Fiber medicine

Fiber Festival Shows Home Skills Still Spinning – Park Rapids Enterprise

The secret to hot, dry feet was among the data shared at the Farm to Fiber festival on Saturday at the Hubbard County Fairgrounds.

“Our goal is to educate consumers, empower producers and help the public learn more about fiber arts and fiber animals,” said Alethea Kenney of Shevlin, president of the Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota (SSFC). “This fiber festival started because we wanted to bring local fiber artists to the attention of the fibers that some local growers were growing, who maybe didn’t know they could get really great fiber locally.

“Some growers were selling their lint for 10 cents a pound to the shearer, and it continues down the line. They didn’t realize, ‘Hey, people are paying a lot of money for the fiber they can use.’ They have different outlets for the fiber if they want it. So there are some great things to sell directly to fiber artists, consumers and the public.

Kenney said the SSFC hosts events throughout the year, including opportunities to educate children about fiber techniques and animals.

Bruce Engebretson from Osage spent time during the festival carding wool and stretching it into yarn on a spinning wheel while making himself available to anyone who needed their spinning wheels repaired.

Engebretson said he has been doing fiber arts for 40 years, starting around age 12 when he saw a demonstration at the State Fair and began experimenting with his grandmother’s spinning wheel.

“I didn’t really get good until I was about 15,” he said. “I was helped by neighbours. I had many good teachers. I didn’t learn any of this.

To explain how spinning wool works, Engebretson noted that a pile of hair will blow all over your garden, but a pile of wool will hold together. “There are little barbs on the wool that hold it together,” he said, aided by the twisting motion of the spinning spool.

Engebretson also weaves and knits, primarily to make socks, mittens, and blankets for use around the home. “I make a lot of socks for people who get sick,” he said, “because your feet are cold. That’s what I really shine at.

He said medical patients really appreciate warm feet.

Compared to other materials, he says, “wool is warmer when wet. It wicks away moisture and doesn’t keep you wet. And if you have wet clothes, they dry out on your body.

Another property of wool, he said, is that it retains air better than cotton. “Wool itself is not warm, but the air it traps is warm.”

Other exhibits included Trudy Delich drum carding, Margo Hanson demonstrating wet felting, Teresa Kukowski weaving on a loom and showing alpaca wool products and the art of needle felting, Linda Johnson-Morke doing tours of her Mongolian-style (or “ger”) yurt and leading a lesson in knitting with locks, and Karen Stormo doing a rope and fiber art fashion show.

Kenney herself passed the time, spinning dog hair with only a spool.

A foot injury prevented Kathy Belt of Park Rapids from performing her scheduled demonstration of a spring loom. However, she explained that it is an ancient technique producing a stretchy material, ranging from fabric to an open, lacy texture.

“Lately I’ve been creating hairnets,” she said. “I’ve done pageants, and a woman never went with her head uncovered if she was married. … And a hairnet keeps the hair out of the fire.