New things are looming at Big Baddeck's Ewephoria Felt
Local fibre artist transforms island wool into wearable creations
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.