Here are a few more pics taken by Sparkling Medusa Creative Services
May 5 - 7 was the Regina Weavers & Spinners Guild Fibre Shindig. It was full of fibre enthusiasts, vendors and a great line up of workshops. I was lucky enough to teach my Fleece to Finish class to a group of fellow members. Some participants had sheep of their own while others wanted to learn more about processing fleeces and what to look for when buying wool at an auction. We went over both judging cars and 3 breeds together and then students judged their own fleeces. It was a great afternoon that just flew by. Thanks to everyone who came out, I love talking about wool and was happy to share my knowledge.
Here are a few more pics taken by Sparkling Medusa Creative Services
For those that follow me on Instagram or Facebook, know I was helping Gerry shear her sheep this past weekend. I am working on a blog post about how exciting that was, but in the meantime, I also wanted to share a post I wrote for another site I work on and an initiative Gerry and I have been doing called All Things Wool in which we are trying to promote the value of wool.
When looking for a fleece at a wool show, it is important to read the judging card to get all the important information that will help in your decision. Most of the time, you are just looking at a fleece in its bag, rolled up with the nicest fleece showing, but what's actually inside? This is where the judging card comes in. Usually before the fleeces are on display, they have been opened up one at a time, examined thoroughly and all the comments are recorded on the card. This is a great source of information for both the producer, so they can see what to work on or what's great, and the buyer can see if this fleece will need more TLC then they are prepared for or if the fleece is even more beautiful then first thought. Let's delve into what a judging card is and what each section encompasses.
One reason Gerry and I work so well together because she is a wool producer and I am an artisan. Between the two of us we made our own judging card which works better for both producers and artisans and it is what we use at all the wool shows we co-ordinate. We allotted certain points depending on importance and combined criteria that was similar in nature. Our card is more streamlined (compared to other artisan style cards) and speeds up the judging process.
Ok, let's begin.
Soundness. This is the most important matter on the entire card. This refers to the strength of the fleece. You will often see me pulling out a few locks from different areas of a fleece and putting them up to my ear and pulling them apart, I am listening for tenderness.
Clean Yield: You are looking at a dirty fleece, if a fleece has a high clean yield, it means after washing you will still be left with the majority of the fleece. A low clean yield means you have a very dirty fleece where much of the wool will have to be wasted or you will have to put a lot more work into the process.
Presentation: We combined a few criteria from the Olds judging card to make this section. This is an informative criteria for both producers and artisans. This category lets you know as a buyer what condition the entire fleece is in. Pay close attention to deductions like skin flakes, second cuts, manure and stains as these issues cannot be washed out.
Lustre & Handle: If wool has lustre, it means it has shine. Long wools have amazing lustre whereas fine wools not so much and down wools – not at all. A judge must be fair to the specific breed characteristics. Handle is all about how the wool feels. Is it silky & soft or dry and lack life?
Staple Length & Evenness: Fine and medium wools are at least 2” in length and usually 3” – 5”. Long wools normally start around 6” and can be up to 12” long! This category will let you know if the fleece has the same staple length throughout and if the length is adequate for its breed.
Crimp Style: Fine wools have a very dense crimp, that’s what gives it, its elasticity. Long wools have a wide wavelength present and medium and down breeds sometimes don’t have a clearly defined crimp. Areas around the upper body will have a finer crimp style then the britch.
In all criteria there are deductions or problematic areas. This is good information for the wool producer because they can see which areas they need to work on to improve their fleeces. Deductions are also important for handspinners and fibre workers because it will help you determine how much work you will have to put into the fleece when processing it. As always, if you have any questions you can always ask Gerry or I. We love to talk about wool! If you are a producer and have never entered fleeces into a wool show you should give it a try, you may win ribbons and money! Wool is highly sought after by handspinners, felters and the like. Head on over to the fleece competitions page on our All Things Wool website and find all the information you need. Hope to see you at one or more of the wonderful fibre festivals this year!
I have been working hard the last month or so on a project involving wool. Well of course :) BUT this project spans the country. I have been working with a couple Sheep Producers, Rare Breeds Canada and Wool Growers Co-op to bring the wool industry into the light. I have seen first hand how wool has be pushed aside and it has come to the point that many sheep producers don't even realize that there is a value in their wool. I've talked to people who are genuinely interested in the wool show but then say "that wool is nice but I only have Suffolk wool and its not good for anything." SO not true!! All wool has a value.
