Massachusetts Sheep & Woolcraft Fair :: May 27 & 28, 2017


Shepherds are getting their sheep and fleeces ready, vendors are getting wool, yarns and crafts ready for you  to see and workshops are now in place.  Come and join us at the fair.  Located in the beautiful town of Cummington, Massachusetts, at the fairgrounds.   Good food will be available bring the family for a day of fun.  Sheep shows, Dog trails and lots of demos will await you.


We are pleased to present our workshop schedule for 2017. We host great teachers from near and far. Bruce Engebretson writes for Spin Off Magazine, and teaches at Marshfield School of Weaving. He was trained in the Scandinavian tradition of fiber work. Katherine Johnson will teach us about Naalbinding, spelled variously: in English it is needle binding. Emily Gwynn enlightens us on using charts for knitting! Dotty Taft will be bringing her fleet of drum carder for us to experiment on.
On Saturday the cotton expert Joan Ruane of Bisbee AZ will be demonstrating how to spin cotton. On Sunday, Bruce Engebretson will demonstrate. Other guests will be joining us for various demonstrations.. Check out the Website for times and days.


Potluck Supper

A potluck supper will be held on the fairgrounds dining room at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. Everyone is welcome. Please bring a prepared dish or salad sufficient to feed your family to the kitchen by 4:00 p.m. NO BREAD PLEASE! Rolls, beverages, and place settings will be provided.  Both refrigerators and a warming are available on the grounds.

Fleece Judging

The Dog Trials are always an exciting event

See you there












Welcome to Fiberuary 2017




We hope to have may wonderful people writing about fiber and crafts over this coming month.  If there is something special that you would like to write about please e-mail me at


I have been hosting going to and experiencing Dye Parties  since the late 80’s  They are so much fun and I wanted to share the ins  and outs of them so you can have your very own.

You will need a fairly large area with access to water.  A tent is useful and tables are a must.


Lobster pot with a drain or a canning pot  (these pots are used exclusively for dyeing.

Quart jars with lids                             plastic cups/or small tubs

stencil brushes                                    Dyes (recipe to follow)

placCamp stove and bottled gas            dye pots

wooden spoons                                    plastic spoons

saran wrap if you are doing painted on roving

white vinegar                                        masking tape

With the saran wrap and vinegar we usually ask people to being one or the other

If this is your first dye party and you don’t have any dyes i recommend Pro Chemical Dye Company in Somerset Ma.  800-2buy-dye  or online at http://www.prochemical.dye.  I was introduced to this great company  after I started spinning and have been using them successfully ever since.  If you have any questions, need a specific color they are there to help you.  I use the washFast Acid dyes.

In the dye parties I have attended over the years most people brought their own stoves and pots and spoons.  The dyes were provided for a small fee and were mixed and ready to go.  A tub filled with water and white vinegar was set up for those who brought dry material  .  People brought jars of natural dyes to share.  A rinsing tub was also filled with cold water.

Usually there was a pot luck lunch and bringing a chair to sit on after hours of dyeing is welcomed.

Tables were covered with plastic. A couple of  tables were dedicated to painted on yarn and roving.

Everyone brought scrap wool or yarns to use up dyes.  Most times the left over dyes brought the best colors.  We tried not to dump dyes using them up is great for the environment.

Sometimes these parties lasted from Friday through Monday, with Saturday and Sunday being the busiest days.

Recipe for a Stock Solution

1 tablespoon dye in 1 quart of water





The remains of these dyes after the party can be kept till the next year.  Each dye jar  should be labeled.

My friend Debbie and I did a dye party for the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild.  It was a fun day and we ended up with lots of wonderful colored woolen material.

People also brought basket weaving materials to dye.

It’s a fun way to get a years worth of dyeing done in a day to two.  If you have a dye party please send me pictures  I would love to share them next year.


Pre-soak your yarn s,rovings, warps or material in a vinegar/water solution

Spread out your yarn, roving or warp on a slightly larger piece of saran wrap.

Using a brush or spoon (but being cautious about having too much liquid  as it will         muddy your outcome) add color in stripes, blotches, or whatever turn over to catch what you have missed. If you don’t want any of the original yarn color showing make sure everything is covered.  Blot up ay extra liquid.

