Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sheep to Shawl

Yesterday, members of the Valley Spinner's Guild, myself included, did a sheep to shawl demonstration at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, organized by guild members Elaine Wilson and Gretchen Wilson (same name but not related). Labor Day is considered the end of summer and -with the seasonal departure of my barn swallows also yesterday- I have to agree. I can think of no better way to end my summer than by participating in the sheep to shawl event. It was about 60 degrees and pouring down rain at the fair, leaving no doubt that summer is definitely over. Tie Dye, a little Romney sheep of guild member Eileen Hordyk, was volunteered to be dyed before shearing (done 4 days prior to allow sufficient time to dry) and then sheared for the affair.

Amy Wolf sheared Tie Dye in just a few minutes, all the while entertaining the crowd with her silliness and charm. She exudes enthusiasm and fun, and yet at the same time, is deeply passionate about educating the public about the connection between animals and their products -sheep and wool- AND she does an expert job of shearing.

All silliness aside, Amy is an artist. Spinning the fleece she had just sheared and finding no second cuts AT ALL, seeing her expertly handling the animal while bantering with the crowd, and knowing how committed she is to what she does, I'm awed by the artistry and skill Amy demonstrates. As with all true artists, it is a thrill to watch her.

It is always fun to see a fleece coming off a sheep during shearing. Tie Dye's fleece was particularly lovely, so nice in fact, I think Eileen must have had a few regrets about donating it. Amy's shearing last year of Rainbow, a Romney from The Pines Farm (Lin and Al Schweider are Amy's parents), was filmed by guild member Charisa and can be seen on You Tube (click here).

First the fleece was skirted of any waste wool, sorted by colors, and then picked by hand to open the locks before being carded.

We had several drum carders set up, and volunteers to crank them. One drum carder was having a mechanical problem but that was eventually solved. The sorted wool was carded into batts of different colors.

We spinners then spun the carded batts into singles of different colors. About 7 spinners can keep one weaver busy (Barb mentioned she had read this in a book on historical fiber arts) and that was about how many of us there were. We spinners were given cards with samples to help us all spin the same grist singles (A really excellent idea). We were spinning in front of the shelves holding the absolutely gorgeous fleeces entered for the wool judging (Note the purple ribbons).

Barb then plyed our singles into a two ply yarn that Lynn, who was also spinning singles, then wound onto the shuttles used for weaving.

Karen Chabinski was our weaver. She had woven about 45 inches on the shawl by our ending time of three o'clock. To do justice to our endeavor, she decided to continue at home and bring the finished shawl to our meeting on Thursday and, unlike the ending of summer, I look forward to seeing the finished shawl.


  1. TIE DYE?!?!? How cute is that!!! Do you mind if I twitter a link to this post? Did you post a picture of the finished shawl?

  2. I don't mind, twitter away! I don't have a picture of the shawl -it will go to the raffle winner at our next spinning guild meeting. Tie Dye IS cute and so is Amy, our shearer. This event is so much fun.