Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Do you ever wonder how people begin working in the fibre industry?
Recently we talked to Sherry & Devon of Humming Bee Farm and learned how they began their business. This Mum & Daughter team are passionate about all things fibre.
Humming Bee Farm is located on Vancouver Island is one of the amazing vendor that will be joining us in September in Penticton. We love their energy and their beautiful fibre. We hope you will enjoy learning more about them.
What is your fibre passion? My (Devon) fibre passion is definitely spinning, especially local fibre. We started as Angora goat farmers and it was thanks to all the fibre artists in our area that we developed and branched out into dyeing, felting and weaving. Mum’s (Sherry) passion is the dyeing – she LOVES mixing colours, painting them on and then the “Big Reveal” when you finally pull all the packages out of the steam pot!
Music or no music when you make stuff? Definitely music if we are in the dye kitchen (and the iPod is always on “shuffle” so we are listening to everything from Enya, Vivaldi, Country music and Christmas carols!) but BBC programs if we are in the studio spinning, weaving or packaging. Some of our favorites are Downton Abbey, Monarch of the Glen, Doc Marten and Road to Avonlea (not BBC but definitely a classic!)
Is there a book about fibre you can’t live without? Hmmm, I would say “The Fleece Handbook” (in small portable pocket size) is a must have, and then there are some knitting books like “Knit, Swirl” that are just total eye candy!
How did you start your business? We started as an actual farm (Humming Bee Farm) in 2009 and were looking for a way to get farm status and the much sought after tax breaks. We had always had horses and I knew we didn’t want to go down that road. One night I saw an ad on UsedVictoria for cashmere goats, which led me to Google and ultimately pictures of Angora goats in a field of bluebells under an old oak tree… Needless to say I fell head over heels in love and arranged to have 2 little white does brought in from northern Alberta to Vancouver Island… Giving my husband only 2 weeks notice.
We had no infrastructure and flew a bit by the seat of our pants but we made it work. By 2013 we had a herd of 25-30 and were shearing a few hundred pounds of mohair every year. We even, after a disastrous incident with a shearer taking a teat off one of our little does, taught ourselves to shear and did it all by ourselves. The turning point came in 2011 when I injured myself at work and had to have 2 knee reconstructions and I was laid up growing squirrelly. My husband pointed and prodded me towards an amazing local woman (and now good friend) Leola Witt-McNie, who taught me to first spin, then weave and then to dye. We didn’t look back! We started to watch YouTube videos on dyeing rovings and then experimenting, finally getting ourselves to where you see us today – hopelessly addicted to colours, textures and fibre!!
What do you love most about your fibre community? We love the camaraderie and how fibre fairs and events always spur people to wear their beautiful handmade garments and items! Its like a proud fashion show with people who truly appreciate and know how much work has gone into what you’re wearing! Another side of the fibre community we love is that people are very keen to know where their fibre comes from – which is what prompted us to work as locally as possible for our yarn line. Its such a great group of people and we are really looking forward to seeing both old and new friends at the Canadian Felt Symposium!
Who is your fibre guru? I would definitely say that Leola Witt-McNie is still our fibre guru! However my colour guru is, and will always be, Mum (Sherry).
Are you a planner or a freeform creator? That’s a good question! Honestly I think we are both! On a dye day we will write out a list of colourways we want to do but inevitably we always stray to something totally off the wall after only 3 or 4 batches! Sometimes we rein ourselves in and stick to the list but more often then not we just run with it!
How often do you make something a week? Mum is usually dyeing something every week and I am pretty much a compulsive knitter! I would like to spin and wet felt more but I think I’m going to have to wait til I retire from my full time job to be able to do all that I want.
What is it about fibre you love?
Texture and colour!! Hands down our favourite things! When you hold something in your hand that’s so soft that your hand doesn’t even register that its there, it just gets warm. Then, add to that beautiful saturated colours that seem to evocative of different places or happy things in life. Yup, I think that’s probably what we love the most!