Fold over the sides of the wraps and roll up jelly rool style.  Tape package and initial and place in the steamer.  when the pot is full and steaming put top on and leave for 45 minutes.  Remove and let cool before unwrapping and rinsing.

Remember to exhaust the dye that is in the steamer before draining.

Have a wonderful time.  Carole Adams  Whispering Pines Farm



Hello FIBERuary Friends

From time to time I will be letting you know of happenings in our local and New England area.

Classes at Sheep and Shawl

Fiber Arts Classes at Sheep & Shawl in South Deerfield:

Beginning & Refresher Knitting – Short Course, Linda Forget – Wed. 6 – 8 pm  Mar 30, Apr 6, 13  (3 sessions) $60 plus materials
Crochet Refresher – Heather McQueen  – Sun. 1 – 3:30 April 3 (1 session)  $25 plus materials   Not a beginner’s class.
Knit Your Dog a Sweater  –  Susan Wright – Sun. 2 – 4 pm April 3 & 10  (2 sessions)  $40 plus materials
Sock Knitting for Beginners – Emily Gwynn – Thurs. 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm April 7, 14, & 21 (3 sessions) $60 plus materials
Learn to Spin on your own wheel – Carole Adams – Sat. afternoons 1:00 – 3:00  April 9, 16 & 23 (3 session) $60 plus materials
Rughooking with Yarn – Carole Adams – Sun. afternoons 1:00 – 3:00 April 10 & 17 (2 session) $40 plus materials  No experience needed.
Helping Hands Project Class (knitting)– Emily Gwynn – Wed. 6-8pm April 13 & 20 (2 sessions)  $40 plus materials
Sweet Marguerites! (fine crochet) – Heather McQueen – Sun. 1 – 3:30 April 17 (1 session)  $25 plus materials
Two-color Brioche (knitting) – Linda Forget – Wed. and Thur. 1:00 – 3:00 April 20 & 21 (2 sessions) $40 plus materials
Helping Hands Project Class (knitting) – Emily Gwynn – Wed. 6-8pm May 4 & 11 (2 sessions)  $40 plus materials
Entrelac for Beginners (knitting) – Beth Altemari   We hope to offer this again in May.  (3 sessions) $60 plus materials

For more information please see the website Call 413-397-3680 to register.


Click on below for information on entering your woolcraft items

You still have time to make or finish you item for the contest.  Lets make the tables overflow with wonderful handmade items.


The Wheelhouse Farm Truck from Brookfield Farm in Amherst will be at the fair serving up great food.  Those of you from the Amherst area know how good their food is.

The fair is held Saturday and SUnday of Memorial Day weekend.  COme and join us to celebrate  fiber and sheep.  Lots of vendors, dog trails, sheep contests, lead line good food and lots to see  No Dogs please. 



The Linen Symposium is full with a waiting list.  I am gong to be a volunteer and will report on this highly successful event.    


This program is put on by the local ATHA group.   A unique program to keep informaion on your rugs for the future.



August 20, 2016

10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Shelburne/Buckland Community Center

53 Main Street

Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts  01370



The 4th Annual Region 1 Rug Registry will be held in August

in the picturesque village of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.


Region 1 of A.T.H.A. has undertaken this service so that

rug hooking artists can preserve and document their heirlooms of the future.


The Registry is not limited to A.T.H.A. members.

It is available to all rug hookers and owners of hooked items.


The form below should be used to make your appointment.

Return it to:      Diana O’Brien,   PO Box 310,   Shelburne Falls, MA  01370-0310



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Region 1 Rug Registry Appointment Request


Name ____________________________________________ Tel _________________

Address ____________________________,______________________,____,_______

E-Mail ________________________________________________________________


___ Number of Items to be Registered    (Fee is $10.00 per item.)



A Hook-In will be held at the same time & in the same facility as the Rug Registry.

The fee will be $10 per person; beverages and goodies will be provided;

bring your own brown bag lunch or order something delicious from a local establishment.


___ I will be attending the Region 1 Hook-In (A prepaid $10 reservation is required)

___ I will not be attending the Region 1 Hook-In, only the Rug Registry


Upon receipt of your appointment request, a Rug Registration Form will be emailed to you.

