Feb. 12, 2023 describing the challenges farmers are having dealing with mountains of wool fleeces stored on their farms.

Napping Sheep

Distaff Day 2023


January 7th has special significance for many guilds. Since the Middle Ages people have come together to work with fibre as a way to honour the work of women who spin and weave.  This was the day when women in past ages went back to work after the Christmas celebrations once 12th night was over.  Today women all over the world work with fibre arts and are the ones responsible for the domestic work of spinning and weaving. This is a way for us to celebrate and honour their work.

Today we gather together to spin with each other, build community and enjoy each other’s company. Groups can be large or small it is all about playing with fibre.  Guilds in my area host Distaff Day events around January 7th.  We can reconnect with each other as we travel from guild to guild building our island fibre connections.

This year TSWG hosted a Distaff Day event where we honoured our fibre arts and celebrated our guild’s 50th anniversary.  The Bradley Spinners, Mid-Island Guild, Victoria Guild and Qualicum Guild members joined us for a lively day of spinning. We also had visitors from Kingston, Ontario and Brazil join in the fun. There was a delicious cake, yummy homemade soups, so many yummy treats but most importantly being in the company of so many women and men who share a love of spinning.

So many different wheels were whirring away throughout the day. Our President Cherry did a count of all the wheels in the hall. Here is the breakdown per wheel type/manufacturer. This unofficial list shows just some of the many wheels and ways to spin available to us.

  • Ashford 19
  • Drop Spindle 3
  • Peacock 2
  • Peggy 1
  • Bluebonnet 1
  • Pocket wheel 1
  • Kromski 1
  • Canadian Production Wheel 1
  • Spinning Wheel Cabinetry 1
  • Louet 7
  • Majacraft 7
  • Lendrum 7
  • Electric 7
  • Schact 3

I’ll close this post with a poem written in the 17th century in celebration of spinning.

St. Distaff’s Day; Or, the Morrow after Twelfth-day

PARTLY work and partly play

You must on St. Distaff’s Day:

From the plough soon free your team;

Then come home and fother them;

If the maids a-spinning go,

Burn the flax and fire the tow.

Bring in pails of water then,

Let the maids bewash the men.

Give St. Distaff all the right;

Then bid Christmas sport good night,

And next morrow every one

To his own vocation.

~ Robert Herrick

Wool, does it really matter?

Does wool really matter in today’s fast paced world? If one is a spinner, weaver, knitter or really any creator using wool as their medium the answer seems simple. A resounding yes would be the response. Unfortunately most of the wool produced around the world and here in Canada is viewed as a waste product. Fleeces are used as compost, shipped overseas for processing or sadly end up in landfills across the country. Many farmers understand the value of wool as a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre but do not have the resources or time to shear the animals and process the fleece.

The Campaign for Wool was launched in Canada in 2014 by the now, King Charles as a way to raise awareness of the wonderful attributes of wool. It is a unique, natural and sustainable resource. Canada is one of 13 countries working towards educating and demonstrating to Canadians the benefits and uses for wool in all aspects of our lives.

Our guild president has been interested in learning about and supporting the Campaign for Wool and has shared her discoveries with the guild. We are fortunate to have sheep farmers in our area who have fleece for sale which many of our spinners take advantage of. There is nothing quite like knitting with yarn you have spun from fleece that you cleaned, carded and spun yourself.

October is Wool Month here in Canada and Campaign for Wool has  4 short videos about how wool is integrated into lives across Canada. I encourage you to visit this page and watch The Fabric of Canada films.

If you are interested in learning more about the Campaign for Wool these websites are a good start.

Campaign for Wool Canada outlines Canada’s plans to support the use of wool

Campaign for Wool NZ  great site for learning about the benefits and uses for wool fibre

Shear waste: Why Ontario throws out so much wool learn about the farmers challenges dealing with sheep fleece

Thoughts on Autumn

Here on the West Coast of Canada we are having a protracted summer with warm days and no rain. This is a mixed blessing as the lack of rain is having a disastrous effect on crops, fish, and wild fires.  I never thought I would say this but “please bring on the rain”.

