Posted on Posted in book reviews/events, projects, spinning and fiber

before i begin the tale of our wonderful holiday weekend, which centered around our regional wool fair, the great lakes fiber show, let me announce the winner of this weekend’s book giveaway.

the winner of an autographed copy of knit, swirl! by sandra mciver goes to
. . . carol p.!!
congratulations carol; i’m always thrilled when a long-time reader wins.
and thanks to all who participated and commented; there will be more.

and now, the show . . . how to begin?

this is my second favorite wool show after rhinebeck—why? it’s not a big show, nor terribly comprehensive. for instance, it is a fiber-centric event, so there isn’t as much yarn-grazing as at other shows, where banks of handpainted skeins entice knitters as well as spinners.

but precisely because it’s small and intimate, i get to spend some quality time visiting with long-time friends like the knitting notions family, above (haha, just as i walked in, the girls were pricing knitspot patterns). i got to see baby elijah, now a whopping nine months i think, and talk shop for quite a while with catherine.

and i get to take a newbie along who might be otherwise overwhelmed at a bigger show with enormous crowds and choices.

the weekend kicked off on friday evening when first andrea, then erica arrived to spend a couple of days, visit the show, and do some spinning together.

erica wanted to learn to spin on and hopefully buy my trusty ashford traveller, which was my own first wheel purchase. this is a lovely older model that has always spun like a dream. i hung onto it for years now without using it because A) i was a little attached to it and B) i was waiting for just the right buyer to come along.

not wanting to be pushy, i tentatively offered it to erica at sock camp, where she learned to spin and she was interested. and when i saw them together this weekend, i knew it was a good match.

(when she got home yesterday she sent me a photo of the wheel on her front porch, where she plans to spin and all of my hopes for it were completely fulfilled, hee-hee!)

anyway, they both arrived on friday evening with a grand selection of specialty beers, i cooked dinner, beckie came over, and we all spent the evening spinning and laughing ourselves sick (beth smith, you should have been here!)

actually, i still have a bum leg, which i’ve now ascertained is indeed aggravated the most by spinning—how weird is that?? it’s getting better though; i should be back in business soon. but for this weekend i held off and worked on other projects (more on that later).

saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful; one of the very last balmy spring days before the heat gets unbearable (that happened on sunday, ugh). we set out for the fair at an early hour (but not too early) and got there just in time for the peak of the action.

one of the first things we did was visit the fleece competition area; andrea was looking to purchase a fleece this weekend and we thought we’d start there. here, she and erica are looking over some of the longwool gray fleeces

but we also saw an awesome eighteen pound columbia fleece and some lovely CVM in the fine wool section.

the competitions at this show are small and the judges are really great—not only do they allow people to watch, but they will often perform the judging as a lecture, which is what happened on saturday. you can learn a lot about choosing fleeces this way, though we didn’t linger with the crowd on this day.

beautiful unwashed fleeces were everywhere this year though—this border leicester/lincoln cross gets our vote for favorite sheep name (though we’re told the breeder’s association would not accept it)

we noted this nice fleece and kept moving—this is always a gamble because fleeces go fast at this event; we live in a region that produces a lot of nice wool and prices are very good. but we just weren’t ready to commit (we did think about buying it for beth smith, but sure enough, it was gone an hour later).

later in the day though, andrea found just what she wanted in the hidden valley farm booth (sorry, no web link)—a stunning silver coopworth lamb’s fleece, raised by the woman who had the grand champion fleece last year (which jocelyn and i bought, hee-hee!). the only reason this fleece wasn’t in this year’s competition is that she got set up too late to enter it.

i confess that i also saw an incredible rose/moorit fleece in this booth that i sorta regret leaving behind, but i held strong. at nearly nine pounds, i’d need to split it with someone to make it even a possibility. and i still have last year’s fleece upstairs, unspun as of yet. (but if beth smith was interested and we could still get it, i’d work out a deal with her . . .)

hidden valley farm has really clean, bright, glossy coopworth fleece. and if you’re not into washing and prepping your own, owner carol wagner, does a lovely job of it at a reasonable charge (we went that route last year and we are thrilled).

and at a show like this, you have options. several small processors—such as our long-time fave, wooly knob fiber mill—are onsite to take your unwashed fleece back to the mill to make it nice for you; no need to drive even a mile with a stinky fleece in the car if you don’t want to.

like i said earlier, the great thing about this show is how very local and regional it is—lots of action from producers you would never see at maryland or rhinebeck—or anywhere outside of this immediate area, some of them. and we have a wealth of great wool producers in ohio—something i learned only after i moved here, as if it was meant to be.

in between hits of wool fumes—the real mccoy, not the kind you get in a yarn store—we ran into friends all over the place. i may have succumbed to taking home a flock of sheep from the kirkwood farm booth. you know i can’t resist grays.