Sheep need to be sheared at least once a year, so not only is wool a natural, renewable resource it is self sustaining as well. With a little bit of work and breeding for good fibre, producers can make money on their wonderful fibre. Entering fleeces into wool shows is a great start. Producers receive the judging card back, so they can see areas they did well on and possibly areas that they can improve on for next time. Depending on the show, there is a good chance of their wool selling to an artisan who is looking for their product. They can also send their wool off to a mill for production and those who can't spin can buy the yarn spun from their flock. I often get asked about sources for local wool, yarns and wool products.
If I went into the many benefits wool provides, I may be here all night. It is hypoallergenic, wrinkle resistant and fire-resistant and it makes a wonderful insulator - both in the cold and heat. Wool is elastic and extremely versatile. It really is perfection found in nature. Each month leading up to the show, we will be profiling a different breed so you can see how vast the sheep world is. We are planning a lot of great events which we will be showcasing at the All Canadian Classic Sheep Show in Winnipeg on June 24 - 27, 2015. With the Campaign for Wool in full swing all around the world, I'm excited to share this experience with you. You can keep up with all our plans on ourwebsite at www.all-things-wool.ca, Facebook, Twitter andPinterest.
I did get some knitting done this weekend. I finished my chevron cowl which I knit with 8 oz of Merino. Its got some weight to it and is super cozy! I need to take pictures in the daylight, (which can be hard this time of year) it's much more vibrant than it looks.
I knit this hat for my sister last year and wrote down my pattern. I tested it this weekend and I will be publishing the pattern here and on Ravelry ASAP. It's quite nice because its double thick, especially with the super bulky wool and its almost impenetrable. Perfect for the Canadian winter - and according to the Farmers Almanac, we could be in for another doozy again this year. I promise - writing out my hat patterns are next on my list. I have 3 to share with you.
I have some wool on my wheel right now, and I am hoping to finish that off this week. I've been itching to get a whole bunch more skeins done. I've been working on a lot of projects in my head, I need to get them out and in wooly form.
Let's be honest, I had been counting down the days until this years' Manitoba Fibre Festival. Last year was so wonderful, I was anticipating another great day and I was not dissapointed. The festival was such a success in its first year that this time, they needed A LOT more space. There were several more vendors and so many interesting workshops that they expanded the location over slightly to include the arena area of St Norbert Community Hall.
I was also excited for the wool show, as I was invited back to judge the fleeces. This year we had 17, so almost double from last year! The more the better and this also makes for a more interesting competition and class set-up. We had 4 classes - Fine, Medium, Long and Specialty. I saw Polypay, Corriedale, Suffolk, Dorset, Romney crosses and Shetland. A nice representation of breeds common in the prairies. It was also nice to see fleeces from producers from both Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Grand Champion and a First Place in the Fine Class was awarded to this Polypay fleece from Manitoba Producer Gerry Oliver with a score of 95.5%. You can see that she takes great pride in her wool and the quality of her fleeces and it shows. After the show, she even told me that she was up into the wee hours the night before, making sure her fleeces were perfectly skirted and looking their best. Well worth the effort. Congrats Gerry!
The Shetland fleeces were also gorgeous, the colour ranges in that breed are lovely and the fleeces themselves were tip top.
Janet from Qu'Appelle was also at the festival, attending workshops and even entered fleeces which placed first and second. It was quite nice to see so many people from Saskatchewan attending the festival this year.
I was in the perfect location to snag a beautiful Capar tiny turkish spindle that was calling my name! It's made from Olivewood and Walnut. I must be crazy because I'm not a big turkish fan, and the little, teeny tiny ones just make no sense to me yet, I couldn't stop looking at it. They have an Etsy shop, I don't think this will be my only purchase from them. Keep an eye out for a spindle review on this one in the future.
There were also lots of demonstrations in weaving, machine knitting, spinning, and net making. You could have also brought your wheel and joined in with the spin-a-long that was happening. There was a book signing with Carol James - who is well known in the art of Sprang and finger weaving. I purchased a couple of her books at Olds a couple years ago. Her personality is so addictive, I promise that you will be so amazed with both her and her work, you will want her to come teach a workshop in your area.