A fall tradition in many communities across the country is the local fall fair. These events bring folks together to celebrate what makes their area special. The Tzouhalem Spinners & Weavers Guild supports community events throughout the Cowichan Valley. We organize the fibre exhibits at the Cobble Hill Fair including a spinning demonstration and of course we enter our fibre projects for judges feedback and perhaps a blue ribbon.  A member shared that the children visiting the Cobble Hill Fair were fascinated by the spinning wheels. They stared as if it was magic as the fleece became yarn. They just might be right as it does feel like magic sometimes when that perfect skein is produced.

“Arts on the Avenue” is another annual event that brings many artisans to Ladysmith on an August Saturday. This year’s booth had members demonstrating spinning, inkle and rigid heddle weaving.

Our final event of the season is the Cowichan Exhibition. Guild members organize the Spinning and Weaving exhibits for adults and juniors. After a couple of tough years with limited attendance rules this year was so much fun. The exhibits were top notch and many entrants earned ribbons for their creations.  The junior entries were especially wonderful! It was great to see so many children and teens creating with fibre,. Could they be future guild members? We hope so!

I’ll end this post with some fair photos and an encouragement to support your own local fall fair by entering your creative projects, baking, garden produce or whatever entry fits for you, consider volunteering in some way and finally attending the fair to admire your community member’s exhibits.


Baskets, Baskets. Baskets!

We have a  challenge for our readers. Take a good look around your home and count the number of woven baskets you see. If you are anything like the members of the Tzouhalem Spinners and Weavers Guild you can probably count quite a few baskets; some may be handwoven by local indigenous peoples, some purchased on travels, and others woven by your own hands. Whatever your baskets’ origins it is fair to say they fill an important role in your fibre life. Our baskets hold knitting needles and yarn, shuttles for weaving, the latest weaving or spinning magazines or simply a catch all for items we use every day.

We have some talented basket weavers in our guild and they generously shared  their weaving stories and photos of their work with you.

Alison is one of our talented basket weavers. She shared a photo of a trio of her baskets. “All of them have been constructed as ‘square to round’ plaited baskets that I’ll be sharing with students during a ‘Woven Paper Basket’ class. We’ll be weaving with card stock that has been run through a paper shredder — so much easier and quicker than cutting the warp and weft strips by hand.”  She taught this session in conjunction with a Fine Arts Show put on by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council.

Alison’s baskets ready for her class

“The basket on the lower left in the photo was a bit of a challenge to weave because those narrow strips of hemp and cotton fabric are sticky!  They’re off cuts from ‘Abeego’ beeswax food wraps.  While they may be difficult to handle, they smell wonderful. “

Jennifer is a new weaver who embraces natural and found items for her weaving. She shared the story of this basket at a recent meeting.  She told us it was a lesson learned project in that well dried vines don’t weave well and that blackberry vines are full of prickles. She solved that problem by stripping the vines while wearing heavy gloves first. She” borrowed the book “baskets from nature’s bounty” from the guild’s library by Elizabeth Jensen. I followed the instructions to weave a Japanese base and continued with a Japanese weave (over two, under one) to weave the sides. I finished it with a closed border, and improvised a bit to tuck in the thickest warps.”  Jennifer should be able to make many more of these baskets if she wants to, as blackberry bushes are found growing wild all over the Cowichan Valley.

Jennifer’s Trailing Blackberry vine basket

Karen shared that her “basket weaving was brief and scuppered by my arthritic hands. However, inspired by a tree in my yard, I did manage to produce a pine needle basket years ago.” Now she supports other weavers in their endeavours by adding to her collection.

Linda believes that to weave, twine, knot a variety of materials into a 3 dimensional object that can be both decorative and useful no matter what material is used, is a joy.

The first photo shows her three miniatures.

Linda’s basket trio

The red one is 6cm x 4cm and is made of copper and coloured wire and is twined. It was a workshop creation during ANWG 2017 in Victoria led by Marilyn Moore.

The basket on the left is 5cm x3.75 cm and is made with waxed linen and beads. It holds a small rock and can be made into an amulet holder for a necklace. It is twined and knotted.