. . . and they look so cute in my study, but not too cute or cute-sy. they’re just right. if they had faces, they’d be all wrong for me.
(they’re watching erica spin; the pink one is hers)

oh and they had chickens too. don’t get me started . . .
yes, they come with the peeps. and yes, i almost fell for those stripey ones.

finally, we got to visit the briar rose booth—i went by earlier in the day but it was so thronged with customers i couldn’t even get chris’s attention to ask if i could help. by the afternoon, things had slowed enough that we were able to chat a little and make plans to meet for dinner, which is our tradition on saturday evening during the show.

erica purchased some of chris’s luscious dyed spinning fibers to go with her new wheel. i picked up some sample skeins of sea pearl for a project i’m planning to work on this summer (i’ll show you those another day).

after we’d been through every fiber building, we mosied over to the sheep barns to see what was going on there. the breed show goes on for hours and hours and while that’s happening, the sheep wait their turns patiently (do they know of any other way?). we took the opportunity to get some nice photos . . .

the border leicesters, above, have the funniest faces, i think—they’re almost cartoonish, aren’t they? border leicester is a popular breed to raise in our area; a lot of spinners here are familiar with this readily-available fleece and though it is a coarse wool, some of it can be quite nice.

tunis sheep are also plentiful at this show. i’ve never spun their fleece but it comes in a variety of soft colors, some of which tend toward pink.

i wish i had written down the names of the breeds i photographed—i was sure i’d remember and now i’m hopelessly searching my brain to match faces with names. this next one might be CVMs (or maybe southdowns)

if beth smith had been here, she’d have made sure i knew.
and this one might be the southdowns (or maybe CVMs).

i do remember thinking that these particular sheep were smart to stay very calm so they could be cooler that way (the barns get hot; it can’t be helped). the blue ribbons drawn on their backs indicate the prize winners.

i know for sure that this is a columbia sheep—there’s no mistaking its giant stature. it towers over the others (fencing included for scale).

and we saw many strange-to-us sights in the sheep barn as well that had no ready explanation, though i’m sure some of you may enlighten us. for instance

what’s the butt parade for? there wasn’t signage to tell us what station we were at or why this group of sheep were standing in size order. anyone??
(i bet beth smith knows)

these sheep are coated to keep that straw and hay out of their coats. because once it’s in there, it’s much harder to remove, especially if the animal produces a lot of sticky lanolin, such as the fine wool breeds do.

at the end of the sheep barn was the show ring, where the breeders get to show off their work and try to win a ribbon (and more importantly, the notoriety that makes them desirable as a breeder).

there, i got my favorite photo of the day—are you ready??

HA! seriously—i want to frame an enlargement of this one; i just love it.

after the sheep barn we took one last turn through the show floor and checked in on the results of the skein competition. earlier that day, i dropped off a skein that helena spun this month and kept aside to enter into the show. we were holding our breaths to find out the results . . .

there it is on the far left, the white one—omigosh, my eyes filled with tears, i was so proud of her. i even got to chat with the judge, who was extremely complimentary about helena’s skill. i called her right on the spot to let her know the results; i was terribly excited for her. she picked up her skein the next day and hopefully, will bring it to wednesday night’s class so everyone can see.

by this time, it was day’s end and we were ready for a break, so we packed up the car and headed into town to the south market bistro to enjoy a well-deserved beer and wait for chris, roger, and david to join us for dinner.

we’ve eaten at this terrific locivore establishment for several years running and each time we leave feeling like it was better than last time. the place was packed on saturday and the ambience was festive—perfect for our gathering.

it was great to bring chris together with erica, who lives close by and will enjoy knowing a local spinning buddy. add in andrea, who is a wonderful matchmaker of fiber producers, dyers, and retailers and we had a lively table overflowing with shop talk and good vibes. yay.

even so, we got back to canton on the early side and got into our comfy clothes to spin the night away. erica got out a braid of lovely shetland, dyed by two if by hand, which she purchased in dallas.

