working with Community Arts Council of Vancouver!

I am thrilled to announce that CACV has chosen our Terroir project  as one of the downtown eastside community art projects to support, yippee! Funding received from CACV will go specifically towards the support  of our activities at the Hastings Urban Farm and engaging local  community members in creating the performances and installations that  echo from the farm with the fibres we spin… And on the fibre front, we have had our first date of experimenting with the spinning wheels as drums thanks to Martin’s ingenuity .. to make an  appearance at Hastings Urban Farm as a part of the Heart of the City festival on November 9th. So, calling all spinners! want to join our drumwheel band?IMG_1860


foraging and gardening update

Last week when Katrina and I were at MOP we cut back some of the Oregon grape as a part of the site work we were doing. I was struck by the colour of the inner bark- knowing the roots were a dye, but I had no idea the bark was as well. I brought home the branches, and scraped of the bark for a dye test.

the branches are worthy of saving, the scraped pattern of colour is so stunning!

the branches are worthy of saving, the scraped pattern of colour is so stunning!

I poured boiling water over the bark, let it sit overnight, then simmered about an hour before pouring the bark and water back into the jar and leaving it to sit for another few days to pull any remaining colour from the bark. The water now feels quiet thick and viscous, and a short dip of a linen strik shows  great promise for a strong clear yellow.

linen test strik with dye in the background- not a urine sample in case you were wondering....

linen test strik with dye in the background- not a urine sample in case you were wondering….

the grey fibre is 2 ply linen roving I spun that I am going to do a dip dye with- hoping to get a multicoloured skein to try a backstrap weaving experiment.

Meanwhile things grow in the gardens- or in most of them. I actually had to reseed at hastings urban farm, I think the seed was all eaten by the birds. This time we have netting in place, as well as a sign so the local gardeners know to help us with watering- in case the seeds just dry out too much in the current heat.IMG_1685

but the milkweed at hastings farm is easily 3 times the size as at the other two sites…

milkweed fibre in progress

milkweed fibre in progress

at Trillium North it is curious to see how the Marylin seed variety has come up so much faster then the elecra seed- you can see the green corner where the Marylin grows.

And last night at trillium we processed fireweed from the stalks for future use as well as harvesting some green nettle fibre.

nettle fibre, green  freshly harvested and green fibre hackled a few weeks back

nettle fibre, green freshly harvested and green fibre hackled a few weeks back

and the night ended on the high note of Tracy and David collaborating on making an ancient glue stick of sorts…. Tracy brought pine pitch, heated it up and David provided some wood ash to mix in, and it was stirred and rolled onto a stick. This would traditionally be used to waterproof a basket or waterproof the seam in a canoe.

pine pitch+charcoal= glue stick, who knew?

pine pitch+charcoal= glue stick, who knew?

Amazing! I am cherishing my nights with Tracy, every time we meet I learn so much. Now I get to go spin and try drumming using the rhythm of my spinning wheel for Mirae’s dance workshop at Hastings Farm- good fun!

spring fibre foraging and planting

I thought it high time to do a bit of updating for what we have been up to in the planting and harvesting department so far. there have been some exciting things discovered!

But First: for the record

flax plantings took place as follows:

Means of Production Garden May 29 (Marylin seeds)

Maclean Park June 2 (Electra seeds)

Hastings Urban Farm June 3 ( Marylin seeds)

Trillium North June 7 ( Marylin and Electra seeds)

I was overzealous in the seeds I gave away before I had a chance to do my own planting, so  planted  mostly electra ( last years seed) at Trillium, and noticed right away that the small square of marylin came up faster, not sure if that is a  seed difference, or because the electra was  older seed. Penny did a bit of research, and it looks like there should only be about a 2% chance of cross-pollination, so not overly worried about that.

seeding MOP

seeding MOP

Other things worth noting about the sites that we can monitor as the season progresses:

The HUF site is in a heat sink- being surrounded by buildings and concrete, the milkweed there has grown twice as fast as at the other sites likely because it is warmer.- Also seems the nicest soil, least weeds and good “handfeel”

Trillium was really lousy soil, the park board dropped off rotted leaf mulch for me, so I just seeded on top of the leaf mulch, will see how  the fibre is from this experiment!

Maclean has very little flax and  neighbourhood folks are taking care of the site this year with me, growing carrots, sunflowers, amaranth and quinoa along with our milkweed. The soil did not get any soil amendments from last year, other then halfhearted attempt to plant  winter rye too late in the season.

