About Us

Freshisle Fibers is located in Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada.

Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest freshwater island. It is a vacation paradise for visitors and “God’s country” for those of us who are fortunate to live here year round.

Freshisle Fibers is Marian Hester and helpful spouse, Todd Bailey.

 

CBC Interview with Markus Schwabe, Morning North. February 26, 2009.

 

Freshisle Fibers may be contacted by email at freshisle@freshislefibers.com or telephone at 705-282-4355.

Freshisle Fibers products are available online on our website and at the Gore Bay Farmers’ Market every Friday morning from Victoria Day weekend in May through to Thanksgiving weekend in October. We also attend many of the local Christmas markets on Manitoulin Island.

 

Our Story

Freshisle Fibers started as an extension of my fibre hobbies.

I have been knitting since I was a little girl and learned to spin in the mid 1990’s. My grandmother, my great aunts, and my mother knit. My great grandfather, and the generations that followed, always had sheep on the family farm.

When the sheep were sheared in the spring, the fleece was sent away and the farmers received cash and often, yarn, back. About the same time that I was learning to spin, the prices for the fleece dropped so drastically that the farmers were receving pennies for the fleece, and in some cases, the shearing and shipping costs were more than they would actually receive for the wool.

Many sheep farmers on Manitoulin, including my uncle, were actually burning the fleece just to be rid of it!!!

As a ‘new’ spinner and an ‘old’ knitter, I just couldn’t bear to let all that beautiful wool go to waste. I rescued some of the fleece, washed it by hand, spun it, dyed it, knit with it, and fell in love with this wool. I thought that there just had to be a market for Manitoulin Island yarn and specifically Suffolk wool.

My husband and I spent most of one summer visiting different woolen mills and researching what could be done with the fleece. We discovered a wonderful mill that could take all of the fleece, wash and process it for us into a truly unique yarn. The mill we chose uses no harsh chemicals in the processing so our yarn still contains some lanolin.

Freshisle Fibers began by offering Suffolk wool yarn on eBay and selling to local knitters and friends. In the spring of 2005, it was time to expand into a web site and offer our yarns to a larger audience.

We currently collect fleece from various sheep farmers on Manitoulin Island and send it to a woolen mill for processing.  We now offer four different weights of yarn – a single ply fingering weight, a fingering weight/almost sport weight double ply, a worsted/aran weight double ply, and a chunky weight softspun.

Freshisle Fibers yarns are hand dyed by me, with lots of help from my husband.  I especially enjoy working with natural dyes.

Following my retirement from teaching in 2014, our product line was expanded to include herbal handmade soaps and salves.  Many of the plants used in our hand crafted soaps and salves are the same plants that are used to dye our yarns.  Our cosmetic products are registered with Health Canada.

Freshisle Fibers is continually changing. I enjoy dyeing new colours, creating beautiful and natural soaps, and designing patterns for our yarns. My small hobby has grown and it’s exciting to think of its future.