she quickly filled a bobbin with a nice softly spun singles (this is one beginner that does not have a problem with overtwist, which is very good). she actually got the whole braid spun and plied by the time she left at the end of the weekend—resulting in enough yarn to make a nice cozy hat and maybe some mitts to go with (maybe something like hot waffles).

did i ever mention how very much i like teaching beginners?? i do.
i rarely get to work with them when i do guest teaching, so it’s always refreshing that i sometimes have opportunities at home and locally. i really love helping them through the struggle of those first fumbling steps and watching that skill take shape. it really helps my powers of observation and description to become sharper, so i can instruct them more clearly.

anyway, erica did great.

i spent so much time involved with her learning though, that i unfortunately did not get many pictures of andrea’s or my own weekend projects. andrea arrived with a fiber project in the works; she was spinning up some washed dark locks of which the breed name keeps slipping my mind)

and since spinning has been aggravating my mysterious ankle pain (i never had a leg pain in my life; what’s up with that?), but i didn’t want to feel left out of the fleecy activity, i worked on a completely different project.

i didn’t confess this tell you about this when i got home from that spinning retreat, but beth smith talked me into purchasing a few ounces of unwashed fleece just to try processing it by hand at home (like i need another distraction, right?).

so i looked through the small shop she had set up onsite and chose some lovely rose cormo as my falldown. i bought seven ounces—enough to make at least a nice large shawl (if not two), but not so much that i would never even consider actually washing it (and lucky for me, anne marie and joanne bought the remainder so i wouldn’t even be tempted).

anyway, it is gorgeous—just look at that—so clean you could spin it right from the bag in the grease and not be grossed out at all. in fact, there was a section of shorter cuts that i decided to keep aside just for this purpose; maybe an ounce?

well, the whole bag has been sitting in my workroom purgatory and i decided that while those guys were spinning, i should prepare it for washing and at least that job would then be done.

so, saturday night i got out my bag and started separating the locks into thumb-sized chunks. i used the beth smith method of laying a single layer of them parallel in an envelope of tulle. i probably made my chunks lightly larger than she would, but i had a limited number of mesh envelopes to work with (i’ll probably make more; they are really handy).

i got that all done on saturday night and on sunday morning, while i cooked brunch, lovely andrea washed them for me in our basement work sink. it took just one wash and two rinses to get them nice and clean; we hung all the bags along the drying rack we keep on the porch.

by monday, they were quite dry and i opened up the packets for a peek. wow. lovely, lovely fleece. these will need just a little flicking to open up the locks for spinning.

anne marie, you are in for a real treat.

and so ended the wekend. beckie came over on monday afternoon for some late-day knitting and gossiping, but she actually had to leave after a while because i was falling asleep. i topped of the day with a three-hour nap that ended at 9:30 pm. haha.

a wonderful, wonderful weekend—thank you erica and andrea for visiting our home; thank you chris and roger for joining us for dinner; thank you beckie for a fun knitting session to end the weekend. and congratulations again carol, for winning the book.
it’s really nice to have had some time off; i’m all recharged now to begin a new week.

speaking of which, i have to run to an appt now; please excuse any typos!

32 thoughts on “anticipation

  1. Great post Anne! I love the faces of the Border Leicesters, with their roman noses. I’ll bet they appreciate their cute bald heads in the summer!

    Welcome home!

  2. Wonderful post, Anne! This fibre festival sounds fabulous (my cormo envy is surfacing). So glad that you had some recharging battery time!

  3. Love all the sheep pictures, especially the sheep butts! So funny! And how wonderful for Helena.

    So many good pictures, and I’m not even a spinner. Someday I will fall down that rabbit hole I fear!

    Sounds like a wonderfully wooly and recharging weekend.

  4. The real and stuffed sheep are all too cute for words! Thank you for all of the pictures, Anne.

    I love that Helena won a blue ribbon!!! That’s amazing and well-deserved.

    Sure hope your leg/ankle feels better soon, Anne. Take care.

  5. Sounds like a great weekend! I hope your ankle feels better soon. Looks like you’re going to have some spinning to do after washing those lovely locks 🙂

  6. Your new sheep are cute! I don’t recall seeing those on Saturday, but then again, I was focused on yarn… Chris’s booth really was packed, but by the time I was ready to make my purchases, it had almost cleared out (lunch time, maybe?)–it was almost eerie, because I’ve never seen it that empty. I can’t wait to see what your sea pearl project is–it’s my favorite of the Briar Rose yarns.

