5 Take-Home Lessons from the Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium

This year the Upper Canada Fibreshed was invited to participate as speakers in the Wool and Fine Fibre Symposium, hosted by the original Fibershed in Merin County, California. UCFS co-founder Jennifer Osborne presented on the history, membership and projects of UCFS and member Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks spoke on her use of UCFS fibre in her locally-based fashion.

 peggy sue and jennifer upper canada fibreshed wool symposium 2016 fibershed

The Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium

For everyone who’s been following us online this fall you know that our fibreshed co-founders, Becky Porlier and Jennifer Osborn, were invited to speak at this year’s Wool and Fine Fiber Symposium along with our fibreshed member Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks, founder and creative director of Peggy Sue Collection. (Due to the arrival of her second child, the beautiful Severine, Becky was not able to make the trip).

The Wool and Fine Fiber Symposium is hosted annually by the original Fibershed in Merin County, California. The Symposium features panel discussions from farmers, makers and fibershed community members, as well as a marketplace with demonstrations.

jennifer osborn upper canada fibreshed fibershed wool symposium

Both Jennifer and Peggy Sue delivered dynamite presentations that were very well received by the audience. Jennifer highlighted the history, fibre varieties and membership of UCFS and outlined our current and future projects. Peggy Sue shared her story of creating her award-winning high-fashion line using only local fibres and local labour.

Now that we’ve had time to sleep off the jet-lag allow us to share some of what we learned.

5 Take-Home Lessons from the Symposium


  1. Farmer-to-Farmer Conversations Are Very Valuable

  2. From breeding practices to predator control listening to the panels discuss farming practices amongst themselves and with the audience was insightful, even for the non-farmers. It was also clearly helpful for all the farmers in the room. These opportunities to share information, strategies and best-practices are invaluable. The more these can be facilitated, whether formal or informal, the better for everyone looking to understand a fibreshed from the soil upwards.

    mohair-goat upper canada fibreshed fibershed wool symposium


  3. New Economic Spaces Are Developing

  4. We heard a lot of discussion around new economic spaces like using sheep flocks for custom grazing (in California this is for fire control purposes) and the need for skilled and knowledgeable shepherds. While grazing for fire control isn’t likely to be widely used in Ontario, the potential for flocks to be used as alternative lawn mowers is very real within our municipalities. Rather than viewing sheep as a single-use animal, farmers are increasingly looking for multiple uses and income-streams from their flocks.

    upper canada fibreshed fibershed wool symposium


  5. Don’t Throw Out The Coarse Wool

  6. While our understanding of what “coarse wool” is certainly differs between Merin County and Upper Canada, it was refreshing to see heavier wools being understood as useful. Many of us are familiar with wool blankets and throws (ahem…Upper Canada Mercantile) but what about wool duvets and comforters? Wool mattresses? Wool pillows? Wool’s capacity to absorb moisture while remaining warm and its fire resistant quality make it ideal for bedding. Moral of the story: get creative with your coarse wool.



  7. Climate Beneficial Farming Is Here

  8. Fibershed is partnering with researchers at UC Davis to track the carbon-sequestration of land management systems that focus on building soil carbon through manure application and careful pasture management. The research, gathered through the Citizen Science Protocol and Climate Beneficial Wool, is tracking how carbon is being draw-down from the atmosphere and moving through the ecosystem. The clothing and textiles made from the fibres of animals involved in this research are addressing climate change one sweater at a time.

    upper canada fibreshed fibershed wool symposium


  9. Become A Prosumer

Producer + Consumer = Prosumer. This simple formula was shared with us around the Community Supported Cloth project, a new initiative which is asking folks to fund the development of locally grown and USA produced wool fabric by pre-purchasing yardage. Rather than blindly consuming or producing in isolation, the prosumer is involved in and connected to both the production and consumption processes. On the simple end, this may look like knowing your fibre farmer and towards the more complex end of the spectrum it can mean supporting a project like the Community Supported Cloth.


Be sure to check out our Instagram page for photos and commentary from the day itself!


The Common Good

The Common Good Upper Canada Fibreshed

On the corner of the Cockshutt Road and the 11th Concession just outside of Waterford in Norfold County, The Common Good is part slow fashion marketplace and fibre arts creative space, part social enterprise tea-room and part faith-based farm community.

Conceived of and built by Rita Stratford, The Common Good combines “farm, fellowship and faith”. Inside the large creative space within the barn-like house, complete with gorgeous wrap-around porch, women are encouraged to explore the fibre arts by learning from one another and participating in classes that range from natural dyeing to weaving.

The Common Good Upper Canada Fibreshed

The space also houses a cooperatively run tea-room and a local-based marketplace that focuses on promoting slow-fashion and slow-craft.

