This weekend I had the good fortune of being able to attend my very first fibre festival.
Up until now, I had always scrolled down my Instagram feed in envy (good-natured envy, of course 😉 ) as I watched knitter after knitter posting about Edinburgh, Vogue Knitting Live, Squam and Shetland. Nearly all of the time, the destinations seemed too expensive or too far away (most of the times it was both).
So of course I was thrilled when I found out about the Back to the Fibre Festival happening in Courtenay, on my very own Vancouver Island.
Side note: Photo featured at the top is courtesy of Back to the Fibre Festival. Isn’t it lovely?
The Festival was a two-day event (although I was only there for day one). It featured talented crafters including:
- Delores Churchill (world renowned weaver)
- Nat of Wolf and Faun Knits
- Joni of Salish Fusion
- Destanne of Moss Grey
- Morgan of Thread Theory
There were thought-provoking discussions, including the influence of technology and social media on your craft, and debate on ownership of traditional techniques amongst different Native tribes.
Round tables were set up, where you could learn about indigo dyeing, block printing, spinning, basket weaving, button blankets, and (my personal favorite) knitwear design!
I managed to snag a volunteer position to help set up, meaning that:
a) I got to access this amazing event for free!
b) I had the chance to get to know even more creative and inspiring women before the festival officially started.
The catch? I had to be there at 7 in the morning. Luckily for me, I’m a morning person. But even still, leaving at 6 am from Nanaimo to be in Courtenay on time was a bit of a stretch. But once I had my coffee it was so, so worth it!
Here are my top highlights from the festival.
Learning About the Indigenous Aspect of Craft
This topic merits a whole post in itself. Canada is home to over 600 First Nations communities. Each one of these communities have their own traditional techniques with regards to weaving, knitting and other crafts. I had the chance to listen to an incredible discussion among five very talented First Nations crafters, including the Delores Churchill, a world renowned Haida weaver from Haida Gwaii.
One interesting topic of discussion was the Cowichan sweater. Of course, the Cowichan sweater has seen incredible popularity in the knitting community, so it was interesting to hear Joni of Salish Fusion touch on this subject. The term “Cowichan” can sometimes be misappropriated due to its popularity for commercial gain. Take the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, for example. Joni’s mother, Sylvia, has also written an excellent blog post on the history of the Indian sweater.
Side note: During my trip to New Zealand last year, I became more and more ‘sensitized’ to how the Maori (Aboriginal people) of New Zealand appear to be better integrated into society, and how their culture appears more valued, in comparison to here in Canada. I was fascinated to learn more about the Maori people and their history, and felt ashamed to not know more about the history and plight of the First Nations people in my own country. I’m adding this to my list of goals in 2017.
Getting to Meet Inspiring Business Owners
It’s always so inspiring to meet small business owners following their passion, be it sewing, knitting, weaving, dyeing, etc.! Here is a sample of some of the local business owners I got a chance to speak to and learn from.
Nat of Wolf and Faun Knits
Nat has recently opened up an online store and had so many beautiful goodies on display at the festival! I couldn’t help myself, and splurged on this beautiful gauge ruler for swatches (below). Maybe this will inspire me to swatch more?
I also got the chance to have a lengthy discussion with her at one of the Round Tables! This was one of my favorite parts of the festival: being able to sit down face-to-face with so many talented artists and learn from them.
Morgan of Thread Theory
I had actually just featured Morgan in my last blog post here, so was pleasantly surprised to find her as one of the vendors at the festival! I am a huge fan of Morgan’s Thread Theory blog, which e features excellent tutorials and sew-a-longs, perfect for someone who is just starting out with sewing (a.k.a. me!).
Qualicum Bay Fibre Works is a fibre mill on Vancouver Island that processes all kinds of fibres. And when I say all kinds of fibre, I mean all kinds of fibre. Even dog hair can get processed and spun into a yarn for you, if you’d like. Waste not, want not, right? 😉
I had such a great discussion with Anna, the owner, on the fibre industry in Vancouver Island. I am hoping to make a visit to her mill soon. Have a sneak peak at the inner workings in this video below.
This has got to be some of the most delicious bannock I have ever tasted! Complete with homemade blueberry jam. Probably a good thing I don’t know how to make this at home, otherwise I would never stop eating it!
Knitting in Public!
As much as I try to bring my knitting projects with my and whip it out at every occasion, I always feel just a tad self-conscious doing so, especially if I’m surrounded by non-knitters. Luckily, this was not the case at the Back to the Fiber Festival. I was surrounded by knitters, weavers and other fiber artists who were all happily knitting away while listening to the discussions. Finally got to make some progress on this Colorful Wedges baby blanket I’m knitting from Purl Soho.
All in all, a fantastic day.