MOP is very clay-heavy soil, things like weeds and remnants of older crops grow like stink, I just hope the flax can  keep up. We did  4 major weedings before planting starting from March, didn’t make a lick of difference!

flax and weeds as neighbours

flax and weeds as neighbours 3 weeks later

Soon I will post  exciting photos of growing flax I promise

On the foraging front:

Tansy folks! IMG_1633A contender for the new fiber 2014 award? We harvested some on June 10, and just ’cause- I tried stripping the skin off and it works! Am doing a few  retting experiments with it now – stay tuned!


We harvested on May 20, 27 and  June 2nd and the skin came off amazingly well after a good smack with David’s Mallet – feels already like the basketry  skin we usually harvest in late July. This season is crazy early. (I have heard of a local man having his  wheat harvest on July 1st this year!) I have done a series of retting tests, and so far have some fibre that was retted for 10 days, then mellowed for 3 (read- forgotten about in the bottom of a basket where it stay wet for 3 days- we call that mellowing) This will be hackled soon using our flax hackles


I nailed it! thanks again to Nancy Turner’s book on hand technologies of First Nations People in BC, I happened to  look up fireweed, and she said, June/July harvest for cordage- before flowers bloom, and it worked! More fibre, will save some for retting experiments and some to use green.

Stinging Nettle: IMG_1450

We have sourced a few locations within a few blocks of our  Trillium work site- and by my rules that is close enough to count!  I hope it is hidden enough from zealous gardeners that it is left untouched and we can harvest it later in the season. When I picked some to show folks, I also picked some  plantain ( left) and burdock ( right) so folks knew what to look for if they got a sting… IMG_1631Then Martin sent me this video link today, so am going to have to try it barehanded now!

Tracy also brought out some eagle down and Mountain goat hair she has been collecting and we spun up a sample.IMG_1423

and she showed us how her ancestors used diatomaceous earth to clean the wool fibres- it kills bugs- and  a little water added, and hand  rubbing also brings up the guard hairs for easy removal.

At the MOP site, we are just beginning to have some fun with discovering the native tree section, and Katrina and I are working away at  some pruning,IMG_1649 the results of which is giving us wood to use like Mock orange, traditionally used for tools including knitting needles and the branches of Oregon grape and the great yellow inner bark shall be a dye. The Arbutus tree that has died on site shall become a feature for our weaving in some way down the road….IMG_1655

Next Wednesday Mirae’s  dance workshop is back at the Hastings Farm, and I am going to bring my spinning wheel and get caught up on some spinning on site while the group dances, come join if you can!



Tuesday nights

Lots of discovery and fun has been happening as we get things under way. Ideas are blossoming as fast as the gardens are growing- Spring is a good time to start a project.

Tracy shows us a hand-powered drill  that functions like a drop spindle

Tracy shows us a hand-powered drill that functions like a drop spindle

All the beds are seeded, and many are sprouting

Katrina from EYA helps walk the flax seeds into the soil at the MOP bed

Katrina from EYA helps walk the flax seeds into the soil at the MOP bed

Tracy and I do our first survey of the MOP native tree section, its great to rediscover plants I haven’t visited for a few seasons. This will be the first year we ever harvest or focus our energy on this area of the garden. Many plants trigger stories  for Tracy that she has heard from her elders, so she takes sample clippings of the ocean spray and Indian Plum.

 the Indian Plum pitch can be used for waterproofing, hmmm..

the Indian Plum pitch can be used for waterproofing, hmmm..

We spend some time processing  local new zealand flax and  spin some fibre

Christi's first spinning!

Christi’s first spinning!


the drop spindle on the right allowed us to spin our fibres quickly for binding rocks and sticks as new spinners…

And then we bind rocks to arbutus sticks with our spun fibre, so we have drop spindles made from the land for future spinning.