The basket on the right is 6cm x 4cm and made of cedar bark and waxed linen. The next 2 baskets were made during a workshop taught by Joan Carrigan on Salt Spring Island.

Linda also wove these beautiful baskets.


Now we have one final basket that was woven at the 2017 ANWG conference in Victoria, BC. This was a 3 day workshop focused on weaving with cedar strips twined with thin copper wire. The base of the basket is not too bad but the lid is really off kilter. That being said the weaver learned so much from the process. This little basket holds place of pride on her shelf as an example that something doesn’t need to be perfect to be admired for the effort that went into it.

Cedar strip and copper twined basket with a too large lid 🙂


We encourage you to explore basket weaving using local natural resources, you never know you just might get hooked on basketry. Here is a link to help you get started https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/projects/using-plants-for-woven-baskets.htm

Until next time take care and happy weaving.




Why Do We Spin?


This is the question posed to the spinners in the Tzouhalem Spinners and Weavers Guild (TSWG).  Their responses helps us  shed a light on the fascination spinners have with all types of fibre from the process of preparing the fleece or raw fibre, to spinning, then skeining the yarn and finally what to do with all that yarn!

History is a bit unclear of the actual origins of how people began spinning fibre into yarn but it is clear that we would be hard pressed to find a fabric in our homes that was not the result of spinning fibre.

“For thousands of years, mankind has been spinning fibers into threads to produce fabrics. Up until the Middle Ages, hand spindles in different variations were mainly used in Europe to produce yarn from vegetable or animal fibers. In India, charkhas were already used in the 9th century as a further development of the hand spindle. In Europe, the first hand-operated spindle wheels only appeared in the 13th century.”  It was then “the use of the spinning wheel in Central Europe became widespread.”

Heitne, Marco (nd) Discover the History of the Spinning Wheel – and learn how to use it. Retrieved from https://www.worlds-finest-wool.com/history-of-the-spinning-wheel/

Spinning wheels favoured by guild members vary depending on what works best for the fibre and spinner. Cherry shared these thoughts about her wheels “Finding the right rhythm with my hands and feet to be one with my wheel. Each wheel depending on the whorl has its own preference of tune. My Ashford traditional likes classic tunes. My Majacraft Is more of a folk gal, and I find the Hansen prefers rock and roll.”  Pat has a selection of wheels tucked around her home but the Ashford is her go to wheel.  I have a Louet that is sadly neglected but I am inspired by my fellow guild members to bring her out of the corner and try my hand at spinning once more.

Why we spin is a fascinating question.  Holly first encountered spinning when visiting New Zealand in her 20s and thought it was fabulous.  She writes “though I didn’t take it up until my late 50s, spinning is one of my hobbies because I simply love the activity of it and the fascination of producing yarn from so many different fleeces and commercial rovings. “ Pat shared “forty-three years ago I didn’t even know I needed to spin until a friend talked me into talking a class….with Judith McKenzie no less!  After one day I was hooked. Spinning is very akin to meditating for me, and I think that it has helped me endure the last two years of life with Covid.”  Sarah wrote “after a time when I’d spin almost anything, I now spin the traditional fibres (wool, silk, cotton, linen, nettle). My favourites are the fibres and fleeces that make me think a bit about how they could or should be spun for different uses.”

Karen just finished a carding project  which took about 600g of small bags of miscellaneous roving from her stash and combined to give her matching roving in a larger project quantity.

Spinning is not always a solitary activity. Often our guild meetings will see members spinning away on their wheels. Distaff Day is celebrated by many spinning guilds as a way to bring spinners together. The TSWG organizes an annual Distaff Day event that brings spinners from many parts of Vancouver Island to spend the day spinning and sharing their love of spinning with experienced and new spinners.

Keep checking back for 2023’s Distaff Day information on our events page

Michele works with local youth in her community and teaches many aspects of fibre arts to enthusiastic young people. She is teaching spinning to a young guild member in this photo. (photo used with parents’ permission).