Joanne Seiff, who is also one of the coordinators of the Manitoba Fibre Festival, had a couple books that I was very interested in; Knit Green and Fiber Gathering. She signed both for me and I have already delved into them and flagged several of the projects to knit for myself. I also love how both are somewhat reference books in the fact that they are chalk full of useful information and you can tell she has done her research. I highly recommend both, they would be a wonderful addition to your library.
I appreciated that Jeremy ran my booth for me during the entire day. He even said that he had a great time talking to people and sharing all the enthusiasm and passion for fibre arts that everyone bonded over. Congrats to both Margaret and Joanne for another successful festival! Can't wait to see everyone again in 2015 and thanks so much for those who came out!
So you found an amazing fleece at a wool auction or fibre festival, awesome! Sometimes processing a fleece can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. It is very rewarding to work a project from start to finish.
Some times your fibre can be pretty rank when it's full of - sweat, lanolin, manure, dirt and vegetable matter. The first thing you should think about doing is washing your fibre. In this tutorial, I will show you how I wash my fleeces.
To start, gather all your necessities:
- Laundry Bag
- Wool Wash
- Fibre Spinner (aka salad spinner)
- Raw Wool
- Sink/bath tub/basin
The fibre I am washing is from a Babydoll Southdown sheep. If you can see a fair bit of vegetable matter (VM) in your fleece, give it a shake outside to get rid of as much of it as you can.
For wool wash, you will want something specific to your needs. Dawn works great because it cuts through grease and it is easy to find and fairly inexpensive. I use Pour Scour because it works amazingly well and it is made especially for dirty, raw fibre and washing is a breeze.
Laundry bags help keep your fleece together while still letting the water and wool wash flow through your fibres. You can find these bags at the dollar store and they come in many sizes. They also make it easier when you are lifting your fleece out of the water, you can grab the bag and not handle the fleece as much.
For your first wash, fill your sink or basin with very hot water. Ideally, to melt lanolin and other waxes you will want you water between 140 - 160F (60 - 70C). This is where your thermometer will come in handy. Add your wool wash. Follow the instructions for your particular wool wash. Power Scour suggests 5% of your fibre weight should be added to the initial bath. You will want your sink filled with enough water that your fleece will be covered and have room to float freely.
Since my sample is small, I will be using the strainer that comes with my spinner which makes it super easy to lift out of the water and drain.
Place your laundry bag (or strainer) in the water and let it sink on its own. Try to handle your fleece (especially when wet) as little as possible. Felting occurs when you mix heat, soap and agitation, so be careful.
Let your fibre soak for about 20 minutes. You don't want the water to cool down too much between washes and you don't want to shock your fibres with dramatically different temperatures. Lift out your laundry bag or basket and let gravity help the water flow out. I gave mine a spin to get rid of as much as I could without squeezing the fibre.
For my second bath, I want to use the same temperature water as I did in my first wash. 140 - 160F but this time slightly less soap (3% instead of 5%) I got my second bath ready just before my first bath was finished. Put your fibre in your new water and let it sink down. Wait for another 20 or so minutes. This time lets the wool wash do its magic, reducing tangles, cleaning your fibre and dissolving any solid matter like lanolin and other gunk that gets caught in the locks.
Lift your fibre out of the water after its soak. You will see that your water is less dirty than your first wash. Excellent! Two washes is usually enough. We will be rinsing next and once you spin your yarn, you will be washing your skein and after you knit your project you will likely be washing your fibre again to block. Much of the VM will come out during the combing stage too. Two washes is usually enough but use your best judgement.
Let your fibre soak for 15 minutes or so and lift it out of the water. Rinse as many times as needed until your water is clear. As you can see this water is pretty clean. Perfect, looks like a good job! Lift out your rinsed fibre and give it a spin. Now you are ready to let it dry.
If you can do this outdoors your drying time will be cut in half. I rigged up a little drying rack using a laundry bag and some dowels in a frame that I set over my bathtub. I have since found a couple decent sized screens that work perfectly. Use what you have on hand. Open up your fleece as best as you can without handling the locks too much. Once your fleece is dry you are ready to comb, or card your fibre to prepare it for the yarn and project you have in mind.
