We asked long time felt :: feutre canada member, Monika to tell us a bit about her shop.
The Olive Sparrow is me, Monika Aebischer, I am a felter and a natural fibre doll artist. In a previous life I was a mixed media artist with work in galleries across Canada. Sadly during the 2008 financial crash the art market collapsed and I was forced to re-invent myself. As I had fallen in love with felt making during my student years at the Ontario College of Art and Design and had taken some wet felting workshops in Switzerland, it seemed to be the right direction to go. It also worked very well with my doll making — I needle felt the heads of my dolls and also make felted clothing for some of them. I quite proudly call myself a crazy about collecting books about wet and needle felting. While growing up in Switzerland as part of my apprenticeship in selling women’s clothing, I studied fibres and textile manufacturing. The Olive Sparrow shop started as a way to bring supplies to my felting students — I taught a 5-day felting intensive workshop at Loyalist College for 4 years every summer from 2011 - 2015. Every year I would import specialty felting fibres from Europe for my students. These students then wanted to purchase fibre after the workshop. Learning that there are a number of Fibre Festivals around Ontario made me realise that there was an opportunity to share these fibres with other felters. My painting studio slowly turned into a shop — alongside my selling on Etsy. I decided that the shop was going to focus on Felting supplies and not be another general fibre shop. I also decided that the focus will be on European felting fibres, rather than local fibres. After 20 years in that space I was forced to move in 2018, as the old building was being turned into condos. Now located in the East end of Toronto, the shop is in an industrial building — and open by appointment. There are about 600 square feet full of fibre, commercial 100% wool felt, waldorf doll supplies, Sajou notions from France and select other items. The shop is also somewhat mobile, in that it can be transformed into a workshop space for 1-3 students. Before we were in this Pandemic, the Olive Sparrow could be found at various fibre festivals — Twist, Picton, Woodstock, Peterborough, Knitter’s Frolic, Kitchener/Waterloo knitters festival, and other smaller events. 2020 has meant a focus on building out the online presence and extending inventory. The Olive Sparrow is an official DHG Dyehouse re-seller — carrying all of the pre-felt colours, as well as an extensive selection of 19 micron roving, 19 micron batt, sari silk waste, mulberry silk and a variety of other fibres.
Tell us about a few of your favourite feltmaking supplies.
Feature Fibre: Swiss Mountain Sheep Batt - Vallois One of the fibres the I fell in love with in my own felting work is Vallois Batt — I call it Swiss Mountain sheep — as that is easier to pronounce. (photos of Swiss Mountain sheep above and below). The Swiss Mountain fibre is produced from wool from sheep that spend their summers up in the Swiss alps — they have a wonderful life high up in the mountains eating choice grass and herbs. Using ancient roman roads the sheep go up into the mountains in early spring and only come back down to the valley in the fall. The company which produces the fibre uses environmentally sustainable ways in the making of their fibre. The sheep are driven through mountains streams to wash them prior to shearing. The water for dying is heated up by solar panels. The fibre is about 27 micron and quite a short staple. It makes a very dense felt and can be used to felt bags, shoes, coats, and decorative items that need physical structure. I felts fast and to a hard finish. However, it can also be used in very thing layers to create a felt with drape. It is available in 47 colours and 12 natural mixes. The Swiss mountain batt has also become the favourite needle felting fibre for many of my clients. It felts fast and to a hard and smooth finish.
Feature Fibre: Sari Silk Roving. This is up cycled sari fabric — turned back into roving. No two lengths in a 50 gram package are the same — the roving changes and surprises as it is opened up. However, it is available in select colour ways. In my experiments, I loved how can be used as a thick full layer onto of 19 micron wool. It adds a great texture. If you like to needle felt, it can be felted with a 38 gauge needle and creates a lovely feathery texture for decorative items.
Feature Fibre: Kap Merino This is another short staple fibre, made in South Africa from Merino sheep. Because of the extremely short fibres, it makes a very dense, closed felt — perfect for hats and bags. It felts fast and can also become very sculptural — there are a number of artists using it to create jewellery.
Where can feltmakers find you?
Online shop: www.theolivesparrow.com/shop
Thank you for letting us visit the Olive Sparrow Monika!