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.


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.

Welcome to the new website!

Well it has been quite the year hasn’t it? All this extended time at home provide us with an opportune time to do some revision and upgrading on our website.

We want to thank Cynara for her work on setting up and maintaining our webpage over the years. Her lovely thoughtful newsletters full of gorgeous photos and stories told the stories of our members’ love of the fibre arts to you all. Please join me in thanking Cynara for her hard work over the years.

While we were unable to hold our usual end of year and Christmas lunches, our community events being cancelled and no in person meetings this past year we have been able to adapt and continue our passion for all the fibre arts. We have been spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting and felting our way through the pandemic!  Our stashes have been lifesavers and will need some serious restocking once we can be out and about again.

Our guild executive has honored two on our members with Life Time memberships in recognition of their many years of guild mentorship and generous gifts of time teaching and sharing. Guild members send our thanks to Daphne and Gudrun for sharing your knowledge and skills over the years.

Guild Events

In early January, the Guild hosts Distaff Day, a much-anticipated event that brings together spinners from Vancouver Island and the surrounding islands. Its members demonstrate at a number of community events: Shawnigan Lake’s Heritage Fair (mid-August), the Cobble Hill Fair (late August), Arts on the Avenue in Ladysmith (late August), and the Cowichan Exhibition (early September). They are active participants in the Cowichan Fleece & Fibre Festival and at their own Weavers & More Show and Sale in Cowichan Bay (both in October).

For more information on the Tzouhalem Spinners & Weavers Guild, please send an e-mail to the group’s president: Cherry at prestswg@gmail.com

Our mailing address is PO Box 21104, Duncan, BC V9L 0C2.