If you are washing a whole fleece at once, I suggest using your bath tub or a basin large enough to cover your wool. If you find it more manageable to section your fibre off and wash your fleece in small batches then that's perfectly fine too. Whatever is easiest for you and works with what you have in your home is the best option.
If you aren't going to process your fleece soon after washing, store it in a plastic bag, and keep it in a cool, safe place away from pets and other curious critters.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. This is the way I wash all my fleeces. If you have any questions just let me know. Maybe you have a tip or a hint that you use that makes washing your fleeces better, share it with me and I will add it to the notes with your name.
This was my third year attending the Grasslands Sheep & Wool Show in Drake, SK. I always have a really great time because the weather is always nice, the drive up is scenic, the pie and the sausage are worth the trip and the sheep are just too cute to miss. I enjoy seeing my friend Val Fiddler each year as she usually heads up the "Wool" portion of the show and I have been helping her out with both the wool show and promoting wool and its benefits to the sheep producers and the other people attending for the weekend.
Val was the wool judge this year and I was helping as her scribe and Wool Show Coordinator. We had 9 fleeces entered and saw several cross breeds and medium breeds common to Saskatchewan. My friend Janet whose farm I was at earlier this year had one of her Corriedale fleeces entered and won a second place ribbon! Click on the gallery below to see some pictures from the show.
There is a lot to see an do in Drake besides the wool show, there is Sheep judging as well and you can purchase sheep on the last day of the exhibition. There is a Wine and Cheese on Friday night and a wonderful banquet on Saturday night. There are several vendors there as well and one particular fibre artist caught my attention. Arlette Seib from Watrous is a superb felter and her work was just - wow. The details she provides in her skies, the shading in a sheep's face and the colours are really quite eye catching.
Jeremy and I met this handsome fellow when we arrived. Hamish is a Lincoln sheep and he was going home with Val. He was probably the most affectionate sheep I have encountered. He quite enjoyed the chin scratches, neck rubs and all the attention we were giving him.
You should mark the Grasslands Sheep show on your calendar for next year. It's a great way to spend a weekend.
Wow, Fibre Week once again was a dream. I attended the whole week and it went without any problems at all. Lots of fun and I met lots of new, cool people and got to see smiling familiar faces too. Where do I start?
I traveled with two amazing women; Deb Behm and Coleen Nimetz. Lucky me, because I got to converse with experts in the fibre field, learn and laugh all the way to Olds. Deb, taught Master Spinners Level 1 this year and had a very full class. She taught me how to spin and has been my mentor ever since. If you are looking to read up on her, you can check her blog and she also has an article on twist published in the most recent Ply magazine. Coleen, who usually teaches Level 6 and is one, if not the one, of the leading experts on silk in North America. She also has lots of recent articles published in several magazines including Ply, Spin-Off and more (check them out).
The first few days were spent getting settled and pouring over my books (and maybe checking the market). The Wool Show was on monday and I was getting very excited anticipating the whole thing. I judged 44 fleeces in several different classes. Since this is the 3rd year I have helped out or have been involved in the Wool Show, I had an idea of the types of breeds I would find there but cross breeds always force me to think just a little bit harder and there was one fleece in particular that made me laugh to myself because it was such a mix; it was a Romanov, Suffolk, Cotswold, Jacob cross. So, that means its a primitive breed, that is double coated, which also has characteristics of down breeds AND long wools. Yeah. It made the cogs in my head turn a little more then they are used to. It was a lovely fleece and it won a first place ribbon in its class. There were beautiful Shetland fleeces, Dorset, Corriedale, Jacob and BFL. Cotswold, Arcott, Suffolf, Tunis, Cheviot and crosses of each and every one in between. My friend Val Fiddler from Wooly Wool of the West and co-coordinator of the sheep show at The Grasslands Sheep Exhibition in Drake won Grand Champion for her BFL fleece! So if you are looking for some really good fleeces you know where to turn. She also has Black Welsh, Corriedale, Cotswold and more in her flock.
