Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sheep To Shawl

By Leigh

For the past several years my guild has been doing a Sheep To Shawl at SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) at the WNC Ag Center in Asheville, NC. This year I was able to participate.

The Blue Barn at the WNC Ag CenterWe had a great location and gorgeous autumn weather. Since this is a local event, most of our active guild members were volunteering in other aspects of the Fiber Fair, but we had four spinners and a weaver to demonstrate the process.

Folks were interested in the cardingWe started with a donated, washed Border Leicester Fleece. Charlene, who coordinated the event, did the drum carding.

Barbara at her Lendrum A lot of folks were interested in the entire process. This is Barbara, demonstrating spinning and answering questions.

Yours trulyRats, but if someone didn't volunteer to take my picture too. Note that I'm wearing my Fiber Forum socks.

Teena & her electric spinner helped the spinners stay ahead of the weavingTeena demonstrated on her electric spinner.

And she answered a lot of questions too.Ellen did the weaving.

Plain weave shawl in progressThe warp was a combination of 2-ply handspun and commercial wool yarn. There was a little alpaca thrown in as well. The singles we spun that day were used for the weft. The plan for the shawl is to raffle it with proceeds going toward the Blue Ridge Fiber Show.

The sheep to be shearedIn the afternoon, we had a shearing demonstration. This is Elspeth, a rescue sheep. She is a registered Shetland, who other than not having been sheared for at least two years, was healthy.

Tail end firstPaula, who owns Shetlands, did the shearing. She used a shearing stand and started at the tail.

Paula, shearing her way forwardAs she sheared her way to the front, Elspeth's fleece was rolled up toward her head.

A gorgeous gray Shetland fleeceThe fleece was in amazingly good condition, with very little cotting or felting. Other than a break indicating the next year's growth, it was lovely. [UPDATE 10/30: I just found out that Elspeth's fleece weighed 11 pounds.]

I'm sure Elsbeth felt better after that fleece was offElspeth got a massage after her ordeal. She wasn't too happy about being there, but calmed down considerably as the shearing progressed.

And the rest of the Fiber Fair?

SAFF 2009It was bigger, better, and busier than ever, with more vendors, more classes, and more folks coming to look, buy, learn, and see.

My haul?

Rag rug shuttleJust this, a 20.5 inch Schacht rag shuttle for the rag rug I plan to weave for our bedroom.

I didn't stay till the end because I had a pretty good drive home. It just felt good to get my wheel out and spin again. Hopefully this winter I can resume spinning as a daily activity. By the fire. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Posted 25 October 2009 at


Susan B. said...

I wish I could go to something like this! I love the photo essay of sheep to cloth! And I don't think I had seen a picture of you before - nice to see you!

Life Looms Large said...

Nice coverage of the event for those of us who can't make it to NC this weekend!!

That sheep being sheered is pretty amazing. I always have a soft spot for rescued animals.

I've never demo'ed weaving at a fair or festival, but I've been thinking lately that I ought to give it a try sometime.


Gertieanne said...

I second the photo of you. I have never seen you? Well may have at the guild. I have gone a couple of times in the past few years. I do recognize a few of the women though.

SAFF, have not gone since 2003. Shame on me. Everyone went this weekend, can't see going since I have so much stuff already, but thanks for posting the pictures it is nice to see, and kind of makes me regret not going, which is a good thing. I need to stop being a hermit.

bspinner said...

We were thinking of taking a trip to SAFF this year but got caught up in painting. Maybe next year.

Pictures are great. I loved doing sheep to shawls but know that's not in the cards any more due to back problems. Looks like everyone's having so much fun. You do look right at home at your wheel.

Thanks for sharing.

Michelle said...

Did that overgrown Shetland fleece get weighed? Would be fun to know just how heavy it was! Thanks for including the photo of yourself; for us long-distance blogpals, it's nice to get better acquainted!

charlotte said...

What a fantastic event! I love that you demonstrate the whole process from sheep to cloth. For most people today this is a remote and abstract process, and they have no clue how clothes or cloth are made. Lucky visitors!

Susan Harvey said...

Nice to meet you at last! Looked like a fun day. My daughter is in central NC and wanted to come but transportation was an issue this time. Perhaps next year? She's new to spinning and having fun with it.

I have resumed spinning in the evenings again and quite enjoy it. Amazing what you get done watching the TV... okay, occassionally glancing at the screen!


Dorothy said...

What a fun thing to do! I bet Elspeth the sheep was much happier when her heavy coat was off! The shawl looks good on the loom.

I meet so many people who don't know what weaving and spinning involve, I think this sort of event is needed, everywhere. I wonder if there's a way the Online Guild could run an event like this?

Peg in South Carolina said...

Gosh darn---I was at SAFF on Saturday morning. Had I realized, I would have stopped at Sheep to Shawl.

Leigh said...

Actually, ya'll, there are two other photos of me on my blog. Somewhere :)

Peg! I wish I'd known. I should have said something beforehand, but I just never got around to it.


Wow that looked like a great weekend, I love that you wore your socks for spinning.

Sandy said...

Spending a rainy morning reading new blogs. Just wanted to let you know I stopped by. Thanks for sharing the "Sheep to Shawl" event. Makes me wish I could have been there.

Theresa said...

WONDERFUL post Leigh! I so enjoyed it since it is an event I probably won't ever get too. Nice to see you in there too. They should get a big old medal for doing the shearing demo on rescued sheep. I can only imagine how good they feel now to have two years worth of wool off of them.
So, did you put dibs in for the rescued sheep to start your flock or where they spoken for?
I've seen the sheep to shawl progress at the Black Sheep Gathering here in Oregon, it's an amazing thing to see the raw fiber go through all those changes in a day.

Leigh said...

Deep End, I love handknit wool socks for spinning. They feel so good on the feet.

Sandy, thanks for visiting!

Theresa, Elsbeth is already spoken for. Paula (who is doing the shearing) is on our guild's board of directors with me. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm adopting her as my Shetland expert and resource. :)

Julie said...

That looks like such a fun time! And boy did Elsbeth need a hair cut. And that is such a cute picture of you!

Sharon said...

I've done Sheep to Shawl just once and while intense, I'd love the chance to do it again. I was the plier in one of nine teams It was a hot day in an unairconditioned building. The weaver on another team passed out from the heat, and another team member took up the weaving while the paramedics attended their fallen comrade. It is probably a better experience when done for demo purposes.

Benita said...

A friend of mine had a booth at SAFF (Trading Post for Fiber Arts) and she said it was her best year ever! I am so glad! One year I'd like to go, even if it is to work in her booth so I can see it all.

11 pounds of fleece. I'll bet Elspeth thought she could leap to the moon once it was removed.

Tina T-P said...

Oh that looks like it was a lot of fun. At the State fair this year they actually used some kind of "safe" dye and dyed a big old white sheep rainbow colors on the first day of the fair - she was pretty much dry by the last day when they had their sheep to shawl. It was quite a hoot to watch. (I saw the UTube of it...)

cyndy said...

What a great post, Leigh!

Love the photo of you in your socks at your wheel, and hooray that Elspeth was rescued and shorn!
... amazing that the fleece was in pretty good condition.

Spinning by the fire, yep.