Michele and her young student at the wheel

Now what to do with all that yarn? Some spinners spin for the joy of spinning with no expectations of what the yarn will be used for. Their goal is to enjoy is the experience of creating a beautiful yarn from fibre.  Sarah suggests that “might be possible to say that you can tell you’re a spinner when you don’t really feel a need to do anything with all that yarn 🙂 The yarn is the end product!”

Cherry wrote that spinning “is where the magic happens. Adjusting the wheel to get just the right take up and twist. Finding the right rhythm with my hands and feet to be one with my wheel.” is why she loves the process.


Where ever you are if you have the chance to sit down with a wheel and spin please try it. You never know you might find a new way to connect with fibre that fills your soul.


Spring is Sprung!


Spring Crocus

Spring has arrived here on Vancouver Island. The rain is still with us but there are more sunny warmer days to enjoy outdoor activities. Guild members have been busy finishing up all the winter UFO’s before gardening season begins to take up time away from our needles, wheels and looms.

The Deflected Double Weave study group members shared some of their finished projects at the March meeting. Karen brought her DDW scarf woven in 2/16 cotton. Barb H and Melody used the same draft from Handwoven Jan/Feb 2007 issue. Barb’s was in 2/16 cotton sleyed at 24 epi at 2/dent in a 12 dent reed. Melody used 2/8 black and white cotton at the same sett. Both scarves are lovely examples of how one draft can be used for very different results.

Barb H and Melody’s DDW scarves

Tammy finished a cozy woollen wrap using 40/60 mohair/wool that is perfect to cuddle up with on a cool evening.

Tammy’s cozy DDW wrap

Janine is a new weaver who is not afraid to tackle interesting weave structures and yarns. She wove 4 tea towels using 2/16 Venne organic linen and 2/16 Venne organic cottolin in grey, white, steel blue and anemone in 2/2 twill. The towels looked lovely and will have place of pride in her home.

Janine”s linen and cottolin tea towels

Linda P shared a framed set of five tapestries using borderless tapestry technique.  Her inspiration was the three flowers Dr. Bonnie Henry had carried, one inspired by a tulip vase she has at home, and one inspired by the same vase but this time she increased the difficulty and wove the tulips on the vase itself. If you look closely you might see a familiar virus woven into one tapestry.

Linda P”s blue vase tapestry series

Coleen visited a tourist market when she was in Peru. The hats for sale in the market were made from synthetic materials but the vendor’s hat caught Coleen’s eye. She told us he took months to knit the hat and that she paid handsomely to bring it home. The inside fabric is tightly knit with very short floats to keep the wearer warm and dry during Peruvian winters. She shared that some Peruvian hats form part of the ritual surrounding a marriage proposal. The prospective groom knits the hat and takes it to his beloved. Her family takes the hat to a lake and fills it with water. If the hat holds the water on the way back then the marriage is approved.

Coleen’s Peruvian Hat

Alison is working on a project for the winter issue of Little Looms magazine. The theme is winter weaving and her inspiration is the final page of a lovely book entitled Grandpa Bear’s Fantastic Scarf. She used pickup to weave the last sentence of the book on her inkle loom in a pebble weave technique.

Alison’s Follow Your Star bookmark

We are so happy to be meeting in person once again it has been wonderful sharing fellowship with each other. If you live near us and are interested in joining the guild please join us at one of our day or evening meetings.

Until next time enjoy the Spring days wherever you find yourself.

Rhododendron in bloom

Deflected Double Weave Study Group Update

The Deflected Double Weave (DDW) Study Group has been very busy these past few weeks. We are back to virtual meetings so they are not able to meet in person. Social media posts and photos are one way the group is keeping in touch and sharing their progress learning about this weave structure.

