Please note that The Great North West Fibre Fest is happening on Sunday August 27, 2023. It’s taking place in a gorgeous part of British Columbia; Prince George, Canada.
I wanted to share more about the passionate people who run this event and what to expect this year if you attend. Bonne, Jen and Andrea are wonderful to take time out of their hectic schedule to answer my questions.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 22, 2023.
What Inspired You To Love Fiber?
I think my fibre love grew on me. My mother was a talented needle crafter – sewing, embroidery, and (of course) knitting. She taught me to sew when I was about 9 or 10 and in a couple of years, I could make clothes for school.
She tried to teach me to knit, but no joy – left-handed mother, right-handed daughter. So I took up crocheting (about the only craft she didn’t do) because I could myself.
I’m Jen. I have the classic start to knitting and crochet. My grandma’s (both sides) were knitters and taught me at a young age. I didn’t continue with it, though.
I relearned from my mother-in-law before she was my mother-in-law 🙂 I started with crochet first and after a while picked up knitting and haven’t stopped since! I mainly knit now but crochet every once in a while 🙂
How Long Have You Been Making?
For crochet – let’s say a long time now. About 30 years ago, I found a knitting mentor (right-handed) and took off running. I mostly knit now, but I still do a bit of crochet.
I’ve been knitting for 15+ years now.
My Mum taught me to knit when I was young. I learned to crochet while at post secondary school.
What Are Your Favorite Yarns?
Anything soft and drapey. Fine wool, alpaca, silk blends. As a self-confessed yarn snob, I must have yarn hand-dyed by independent Canadian dyers.
Since starting the Fest, I’ve got to know people who are in on the beginning of the whole process. The ones who raise the fibre-bearing animals 🙂 My dream is to have a whole stash of locally raised, processed, spun, and dyed yarn.
I love working with fingering yarn dyed by Canadian dyers 🙂
I love wool but also like working with cotton and linen. Anything from an indie dyer is fabulous. I love to support Canadian businesses.
What Do You Have On Your Needles?
I had eye surgery a little while ago and have only just been able to pick up my knitting again. Since my vision is less than perfect at the moment, I only have one thing on my needles. A “use up all the leftovers” scarf – straight knitting, no fancy stitches. It’s getting long and colorful.
I have a sweater on my needles. I’m not working on it lots. Being a stay at home mom in the summer with a new business as well, means I am busy with little time to knit.
Socks, hat, camisole, blanket, and sweater.
How Did You Get Involved?
I met Bonne and Dar (the original organizers) through the library knitting group. I expressed interest in volunteering and they took me under their wings. 4 years later, Bonne and I have recruited another volunteer to help us organize this year’s events!
I loved attending the fest, so I contacted Bonne and Jen to see where I could help.
How Did The Great Northwest Fibre Fest Start?
In 2016, on a beautiful Fall day when Darlene and I did a “mini-crawl” – we visited both yarn stores in one day 🙂 After a long morning of very successful browsing / shopping / yarn-talking, we went to the pub for a late lunch.
We talked about how much fun it was. Wouldn’t it be great to visit more yarn stores and finish up with a Fibre Fest? It’s amazing the longer you sit in the pub discussing an idea, the more do-able it becomes.
We brainstormed a bit and came up with “Playing with String – the Great Northern BC Yarn Crawl and Fibre Fest.” (Which became “Great Northwest” the next year).
People would get a “passport” with discounts for the vendors. When they made a purchase, they’d enter a draw for prizes at the Fest. Aside from the sheer joy of being part of a fibre fest, we believe it’s important we support the local, independent stores and makers. This event is a fun way to do this.
How Has The Fest Grown?
We started in Spring 2017 with a one week yarn crawl of the yarn stores a day-trip visit away. The following Sunday, we had a Fibre Fest with the participants. We held our first Fest at the Brunswick Seniors Center in Prince George – not large, but comfortable enough. The feedback was “Loved it. One week isn’t enough time.”
For 2018, we contacted more stores in the North and made it a summer long event with the Fest in the Fall. We had 12 vendors from Prince Rupert, BC to Sexsmith, AB, and Hundred-Mile House to Dawson Creek. For readers not familiar with the area – that’s many kilometers.
The next year, more vendors joined the event. The turnout was fantastic. We were amazed to see a line-up outside when we opened the doors. The 17 vendors at the Fest filled the space, and we realized it was time to go bigger.
We booked the Connaught Youth Center – more than double the space.
2020 was a hard year for everyone. We didn’t want to abandon the events, but we also didn’t want to risk the health of the vendors and participants. We made technology our friend and put the yarn crawl online, hoping to have the Fest in September.
That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. We did a digital draw for the prizes and wished for a better 2021. The COVID restrictions eased up. We kept the Crawl digital and opened it up to vendors who don’t have a brick-and-mortar store.
Customers could use their passport to shop online or at the stores. They got the discount and an entry into the prize draw. We kept the larger space for the Fest, but limited the number of participants for social distancing.