Site Potential: early days of dreaming

First few weeks of being on site at each location- getting weeding, planting and first foraging under way has set my brain on fire with what  is possible…

Means of Production:

Native species on site include: mock Orange (Philiadelphus lewisii) Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), Pacific Rhododendron (Macrophyllum), Nootka Rose, Shore pine, Soapberry ( Shepherdia Canadensis), Blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea), Douglas Maple (Acver galbrum) Oregon grape ( Mahonia nervosa), Flowering red current ( Ribes sanguineum), Garry Oak (Quercus garryana),Hardhack (spiraea douglasii), and Indian Plum( Oemleria cerasiformis) and one dead Arbutus tree

This inspiring form holds much potential

This inspiring form holds much potential

Ideas thus far: The Arbutus tree is both sad to see gone, but can provide an anchor point for our work at MOP- we shall use some of it for dye, as well as smaller sticks for drop spindles, tool handles and then leave the trunk and main branches as an on-site loom, or woven installation.

berries galore of elderberry and Indianplum should provide a nice dark rich dye

milkweed and flax from up top can be a fibre base, with a small amount of stinging nettle

lots of Scotchbroom/ blackberry that could be fibre

yucca, NZ flax plants and iris stocks in the top beds can be installation fibres too

Trillium North:

There are lots of Indian Hemp plants! Alas all too young yet for harvesting, so we will curb ourselves to the local flax crop growing, local edge of park fireweed and tansy as well as some stinging nettle from 2 blocks away ( maybe our furthest fibre range) There is lots of lupines for dye, and also some iris that can be cut back this fall for more fibrous weaving.

new plantings at Trillium. Photo: S. Wong

new plantings at Trillium. Photo: S. Wong

Project-wise, the place is very sterile and new, with lots of chain link and metal calling out to be softened, so perhaps a woven panel for the shipping containers or fence? Time will tell…

Hastings Urban Farm:

Our cloth shall be spun from milkweed and flax fibres we grow in one of the gardens 4x40ft raised beds. There are lots of pollinator plants in surrounding beds, including lupines and Rudbeckia, so we can dye the fibres, and then we will spin and wax the line with beeswax from the local rooftop hives. Our local one-city-block-sourced waxed line can then be crocheted into markers that will hang in trees identifying where the pollination areas are in the downtown eastside along Hastings Street.

newly planted milkweed  at Hastings Urban Farm

newly planted milkweed at Hastings Urban Farm

Meanwhile we have fun on Tuesday nights with our first  gatherings for working together.

Tracy and Sharon's first night at MOP.  photo: C. York

Tracy and Sharon’s first night at MOP. photo: C. York

new workshop dates: Dance in the Outdoors

Dance in the Outdoors

Dance with us in different gardens through-out the spring, summer and fall. Explore connections between labour, land and community as the growing season inspires our dances. Ongoing sessions will lead towards participatory performances linking place & local materials. Wear movement friendly footwear, sun hat or rain gear. Open to all. Contact Mirae for more information:

Wednesdays 6-8 PM in June

June 4    Means of Production Garden   Corner of E. 6th and St. Catherines

June 11  Hastings Urban Farm  58 West Hastings St.

June 18  Means of Production Garden

June 25    Hastings Urban Farm

Spring Foraging Dates Announced

5 dates just announced for some spring fibre foraging…  it’s a part of our research actually. You see, I figured out by fluke years ago that Himalayan blackberry has a specific date for harvesting the bark for use in basketry- that is late July here in Vancouver. Harvesting during that time and then  attempting to process the inner bark into a spun fibre has shown some positive results, but the fibre is very scratchy!

I think if we try gathering and processing from late May through June we might just get a fibre we can then later ret and process similar to how we process flax. So that is the objective!

Spring Foraging:

Join Tracy and Sharon for locating, foraging and processing spring fibre plants. Wear closed toe shoes, bring leather garden gloves and clippers if you have them. We will be gathering and processing blackberry stocks for fibre research. Each day we will meet at our designated location and forage in the area for gathering local invasive plants. (tools/gloves provided) Trouble finding us? Call Sharon at 604-363-0220

Tuesdays 6-8.30pm

May 20  Strathcona Park Fieldhouse   857 Malkin Ave. near Hawks

June 3  Means of Production Garden   corner of E. 6th and St. Catherines

June 10  Strathcona Park Fieldhouse

June 17    Means of Production Garden

June 24   Trillium North Park  580 Malkin at Thornton meet at Thornton St sports field entrance.




What fibre lies at my feet?

How do I name it, gather and process,

so cloth can spin from my fingertips,

and cover my skin.

Where do I begin?

The Urban Cloth Project completed in June of 2015. We encourage you to follow up on the ongoing work at  either Trillium North Park website or the eartHand Gleaners Society website. This blog will no longer be updated but serve as an  archive of the project events.

Here is the final documentary created on the Urban Cloth Project