Black Cat Farmstead Visit

IMG_1948On Sunday many lucky Weavers Guild of Minnesota members accepted the invitation to visit Andrea Myklebust at Black Cat Farmstead in Stockholm, Wisconsin, to learn about flax processing for linen and to admire beautiful linen and handspun wool on several of her looms. I was so happy for that dose of farm and fiber.

I grew up on a farm (albeit with no animals, just row crops), but have lived my whole life in the city. Each visit to my friends’ farms makes me think about what a different life I could have chosen. I would be so  inadequate to the task–what if someone gave me a farm and sheep tomorrow?  I would have a lot of reading and consulting to do.

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The most amazing thing about Andrea’s unspun linen fiber was the range of flaxen shades.  Look at the variation in the tones of this beautiful runner she wove.

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Also amazing?  Andrea has been traveling her fiber journey for only seven years. Now she has a two-story studio.  Here are three projects she had on her looms when we visited. The first one is from her Glimakra DRAWLOOM. Because mastering regular floor looms in seven years wasn’t enough of a challenge? Adding the draw loom apparatus to her Glimakra required an extension  to the back of the loom, and because she didn’t want to spend $500 for one from Glimakra, she made it herself. “It only cost $15,” she said, “though the wood is not as beautiful as the rest of the loom.”

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Upstairs in the studio one loom had a piece with lovely handspun wool in it.

IMG_1967Next to it, a loom with lovely linen twill.

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On a nearby table were some spools of delicious yarn in a bowl.

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The studio has a wonderful pedigree.  The grandparents of Laura Ingalls Wilder lived only a mile and a half away, and the studio was made from their house.

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Walls and ceiling and doors inside retain compelling layers of paint history.

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Andrea and her farming partner, Robbi Bannon (who also raises vegetables and runs a pizza farm at A to Z  Produce and Bakery), are deep into growing and processing flax.  They obtained a two-year USDA grant to explore flax growing. This year they will incorporate the lessons learned during the first season.  They are serious about this crop; Andrea has been working with the Taproot Fibre Lab in Nova Scotia to benefit from their experiences in growing and processing flax. This might lead to a linen production facility in Minnesota.

If you would like to follow along this year of flax growing with Andrea and Robbi, send Andrea your email address. myklebust.sears@gmail.com They will send out notices of  various interesting things are happening: planting, blossom time, community harvest sessions, etc.

And you’ll want to visit Black Cat Farmstead some time.  Everywhere you turn, there are wonderful animals and equipment.

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Part of this fabulous Weavers Guild field trip was the ride down and back.  Karen Maahs offered to drive, and five friends rode along. We even had a side trip to a farm that Karin’s family owns, in an idyllic steep valley. We drank water from a clear spring and enjoyed the sun, which peeked out for the first time that day.

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I even enjoyed the fruits of the trip the next day.  The stream was filled with watercress, which is delicious with eggs and a little garlic. (Thanks, Karin!)

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