There were 10 vendors with an amazing variety of products. After it was over, we sat down to take stock of how everything went and where we wanted to be the next year. As much as we loved the Yarn Crawl, it wasn’t possible for us to be effective running the Crawl and the Fest.
So, reluctantly, we let go of the Crawl to focus on the Fest. We became Great Northwest Fibre Fest to more accurately reflect what we are doing.
How Many Vendors In 2022?
This year we have 23 vendors with a wide variety of skills and products to share. Everyone who was there last year is here again and we have exciting new people joining us this year. There are very creative dyers, two independent stores, a woodworker and a pattern designer.
We are also bringing back workshops. There is Karaoke Dye-Your-Own Yarn for everyone from “never tried it before” to “I’ve been doing this for years”.
And Color Choice for Scrappy Socks. It’s for anyone (isn’t that all of us?) who has yarn leftover from previous projects and wonders “What do I do with this”.
It’s difficult for us to know what to expect for visitors. Our best year (2019) we had about one hundred people come through. We would love to see at least double.
What Can People Expect This Year?
I don’t think there’s anything at a fibre fest that isn’t wonderful 🙂
A large variety of vendors will be there. Also, we have a few new workshops this year which is very exciting.
What Are You Looking Forward To?
I always look forward to seeing in person the people I haven’t seen since the last Fest. Or have gotten to know over the computer. They’re exceptionally talented and creative people. I end the day energized and ready to take on new projects.
Meeting people and sharing stories about our shared interests.
Tell Us About The Workshops Planned
This year, for the first time, we have dedicated classrooms. There is space for participants to work without distractions.
The workshop instructors are so passionate about their craft. It’ll be wonderful to see how everyone takes their new skills home.
You Have An 8-Year-Old Vendor. How Did That Come About?
Wrenna’s mother, Eyrnn, is a super talented maker and dyer. When she was young(er) she was fascinated with the things her mother was doing. Eyrnn showed her what to do and let her dye some skeins.
Once she was “hands on” her creative energy burst out. She picked colors, tried techniques and discovered she had a love of and talent for the art. It’s exciting for us to be part of the start of a new fibre-artist.
For People Nervous About In-Person Events, What Would You Say?
I also am one of those people. We’ll follow the current guidelines for public gatherings. Masks are optional right now, but we’ll keep checking for updates.
We have tried to organize the space as much as possible to allow distancing and good traffic flow.
And another thing to remember is crafters are nice people who respect each other’s space.
Share How The Fiber Community Has Connected Through Your Fest
Sure thing, I have lovely examples of this. First, Cindy and Lou from Faking Sanity in Dawson Creek were at the 2018 Fest. It was their first ever event as a vendor and they didn’t know what to expect.
They crammed their little car full of everything in the store (including the display racks) and headed to Prince George. We thoroughly enjoyed having them there. On the way home they talked it over, said “That was fun. We should do that.”
They organize the Peace Fibre Fest and had the first in Apr 2019. It’s rewarding to know we inspired another fest in the North. Second, we feel like matchmakers.
Heloise raises alpaca at Moose Meadows Farm and has sold undyed yarn and socks made from the fibre. She met Rikki from Scarves for Hope who dyes yarn. She uses some for the beautiful scarves she crochets to fund-raise for clean water projects and sells the rest.
Heloise sent alpaca yarn for Rikki to dye. Heloise has added color to her inventory, and Rikki has added alpaca to her product line.
(Editor’s Note: For the difference between alpacas and llamas, see my post.)
Have A Favorite Local Spot In Prince George BC?
The library is a great place to hang out, especially with kids. It’s closed Sunday (you’ll be at the Fest anyway) but open the rest of the week.
Forests for the World have wonderful hiking trails. The gardens on top of Connaught Hill are lovely. Lheidli T’enneh park is great for kids. The Makery on 5th Avenue for crafts and coffee. We also have fabulous restaurants downtown.
For First Time Visitors, What Fiber Shops Are A Must See?
Top Drawer Yarn Studio has been a focal point for local yarnies for 10 years. They’re located above a wonderful bookstore. So anyone accompanied by a non-fibre-lover can leave their spouse/partner/friend happily surrounded by books and shop to their heart’s content.
Kathy’s Quilt Shop is fun to visit for fabric and chats. Studio 2880 has local artworks on display. The Prince George Fibre Arts Guild meets there and has items for sale in their gift shop.
What Do You Want To Tell Your Visitors?
We hope everyone has a wonderful time. Meet people, mix, mingle, share your crafting joys and woes with others. Take this opportunity to find yarns and “toys”.
We’re so happy to be welcoming you to the fibre fest this year!
More Info About The Event
- Sunday, September 11
- 10am – 3pm
- Connaught Youth Centre
- 1491 17th Ave, Prince George, BC
- Follow their Facebook, Instagram & YouTube
Thanks so much Bonne, Jen and Andrea. I hope the fest is all you hope for! I’m sure everyone attending will have a blast.
Read Next: For more resources, check out my post on knitting blogs, or see my huge list of fabulous indie yarn dyers here.