Rita, an advocate for the “slow goods” movement, seeks to encourage a cultural shift towards slowing down and being responsible with our collective resources, supporting our local economy, creating community through trust and relationships, nurturing our creative souls and connecting with the makers of our goods.

The Common Good Upper Canada Fibreshed

In keeping with this philosophy, Rita raises a small flock of sheep on The Common Good farm.  Cotswold, Gotland and Polworth sheep produce her range of raw fleeces, yarns, rovings and batts.

The Common Good is not your average local yarn store, local marketplace or fibre farm. While it may always defy definition as it continues to grow as a self-sustaining and living entity, it certainly offers a space where the fibre arts are seen as an opportunity to recharge the soul and seek a spiritual journey.

In Rita’s words, “The Common Good may be hard to define but it is simple to experience”.



The Common Good

946 Concession 11 Townsend Road in Waterford, ON

tcgshepherd@icloud.com |  519-428-8894

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Lickety Spit Fibre Farm

Lickety Spit Farm Logo


Lickety Spit Fibre Farm, home to sheep, alpaca, ducks and chickens, is a new breed of farm.

Rather than a traditional family, this farm is run by two friends, Melinda Ramsay and Michelle Bain. Instead of focusing on one fibre animal, this farm keeps sheep and alpaca together in one flock. And, of course, rather than pushing for land-use intensity this farm works to maintain a space that benefits not only the humans but the animals and the plants.

In the words of Melinda and Michelle, “We try to keep our (hoof)prints small”.

Melinda and Michelle come from very different backgrounds. Melinda, who also works on the television program Mayday, is a former Torontonian. Michelle, a former commercial sheep farmer, was born and bred in rural Ontario. Together, these two perspectives are building a farm based on organic husbandry and happy animals.

Sheep on pasture at Lickety Spit Farm

Lickety Spit’s flock includes Romney, Icelandic sheep and Blue Faced Leicester cross sheep, as well as Huacaya alpacas. Environmental integrity and ethical treatment of their animals informs the entirety of the farm’s operations.

All the creatures enjoy the luxury of pasture and barn protection, including the chickens with their chicken tractor and the ducks with their own pond. The farm’s manure is composted and used to support the soil and additional feed for the alpacas and sheep is locally-sourced and GMO-free.

Sheep and Guardian Dog in pasture at Lickety Spit Farm

This effort and dedication to environmental and ethical integrity is clearly seen in the high quality of the farm’s fibre. Lickety Spit Fibre Farm produces a beautiful range of naturally coloured alpaca, wool and blended yarns, all milled locally.

Additional fibre products, such as Alpaca Socks and Insoles, Felt-Your-Own-Soap kits, Laundry Balls and Goat’s Milk Soaps are either made on-farm or via producers that share the farm’s ethics.

When asked why they joined the Upper Canada Fibreshed, Melinda is quick to respond “I think that philosophically it’s really a part of [our] belief system[s]. We have to support and foster these skills if we want to survive.”

You can find Lickety Spit Farm and their Etsy shop at www.licketyspitfarm.ca

Producer News: Where to find Linc Farm @ Southbrook Products this Fall


Linc Farm @ Southbrook  are offering many opportunities to find their beautiful, natural, local wool products this fall.

October 13 – Juliet will be presenting at the Georgetown Heritage Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild 

October 15 – Woodstock Fleece Festival (Look for freshly sheared lambs wool!)

Every Saturday after October 15th at the  St. Catherines Farmers Market

You can also find them online at http://www.lincfarm.com/wool

Products Available 

  • yarn
  • roving
  • sheepskins
  • plus lamb, lavender, honey and other seasonal produce

Producer News: UCFS Co-Founder’s local wool felted art accepted into juried shows this fall.

Producer Member and UCFS Co-Founder Jennifer Osborn  was accepted into two prestigious juried art shows recently with her felted work using UCFS wools. She is also being represented by the Main Market Collective, a new local arts initiative in Georgetown Ontario. Main Market Collective will be featuring Jennifer’s felted work, all of which is made from UCFS fibres, as well as upcycled and organic materials. Jennifer’s work focuses on using wools that are more suited to home decor and accessories. This enables her to use all the types of wool hers, and other’s flocks produce.


Jennifer’s piece “No going back #2 – Accepting the outcome” made from Shetland/Blue Faced Leicester wool from her own flock was accepted into Migration Canadian Contemporary Felt Exhibition at the Shatford Centre/Okanagan School of the Arts, for Canadian Felting Week. Located at 760 Main Street, Penticton, BC, from September 21 – October 16, 2016

“Chrysalis” was accepted into the 20th Anniversary Headwaters Arts Festival at the Alton Mill in Caledon that runs from September 16th to October 10th, 2016, at Alton Mill Arts Centre, 1402 Queen Street, Suite 100, Alton Village, Caledon, ON.