  7. Loved this long blog post. You make us feel like we are there with you. Where did you get the cute sheep? Is there a link?
    Tell Helena congrats! That is so cool. Love the washed Rose Como, it will spin up so nicely, I am sure.

  8. Thank you for the photos and the text. I love the small fiber festivals too. And it brings back wonderful memories of organizing fleece locks, I used onion bags instead of the tulle, but same effect, and washing fleece. I hope your leg pain subsides.

    Enjoy, Kelli Page

  9. I love your blog. You always inspire me. I also promise not to get drool all over the washed locks. Beth warnned me about that over on Twitter.

  10. Congrats to Helena AND her teacher! Hers was by far the best skein. . . you can just tell even all the way from San Diego!! And I love the picture of all the naked sheep lined up. . . . And seeing Roger at the booth! So wish Chris would sneak into a picture one time!

  11. The fiber festival looks wonderful. I love all the pictures. I need to check it out next year….I live pretty close…in Newark, OH

  12. Wonderful post. I enjoyed reading about all of the aspects of a fiber festival. I’ve washed a fleece once. It was my first and I knew absolutely nothig about picking one and it was nasty and dirty. I’ve vowed never again!

  13. Hellbitch made me laugh…I used to work with a bunch of nurses who could have worn that moniker. The nekkid sheep butts really made me laugh!!! I go to most of the New England sheep and wool festivals, and have never seen something like that. If you ever find out why, please post it loud and clear! lol

  14. The “butt parade” are market lambs (meat lambs) that have been slick shorn for show. My daughters have raised market lambs for FFA. Typically they are judged at fair and sold through auction as a fundraising effort for the kids education funds.

  15. Wow. That sounds really cool. I’ll have to see if there is anything like that around here ever. I don’t think so, but who knows! Fun!

  16. Loved the post, Anne. Great photos and info.

    Will you please tell me web site or any contact info on person from whom you bought the sheep? My daughter-in-law would LOVE the chickens, and she is hard to buy for. Many thanks in advance.

  17. I love all the cute pictures of my wife. Thanks for teaching Erica to spin. She is so happy!

    However, I fear that I have to put an addition on our house to hold all these wooden contraptions that she’s bringing home!

  18. I get the hint. I am putting this festival on my calendar for next year.
    Also! How come nobody called me? I need Columbia!!!!!!!
    The sheep in question surely looks like a Southdown to me. The wooly face and white nose are the clues.
    Also, TUNIS! I love them!
    It’s bouncy and springy but also hard wearing. I have big plans for Tunis socks.

  19. Where to start?! I had a fabulous weekend with you, David, Andrea, Beckie, and all the people I met at the show. Lots of laughs, great food and beer & LOADS of fiber!

    I am truly honored that you taught me to spin and were ready for the Traveller to go to a good home. I love my new hobby and am now torn on what to do this evening…do I knit? do I weave? do I spin?

    Also, can u believe Matt commented on your post?! I think he was a little jealous that I stayed near the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 🙂

  20. Thanks again, Anne, for making the book available for me to win! Really enjoyed the post; so much fun to read about the fiber festival and see the great pictures, almost like being there. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it all down and share it with us…

  21. I was delighted to read your blog since I could not attend the show. I did want to mention, as a long time breeder of CVM sheep, that there were no pics of the CVM’s on the blog. Really enjoyed your post.

  22. Thank you for a wonderful post and lovely images. I am going this afternoon to a friend’s farm to do skirting. She is nice enough to walk me through the steps. I had my sheep sheared for the first time this spring. I am beyond excited to have my own yarn.
    see my semi regular blog-

  23. Thanks for washing that Cormo – it looks scrumptious all clean and poofy. The best thing about beth smith’s fleeces is how clean they are even before you wash them! I’m going to buy some tulle today.

  24. What a lovely weekend you had! I wish I could have been there. When I lived in Montana I would go to the Big Sky Fiber Festival which is held every other year. Like this one – it was a little smaller and it was so much easier to talk to the vendors and the ranchers and the kids about their sheep and goats and fibers. Such a good time. Great photos. You sure do make me want to try spinning again.

  25. Love your description of the Festival, so much in fact I may need to look into going to it next year. 🙂

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