THANK YOU FACEBOOK
These are the moments that make me adore social media. 15 years after the conclusion of my highschool career in Grey County, the magical algorithms of Facebook have reconnected me with an old friend and fellow fibre nut. After a few excited messages about yarn, spinning wheels and sheep, I had an invitation to visit Jamie McBride Beadle and family at Sheepsview Studio near Glencoe, Ontario - a 5 acre homestead of creative chaos in Middlesex County.
When I arrived just in time for lunch (venison pasta prepared by Jamie’s husband Steve) I was uproariously greeted by happy kids and excited dogs. There were eggs ready to set on the counter (“The boys love seeing the chicks hatch!”) and beautiful rovings amongst a sewing machine and spinning wheel overlooking the beginnings of spring outside the backdoor.
Jamie is living a life that admittedly leaves me a tad jealous. She told me about the large kitchen garden of primarily heirloom vegetables she tends all summer, how she won first prize at the Glencoe Fair for her peach jam (it’s delicious, trust me) and her dream of an outdoor kitchen for all the preserving she does during harvest. All sorts of creatures, chickens, sheep, miniature horses, rabbits, cats, dogs and two lovely boys, Joe and Liam, add to the homestead’s very happy and lively atmosphere.
Her growing flock is one more reason for some cheerful envy. Jamie is in the midst of building her herd for both fibre and food. This year she’s crossing her Jacob/Shetland ewes with a Lincoln/Cheviot ram, working to capitalize on both hardiness and hand. Like so many other fibre farmers I’ve met, she’s excited to talk about her girls and show off their fibres. This is a process I never tire of, combing through fibres and yarns, listening to the details of each ewe’s story, remembering that a living creature’s life is in this wool.
Sheepsview Studio is just one part of Jamie’s dream. She sees a fibre mill in her future, along with teaching classes and creating weekend retreats for fibre artists. Today, in addition to the homesteading work she does year round, Jamie is developing an online presence for her rovings and Waldorf Dolls.
I was immediately enamored by the simplicity of her dolls and even more so as she described their purpose and materials. The Waldorf Doll is intentionally created with a neutral facial expression and open gender interpretation, allowing the child to use their imaginations to express the emotions and genders of their choosing. As an ally of the LGBTTQ community I see this as a welcome relief from the onslaught of rigid gender norms seen in commercial toys. The doll itself is stuffed with new Sheepsview Studio wool, grown on the homestead and ready to absorb a child’s warmth and reflect it back to them. The body is made of up-cylced wool sweaters, the face is organic cotton with Sheepsview Studio yarn for hair. Everything is hand stitched together by Jamie.
Looking at this beautiful, handmade toy I realized that I had been unconsciously restricting my understanding of a fibreshed as an utilitarian production zone. I had been envisioning rustic spun yarns, hardy toques and barn sweaters. And while all of these things are wonderfully useful, should we be limiting ourselves to the only the practical? Can beauty be a part of cultivating sustainability and community?
Holding this sweet, wee Waldorf Doll in Jamie’s kitchen, listening to the tussle of little boys and happy dogs, I saw what a tiny conceptual box I’ve been rattling around in when thinking about fibresheds. I had completely forgotten to imagine the beautiful and the creative as possibilities. I had forgotten that a fibreshed is a community of creative humyns.
Not surprisingly, the sweet, wee Waldorf Doll from Sheepsview Studio came home with me.
Update! I couldn’t keep this beautiful little doll to myself. It’s on its way to welcome a new tiny humyn to the world.
Fibres: Jacob/Shetland x Lincoln/Cheviot
Products: Waldorf-Inspired Dolls, Hand-spun Yarns, Rovings
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