Fill out as completely as possible.  A trained volunteer will review the form with you at your appointment.


The item(s) must be physically present.  Digital photos will be taken.


The fee per item is $10.00 payable to Region 1 of A.T.H.A. due at the time of registration.

Thank you so much for reading and following FIBERuary.  You have made this a successful event.  I will keep you informed of wonderful events in our area.  Happy Fiber hunting.  Carole-Whispering Pines Farm





FIBERuary Day 28  GROWING AND PROCESSING FLAX   Talk and demo at Sheep and Shawl.                               with Michelle Phillips

Today was the last in a series of 4 talks given at Sheep and Shawl. Thanks to Liz and John for hosting these wonderful talks.

Michelle did a wonderful job of explaining the planting and finishing process of Flax.  I wanted to share with you pictures of this event. Everyone who wanted to got a chance to try their hand at it and see many wonder samples from the plant itself to the finished product.


Three different varieties of Flax


Dryed and Retted, ready for processing


Michelle using a Flax Brake.  This brakes the fiber from the stem.


This is a plant with a break in it, you can see the fiber between the break


Michelle using the Heckle.  The heckle splits and straightens flax fibers for spinning.

A wonderful time was had by all. 


FIBERuary Peggy Hart Mills



FIBERuary Day 23     Peggy Hart   Spinneries



The big woolen mills are gone, but a number of small custom work spinneries have sprung up to spin yarn for fiber farmers. On the custom weaving page of my website,, there is a list of some of the ones I have worked with. Whether you  keep sheep yourself, or are just looking to source locally grown and processed wool, this list may be useful. Some use old industrial equipment, some use the new Mini Mill equipment. Most spin woolen system and others semi worsted.
Questions to consider when choosing a mill:
  • Where: You will save yourself some expense and trouble if you can drive your wool to the spinnery. This also gives you the opportunity of talking to the spinnery about the best design for your yarn and for them to look at your wool. If the wool is damaged or has too much vegetable matter in it they can tell you right then and there.
  • How much wool: Spinnery minimums range from totally custom (one fleece) to 100 lbs raw fleece to 300 lbs. washed fleece. Costs of spinning at some mills go down dramatically as you have larger quantities spun.
  • Yarn design: Mills spin either woolen or semi worsted system. Woolen yarn is lofty and especially suited for knitting and most weaving. Woolen system mills typically accommodate staple lengths of 2 1/2”-5”.  If your wool is longer, you will need to find a mill that spins semi worsted yarn, which will result in a stronger, more lustrous yarn.
  • Scouring: Some mills scour, some don’t. Riteway offers a scouring only service.
Green Mountain Spinnery, Zeilingers, Harrisville Designs and Bartlettyarns are woolen system mills that use old industrial equipment. Bartlett has been in operation more than 150 years, Zeilingers has been around since 1910, while Harrisville Designs was started in 1971 and Green Mountain in 1981. All of these do custom spinning as well as selling their own line of yarns.
The Hampton Fiber Mill and Still River Mill both spin semi worsted yarn, using modern equipment.
There are a number of Mini Mills around; some of the others on my list fall into this category. Mini Mills refers to the Belfast machinery that is designed to serve the needs of alpaca farmers. Because alpaca is long, fine, and needs to be dehaired before spinning, it cannot be spun using conventional woolen equipment. The Belfast Mini Mill is a smaller piece of equipment than the old industrial machines, and they describe it themselves as cottage industry spinning equipment. It reminds me of the spinning jennys of the early 1800s. They sell 4 and 8 spindle models. I will say from my experience that quality of spinning varies widely. Many owners got into the business knowing nothing about spinning, qualities of different fibers, or functions of knitting and weaving yarns. However there are a lot of them all over the country now. Word of mouth recommendations are a good idea. They will process small quantities.

Spinning Jenny

FIBERuary Eric and Barbara Goodchild


FIBERuary   Day 19  Eric and Barbara Goodchild -Handspun Yarn


Hello.  We are Barbara and Eric Goodchild of Barberic Farm in Shelburne, MA.  We are going to tell you about our handspun wool yarn.

Handspun yarn is yarn that is created by “hand” using just fingers, simple sticks, or more complicated machines run by people power, to twist fibers into heavier string than the original fiber.  This twisting holds the many short fibers together to create a stronger and longer “string” to make items from.

