New tradition cut from old cloth

Quilcene to host its first-ever fiber festival

Posted 10/31/22

With the return of the rain, wool’s most welcome season has arrived.

Just in time for Quilcene’s first-ever Fiber Festival at Worthington Park Saturday, Nov. 5.

While many modern …

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New tradition cut from old cloth

Quilcene to host its first-ever fiber festival


With the return of the rain, wool’s most welcome season has arrived.

Just in time for Quilcene’s first-ever Fiber Festival at Worthington Park Saturday, Nov. 5.

While many modern men and women gear up in synthetics, wool has been offering water wicking wearables from time immemorial.

Ancient traditions of wool weaving all the way through to today’s tools will be on display at the Quilcene Fiber Festival following the inaugural year’s theme, “From Sheep to Shawl.”

Plaiting the Past

“You’ll start with the drop spindle. That was the first form of spinning, and then they started creating wheels,” said Lise Solvang, co-host of the event and owner of Quilcene’s Fiber and Clay, while discussing the history on display. “You have the 1800’s huge walking wheel and then you have the traditional wheel … and then you have the e-spinner, electric spinner.”

“They’ll all be in the same room in the mansion so you get to see the different ones next to each other,” Solvang added.

Those e-spinners are something of a local legacy with Beth and Kevin Hansen having invented the miniSpinner, now manufactured in Port Townsend. Jan Gillander’s of Jacobs’ Fleece Farm in Quilcene will be giving demonstrations of how simple and easy the Hansen’s machines are to work with.

But before a white-skinned hand ever wove a weave on peninsula soil, indigenous people had their own traditions which will also have a seat at the table in the mansion.

“We have a couple of people from the Skokomish Tribe that will be there and they will be demonstrating their weaving traditions,” Solvang said.

“We need to know more about where all these traditions stem from and so much of it comes from the Native Americans,” she added.

“Plus it’s really fun to watch.”

Animal Adventures

The event will be so much more than a tour of history though.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to participate with families and have a fun-filled day with music, and animals, and learning new things, and looking at beautiful things,” Solvang said.

“I hope that people will come curious and leave inspired.”

And it couldn’t be “From Sheep to Shawl” without some fluffy friends.

“We’re going to have sheep being shorn and there will also be other sheep there that will be interacting with the public,” Solvang said.

The local 4-H Club will be in attendance to show off their sheep to the public for petting, while another bunch of wooly wonders will offer up their fleece to the sheers.

“These are a type of Shetland sheep and they are coming from our local Sunfield Farm,” Solvang said of the to-be-buzzed. “They are amazing, they do such great work, and I am so proud to have them in our community, and I’m very excited that they’re going to be a big part the fair.”

To represent the diversity of woolen creatures, alpacas will also wander the grounds.

“They’re just going to be there happy and free. They’re going to be walking around on leads so people can interact with them too,” Solvang said.

“It’s so fun to be able to pet them and feel their fleece, and they’re super cute animals,” she added.

Everywhere All at Once

With giant wheels, herds of sheep, and roving alpacas, the festival obviously requires a lot of space.

“This is the first event that we have hosted that will take advantage really of the entire park,” said Brian Cullin, communications chair at the Quilcene Historical Museum.

“It’s 10 acres and it encompasses a beautiful pond, a river, an outdoor stage that was built by volunteers, a restored Victorian mansion that was restored by volunteers.”

“And we’ve got a very modest museum which tries to capture the history of the region, specifically our community,” Cullin continued.

“And we’ve got this great meadow.”

Cullin claims to not be an expert of the textile trade, but did start researching the world of wool after Solvang brought the idea forward.

“Lise, being the subject matter expert right here running a business in Quilcene, she just jumped on it,” he said.

To see what the fuzz was all about, Cullin took a tour of a similar festival in Port Angeles and was impressed by what he saw.

“That whole wool community is a big community and they all seem to know each other,” Cullin said. “They’re artists, and they’re also craftsmen. And they’re also business people.”

“When we translate all of that into the festival here, it absolutely delivers on what our mission is for the museum,” Cullin added. “To attract business to south county, to our part of the area, to be an engine for both business and for enriching our community.”

“It seemed like a no-brainer that we would host something like this,” Cullin said.

Sewing Songs

Also while attending the Port Angeles event, a melody caught Cullin’s ear.

“There was this young Scottish fiddler whose name was Derek Stallman,” Cullin recalled. “To me, he’s like a young bard. He floated around through the vendors playing beautiful Scottish weaving songs, ballads, and things.”

Cullin caught Stallman in a conversation and invited him to play in Quilcene.

“He is the sole musician that will be wandering the grounds, under the tents, in the stage, and in the mansion, and in the museum, and tie it together musically,” Cullin said.

While the fiddle will be the only instrument on-site, there will be many voices raised in song.

“I am most excited for the wool waulking because I have not seen that in person,” Solvang said. “It is an old Gaelic tradition and it stems from year 1000. You can see they do it in the TV series ‘Outlander.’ What they do is they have a group in a circle and they have woven cloth that they make wet, and then they sing old Gaelic songs as they full the cloth.”

Fulling is the process of beating woven woolen cloth while wet to cause the opposing fibers to interlock and form a more homogenous textile.

“When they full the cloth it makes the cloth shrink,” Solvang said. “It makes the cloth more water-repellant because back in the day, that’s what you needed.”

Crisscross Coaching

In the Quilcene Historical Museum itself, there will be a variety of education opportunity for attendees.

“We have great teachers. They’re all local and we will be teaching free of charge; weaving, knitting, crocheting, and wet felting,” Solvang said.

“All supplies are free and they get to keep their knitting needles and their little looms for weaving and all of that,” she added.

For those not called to craft something themselves, there will also be plenty of vendors offering their wares, including Port Townsend’s Bazaar Girls.

“Even though I own a yarn store in Quilcene, Bazaar Girls in Port Townsend is still my favorite store,” Solvang said.

To top it off, they’ll be hosting a raffle with all of the proceeds going to Center Valley Animal Rescue.

One of the biggest prizes will be a community rug that all attendees are invited to help create using a large loom throughout the day.

The festival begins at 10 a.m., with plenty of free parking courtesy of the Quilcene Historical Museum.