New things are loom­ing at Big Bad­deck's Ewepho­ria Felt

Lo­cal fi­bre artist trans­forms is­land wool into wear­able cre­ations

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - CAROLYN BAR­BER

Owner/op­er­a­tor of “Ewepho­ria Felt” Claire Drin­nan has found just the help she needs to keep up with the de­mand for her pop­u­lar, wear­able, felted wool cre­ations. She re­cently pur­chased a new nee­dle loom from Ken­tucky. To her knowl­edge, the three-foot long loom is the only one of its kind in the prov­ince.

Claire had been “wet felt­ing” the wool by hand. This in­volved ag­i­tat­ing the cleaned wool in basins of cold and hot wa­ter caus­ing the wool’s nat­u­rally scaly fi­bre to in­ter­lock, shrink and thicken. Not only is the process labour-in­ten­sive, but Claire noted that wet felt­ing is not ide­ally suited to the struc­ture of the wool found on the is­land’s dom­i­nant sheep breeds (Dorset, North Coun­try Che­viot, Suffolk). Now, the 72 barbed nee­dles on her new loom in­ter­lock the wool fi­bres to pro­duce felt. While im­port­ing a more com­pat­i­ble wool from New Zealand has al­ways been an op­tion, Claire in­sists on us­ing wool from the is­land.

“It’s so cool to be wear­ing some­thing from Cape Bre­ton soil,” she said at her stu­dio in Big Bad­deck.

Claire learned that meat pro­duc­ers on the is­land had more sheared wool than they could han­dle and were dis­card­ing it.

“I can’t sit with that,” she said. Repur­pos­ing is a way of life for her.

The only pur­chaser for the wool was the wool de­pot in Truro. The price fetched for the wool barely cov­ered fuel costs trav­el­ling to and from. Hav­ing a lo­cal fi­bre artist take the sheared wool off their hands was a per­fect match.

“They thanked me for sav­ing them a trip to the dump.”

Ini­tially, farm­ers would not take money for the wool, but she in­sisted on pay­ing them. Shear­ing is an in­ten­sive job with costs in­volved. She views sup­port­ing the farm­ers’ labour and op­er­at­ing costs as an in­vest­ment in the is­land food se­cu­rity.

Claire be­gan knit­ting at a young age. For her, it was the “gate­way drug” into the world of fi­bre arts.

“What if I could make my own yarn?!” she re­calls ask­ing her­self.

From there, the pas­sion grew in many di­rec­tions. She mas­tered drop spin­dle spin­ning ten years ago by devour­ing Youtube videos. She fu­eled her “hunger and ad­dic­tion” for weav­ing from the age of six with two-week sum­mer work­shops at the Gaelic Col­lege, where she is now trained on the card­ing ma­chines.

Claire re­cently ex­panded her vast skill set to in­clude “chien­gora” - spin­ning dog hair. She is tak­ing com­mis­sions for hats and head­bands.

“Cre­at­ing is good for you,” says Drin­nan. “It’s like a vi­ta­min.”

Her felted wool prod­ucts are cur­rently sold ex­clu­sively at Vic­to­ria County Cre­ates on Che­bucto Street in Bad­deck.

You can reach Claire through her web­site, ewepho­ri­afelt.com.

With her new nee­dle loom, owner/op­er­a­tor of Ewepho­ria Felt Claire Drin­nan, can meet the de­mand for her felted wool prod­ucts. Drin­nan is seen here with dog Rebel and cat Milky Way. Photo by Carolyn Bar­ber.

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