On our farm, handspun starts with our Romney sheep.  Care is taken all year to keep the wool on the sheep as clean as possible.  The sheep are fed from pastures free of high weeds and grass, with seeds that could get into their fleece.   In the winter, once the sheep are off of pasture, and in the barn full time, we put coats on the sheep.  A sheep coat is much like a dog coat.

Extra nutrition is given to the ewes (female sheep) when they are nursing their lambs, to keep the fibers strong while there is a big drain on the ewes natural resources as she feeds her lambs and grows her new fleece.  If a sheep becomes under-nourished or sick, this can cause the wool fibers to become thin or brittle.  This will cause a weak spot in the fiber that will break while being made into handspun.

Fibr 2.jpg

Shearing time on our farm is in March, about 4-6 weeks before lambing.  At that time each fleece is skirted to remove the dirty fleece and vegetable matter, weighed, measured, and labeled with the sheep’s name.  Fleeces are stored in brown paper bags until they are sold or sent to Still River Mill in  Eastford, CT to be made into roving.

picture 3.jpg

Roving is a continuous  length of washed, combed fibers that we use to spin into handspun.  The spinning of the yarn is done on our Ashford spinning wheel, which is powered by a foot pedal that causes the fly wheel to turn that powers the spinning apparatus.

Handspun wool yarn can be spun fine, medium or thick.  Just like commercially made yarns, the yarns thickness is defined by a number system.  Lace is #1. Sock is #2. DK or light worsted is #3. Worsted is #4. Heavy worsted is #5. And Bulky is #6.  These weights allow the knitter to know how best to use the yarn.

picture 4.jpg

Once the yarn is spun, we can ply 2 or more strands together to make a thicker or variegated colored yarn.  Once the bobbin on the spinning wheel is full, we remove the yarn and put it on a kniddy-knoddy.  This stretches the yarn to prevent tangles, and makes what is called a skein.  After plying each skein is soaked, drained, squeezed to remove the water, and hung at full length with a weight at the bottom to dry.  This process sets the twist of the yarn.

After the yarn is fully dry, we measure the skein’s length, weight, and thickness.  Now it is ready to be made into beautiful wool garments or crafts.




FIBERuary Michelle Parrish Part 2


FIBERuary Day 17   Flax with Michelle Parrish  Part  2

Flowering and Setting Seed
Depending on the type, flax will start to bloom between 37 and 45 days after planting. Flax flowers open in the morning, and the petals fall off by mid-day. Each flower only lasts a day. Flax is indeterminate, which means that once it starts to bloom, it will keep blooming until you harvest it. For fiber, pull flax before the seeds are mature, between 90-100 days after planting. The exact timing will depend on the weather. If it’s hot and dry, the plants will mature more quickly. When you harvest, the plants will still be flowering. The bottom third to a half of the stalks will be yellow and there will be green and tan seed bolls. You may have a few mature seeds at this point, but not a lot. If you want to save some plants for seed, let them grow until the seed bolls are dark brown. Watch out for birds and rodents, as flax seeds are very oily and desirable. The seed pods can also fall off or pop open when they are ripe, so keep an eye on your seeds. Botanists consider flax self-pollinated and don’t tend to worry about cross-pollination between two types. However, flax flowers are definitely visited by nectar-hungry insects so I recommend separating types by distance or physical isolation.

Harvest and Drying

Pull up the entire plant by the roots. The roots are not deep, and the fibers continue down into the roots. Line up the root ends as evenly as you can and tie the bundles together tightly with strong twine. I make my bundles about as thick as my forearm. The plants will shrink significantly as they dry, so I tie the bundles very tightly to start with. Then, let the bundles dry. The traditional way is to stack them up in a little tent-shape structure called a stook and leave them in the field, but I usually hang mine from the laundry line or a fence to dry.
Put them under cover if it rains. Once the bundles are dry you can store the flax as long as necessary before proceeding to processing. As the plants dry they will shed a lot of leaves, petals, and dirt, so put them someplace that can get messy. The seeds on the bundles, even immature seeds, will attract mice and other rodents, so be alert. Dried flax is called “straw”.