Tammy has also completed a Thick & Thin DDW Scarf using 2/8 and 2/16 cotton in warp and weft.
Tammy’s scarf is off the loom, fulled and finished and ready to wear.
It is interesting to see the weaving before it is fulled.
Tammy has finished and fulled a super warm DDW wrap for snuggling up on the sofa. She used DK 60% Mohair 40% Wool sett at 8 epi. 19”wide x 66” long. Over 18” of shrinkage in length after wet finishing
Melody is well on her way with her version of this DDW draft done in 2/8 black and natural cotton. It’s looking fantastic
Close up of Melody’s DDW weave structure.
Cynthia has planned out her first DDW project based on the Circles in a DDW from VAV Magazine Issue #1 2019. Cynthia thinks the epi will be in the range of 32- 40. She’s planning on enlarging the number of ends in each block from that in the original draft with the yarn this fine.
Cynthia will be using some Finnish Wool in a cobweb weight (Lankava) which she bought in a destash sale.
Barb is using Madelyn Van Der Hoogt’s draft from Handwoven Magazine Jan/Feb 2007 for her project. She chose these lovely colours of cotton boucle yarn in both warp and weft!








Beginning 2022 with a Study Group

During one of our 2021 virtual guild meetings the topic of study groups came up. We had a discussion about options for study and asked for volunteers to  organize and run the group.  We are so happy that Tammy volunteered to run a Deflected Double Weave study group for guild members.

What is Deflected Double Weave (thank you Tammy for these notes).

“A weave structure in which groups of threads from one weave alternate with groups from the other in both warp and weft. On the loom, the threads lie side by side in a single layer. When the fabric is removed from the loom and wet finished the threads of each weave slide above and below each other into adjacent float areas. Where they do this, they also curve to make waves and circles”

Madelyn Van Der Hoogt

DDW is a block weave that has grown rapidly in interest over the past few years.

We have a DDW guild study group of 11 members studying the principals of DDW on both 4 shaft and 8 shaft looms, but more members are welcome to join.

The guild table loom has been set up with an 8 shaft DDW draft and all guild members are welcome to try their hand at weaving a short sample to understand how to shuttle dive to get clean crisp selvedges on multiple layers.


Guild Loom ready for sampling

Study Group Members have also chosen DDW drafts to weave on their own looms at home.

They will experiment with colour and fibre choices in both warp and weft, as both have a huge influence on the finished weave especially where differential shrinkage is a factor.

Beautiful examples of Deflected Double Weave

We will also be learning about draft planning with the aid of computer software such as Fibreworks.

It is hoped that this study will provide  members with enough confidence to write their own DDW drafts for future projects and to use fibres other than those recommend in published drafts.



Happy Holidays from Tzouhalem Spinners & Weavers Guild


Our December guild meeting was different from past years but 2021 has been different in so many ways as well. We usually get together and have a delicious “pot luck” luncheon. Everyone brings their favourite festive dish; many of us bring our hand woven placements and napkins to set the mood. Most importantly we celebrate our time together learning from each other, sharing our projects and our love for everything fibre related.

Coleen knit this lace shawl using her own spun silk
Cherry knit stranded cowls

This year we were not able to enjoy lunch together but that did not stop us from sharing the latest efforts from our needles, looms, and wheels. Members brought seasonal items and the stories they shared brought both laughter and thoughtful moments during Show & Tell. Tanis donated a lovely Christmas evergreen door swag and Sandi was the lucky winner.

Sandi was the lucky winner

During this past year we used our time at home to explore new techniques such as overshot weaving, knitting sweaters from new to us designers with unusual construction techniques. As always our spinners sourced wonderful fleeces from local and out of province farms. We used  up large portions of our stashes and also bought new yarns from local dyers and suppliers to stock up just in case we ran out.

Cynthia knit tiny toques and sweaters for her wooden birds
Jennifer’s felted bird with onyx eye

New study groups were organized focused on learning more about stranded knitting, deflected double weave and tapestry weaving. Some of us took on-line courses in natural dying and weaving. Small “bubbles” met outside in the good weather to spin and visit while others met and worked on their tapestries together.  The guild supported the Cowichan Exhibition as we entered exhibits and staffed the Spinning and Weaving booth.  Sadly many of our other local events were cancelled but we are hopeful for next year


Melody brought her tailored jacket and dress made in 1992  from her handwoven fabric.

We look forward to the New Year with hope and thankfulness that our guild has remained strong as we look forward to more time together in 2022. Until then Happy Holidays from the Tzouhalem Spinners and Weavers Guild.