Fall Fiber Day

Saturday, October 1, was fall Fiber Day at the Ellison’s Sheep Farm in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. This is my second favorite day of the year, after Spring Fiber Day. I attended with my sister, Betsy, and our friend, Mary Lou. Regulars and newcomers from near and far are always down to earth and friendly, and enjoy comparing notes on projects and lives.

The event was held outside for the most part. Food for the potluck lunch was set up inside the house where there is a big entryway containing a modern spinning wheel, an antique spinning wheel, and an amazing Viking boat replica baby cradle hand made by Dave Ellison.

Spinning wheels and a hand made replica Viking boat cradle

Also in the entryway is a hand made basket containing yarn produced by a local mill using wool from the Ellison’s sheep.

Basket with yarn from the Ellison’s sheep

The deck and side yard was set up with chairs and tables. There is yarn and wool for sale. There is yarn hanging from trees. There are examples of fiber projects on display.

Yarn from the Ellisons sheep is for sale
Someone knit this beautiful shawl from Ellison yarn
The same scene in 4 seasons made out of fabric

Grandma Alice was teaching visitors how to needle felt a landscape “painting”.

Needle felting a landscape
Joanie Ellison needle felted on this wool coat

I brought flax fiber I had purchased at Shepherds Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival in the spring. Spinning flax fiber into linen yarn is a very different experience than spinning wool. The fibers are very long and wiry. The traditional way of holding the fiber and keeping it organized while spinning is with a distaff. I do not have one of those, but read about other methods including laying some of the fiber on a towel on your lap. It is also recommended to get your fingers wet as you spin. I brought a towel and a sponge in a small plastic container for my first try at spinning the flax.

Some flax fibers on a towel on my lap, ready for spinning

I found that the spinning part was not that different from spinning wool, although the fibers are much longer. However I was having trouble with the flax fibers in my lap getting tangled. Next time I will try having fewer fibers in my lap and see if that works better.

Spinning flax

My sister Betsy does not knit or spin or weave, but she has made some beautiful quilts in the past. Her current outlet for creativity is learning to draw and paint. She brought supplies to work on some sketching at Fiber Day. You can see the two of us in the next photo enjoying our activities, while sitting on the deck next to the house.

I am spinning, my sister is sketching

Following is another view of my spot on the deck with two other spinners on my right side.

Three spinners

Someone brought little containers of pickles, but no, they were baby cacti. Apparently you can stick either end in a little pot and it will grow!

Baby Cacti

One of the activities at Fiber Day is dying. Following is a photo of Joanie Ellison at a table with her containers of dyes and other related supplies.

Joanie with her supply of dye

There were dyes for cotton or other plant fibers that work with cold water. Joanie had a supply of cotton dish towels and pint size jars if you wanted to try this. For the cold water dying, soda ash fixer is mixed with dye in the water to allow the dye to attach to the fabric.

Soda ash fixer and dye for cotton yarn or fabric

The next photo looks like canned produce, but instead they are 100% cotton dish towels stuffed into pint jars with the soda ash fixer and dye. This cold process and type of dye works for plant fibers like cotton and linen. I intended to dye a tee shirt or dish towel, but I regret that I got busy with other activities and never got to it.

Cotton dish towels in a dye solution

Dying for wool and other protein fibers was heating in big pots over a fire.

Wool yarn in dye pots over a fire

Mary Lou used a big stick to take her yarn out of the pot.

Mary Lou taking her yarn out of the dye pot

Yarn removed from the dye pots is hung on a drying rack to cool off and dry out.

Mary Lou’s dyed yarn was laid out to dry at our house after Fiber Day was over.

The yarn Mary Lou dyed sitting outside to dry

I worked on a carding project with the Ellison’s big electric drum carder. The drum carder can be used to card wool after shearing and washing, to prepare it for spinning. This time I used it to blend four different fibers that were already carded into roving and could have been spun as is, but I wanted to blend them together. I had camel/silk roving I bought at Shepherds Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival, and two different blue colors of merino wool, and a bit of purple wool that I had dyed myself at Fiber Day some earlier time. Sometimes for a fiber blending project the various fibers are weighed and divided into groups so that you know that content of your resulting batts, and they have a consistent blend of the different fibers. I have done that in the past, but this time I just started feeding the fibers in to the machine without measuring. I added the fibers in a consistent order until the drum was full, then removed the batt and started again.

Fiber I brought from home to blend using the drum carder

The fibers gets fed in at the bottom where the small roller grabs it and feeds it around and on to the big drum.

Feeding fiber into the drum carder

After you have added as much fiber as you can or want, it is peeled off and the result is a batt.

My blended batt coming off the drum carder

I completed three big batts which are now waiting for me to spin.

Blended fiber ready to spin

I recommend Fiber Day for anyone interested in any activity involving fiber, whether you are just learning or an expert. It is a wonderful day hanging out with amazing people.

The view behind the Ellison’s house

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

10 thoughts on “Fall Fiber Day

  1. There is a lot of knowledge and skill at Fiber Day. It is great to spend a day and share your love for your craft. You are very talented. I would like to learn how to make a landscape picture from fabric. Glad you had such a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Needle felting is basically taking bits of wool and sticking them on a surface with a needle, making whatever pattern you want with different colors. You could probably find a needle felting class in your area. Or there are youtube videos with instruction, and kits with supplies for sale online. Go for it!! This is a good project to bring with you when camping! Here are links to one video and one kit I found by searching:


      Liked by 1 person

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