Retting is the trickiest part of the process, and judging when flax is properly retted takes experience. Retting is a controlled rotting process that releases the flax fibers from the rest of the stem. Flax is a bast fiber, meaning that the fibers are in the stem of the plant. Two traditional ways to ret are dew retting and water retting. With dew retting, you open up the dried bundles of flax and spread the straw on a grassy field in rows. You flip the rows over periodically so all sides of the plant ret evenly. Fungi slowly consume the pectins that hold the fibers to the woody material of the stalk, and also release the waxy cuticle from the outside of the stalk. The fungi occur naturally in the plants or in the soil, but not every field has the right make-up of micro-organisms conducive to dew retting. Dew retting can take several weeks and is weather dependent. If the weather is very dry, you will have to sprinkle the stalks with water. If it’s very rainy, you run the risk of rotting the stalks. When the silvery-gray fibers start to look wispy, it’s ready. My first attempt to dew ret (during a rainy, cold fall) was a disaster, and I have only done water retting since then.

With water retting, a combination of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria consume the pectins that hold together the layers of the stalk. The bacteria occur naturally on the plants. The speed at which retting occurs is dependent on temperature and water quality. Traditionally water retting was done in ponds or dammed-up sections of a stream or river. Since water-retting is a bacterial process, it makes the water quality foul. I use stock watering tanks. I have a 50 gallon tank and a 100 gallon tank. The 100 gallon tank holds a lot, but it also takes a lot of water to fill it. Water retting takes anywhere from 6 to ten days when done in the summer or early fall. I fill up the tank with water, and wait for it to off-gas (I’m on town water) overnight. I suspect that the chlorine or other chemicals in the water inhibit the growth of the bacteria. Then I submerge the bundles and weight them down with boards, bricks, or milk-crates full of buckets of water. if you don’t submerge the bundles, they will float. They need to be under at least 3 inches inches of water to ret properly. Once it’s clear the bacteria are active, change a portion of the water every day (up to a third of the water, depending whose recommendations you read). Some years I haven’t changed the water at all, in the hopes that I could speed up the process and save water. However, adding fresh water maintains a certain balance of oxygen, which I suspect leads to better retting.

Why does retting matter so much? The problem with under- or over-retting is that it really affects fiber quality. If it’s under-retted, it is extremely difficult to get the fibers clean and ready to spin, and if it’s over retted the fibers will break.
                                 Retting tank starting to bubble
There are many tests to determine if the retting is complete. Honestly, it’s the kind of thing you just have to try for yourself. Someone else’s test might not work for you. After a few days, test the straw a couple times a day. Pull out a few stalks and bend or break them to assess how easily the fiber pulls away from the woody core. I find that when I lift the bundles out of the retting tank, a certain degree of floppiness or relaxation of the bundles is a good sign that it’s retted. You can also pull out and dry a few stalks then break them and see if the fiber pulls away easily.

Once retting is complete, I drain the tanks, rinse off the straw, and hang or lay out the bundles to dry. Be careful not to rub or agitate the bundles too much when rinsing. The loosened fibers can get tangled and then they just stick together and break off when you do to the next stages of processing. Water retting produces a lighter color fiber (yellow or white) than dew retting (silver or gray).

      This is a  picture of scarping off the cuticle when your flax is under retted

“Dressing” or Processing the Fiber
Once the retted straw is dry you “brake” or “break” it with a tool called a flax brake (or break). This tool looks sort of like a saw-horse, with an arm that you can swing down onto the stalks to crush them.
The woody material shatters and falls off, and the fibers are released. The small pieces of woody material are called shives or boon. After that, you “scutch” or “swingle” the fibers to scrape off any remaining woody pieces. Traditionally this was done with a vertical board and a scutching knife or sword made of wood. You hold the bundle of fiber tightly in your fist and whack it with the sword, taking care not to whack your thumb! After the fiber is clean, you draw the bundles of fiber through a series of “hetchels” or “hackles” with sharp tines. The sharp metal tines pull out the shorter fibers, or tow, and align the long fibers for spinning. The long flax fibers are known as “line” and a nicely aligned handful of line is known as a strick. At this point you can twist up the strick for safe keeping, or commence directly to spinning. I am not a proficient flax spinner, so I will leave that topic to someone else!