There was a Cotswold fleece from Manitoba producer Gerry Oliver, that was absolutely stunning. It scored only a one mark less than the BFL pictured above. When I flipped the fleece over to look at its lustre, the people in the audience gasped at its shine! Below is a gallery of pictures from the show and the auction. Sorry about the poor quality of some of them, the fluorescent lighting in the building wasn't ideal for photos.
The auction is always a very stressful time. My hands were shaking by the end of it and I wasn't even bidding on anything! You can see the love for fibre right here and I did enjoy seeing some very excited faces once the time was called.
Once the show was over I got to relax a bit. As some of you know, Kim from The Wacky Windmill and her lovely minion Donna were there. Two of my favourite people <3 I got to spend lots of time with them, especially Donna and I hovered around their booth for the majority of the time the market was open. I came home with a couple items; Alpaca/Merino/Silk in the "Kiss This" colourway, Merino/Cashmere/Silk "Remember That Time..." (luxury!) and a skein of superwash Merino in "The Hollow" colourway which I won in one of Kim's KAL's recently. I also coudn't go home without some Painted Desert yarn from Pam's Wooly Shoppe, a travel niddy noddy and some fabric from"The Quilting Bee" (in the town of Olds) which I have no clue what I will do with it. Every year students receive a fibre week tote, that is different every year. Donna also made me this lovely project bag which had a lavendar sachet and handmade lavendar soap inside! Have I ever mentioned how wonderful Donna is?
I may have also come home with a Suffolk X fleece..... maybe
I read an article about a spinning wheel collection donated to the Olds Museum and had to go check it out while I was there. Donna and I went and saw over 45 wheels that had belonged to a man who's goal was to open a museum with them. Among all the very unique and cool wheels were also over 20 drum carders, distaffs, mirrors, spinning wheel parts and also his anvil collection and other oddities. It is quite amazing all the different styles of wheels he had, in all shapes and sizes. Many of them still work including one that had been charred in a fire. There were a couple wheels on display during Fibre Week at the college. All of these wheels are being restored and photographed by a professional photographer and will be put up for auction in the very near future. Some of them are already being added to the museums website and if you are looking to purchase any of these wheels, you can find out all the information you need here. Click on the pictures in the gallery below to get a sneak peak on what wheels will be available.
As usual there are always social events in the evenings and I attended all of them. There was a pub night on Monday, Spin-in on Tuesday and the Fashion Show on Wednesday followed the Fleece and Silent Auctions. An item of Deb's that was in the show was her handspun/handkint cotton sweater which was featured in one of Kate Larson's articles in Spin-Off. Zach Webster, who is the new Program Co-ordinator even tried his hand at spinning during the Spin-In. Looks like he loved it.
I did get my spinning projects finished while I was there. I spun 5 skeins; Shetland, SW Merino/Nylon, Corriedale, Romney and SW Merino/Cashmere/Nylon. I will be listing these skeins for sale in my shop if you are interested.
And what would a blog post about Olds College be without several beautiful photos of the campus grounds? Enjoy
And while I was in the wetlands, there were other photographers there taking pictures, look at this amazing one!
On the last day of Fibre Week, there was a plant sale. How could we say no? If you've ever thought about attending, I strongly suggest you come next year. Fibre Week 2015 will be June 19 - 26, see everyone again next year!!
I spent all day yesterday enjoying the fresh air and hanging around wonderful animals. I was invited by my friend Janet, who wanted some help skirting her fleeces. I did get lost on my way there because I missed the first crucial part of her email "Take the #1 to Qu'Appelle". Instead I read "Fort Qu'Appelle..... go through town, take the first grid road on #35." Well when I got lost it was obvious because I had gone though Fort Qu'Appelle not Qu'Appelle. I had no problem finding her farm after I actually read the first sentence of her email. Duh.
Janet has 11 Corriedale sheep and skirting was fun. The quality of her fleeces is really very nice and it didn't take us too long to get through them all. Her sheep seem to like to keep clean for the most part. We set a few aside so that she could send some off to a few fibre festivals in Alberta, Sask and Manitoba. Just look at the beautiful crimp and luster we found!
She has a wonderful Great Pyrenees dog that loved to give hugs and hang around all the wool. The cat was also interested and rubbed himself all over the bags of wool. Who can blame them?
The Llamas were very protective of their sheep and the Mom kept spitting at the dog. It was really funny how she would work up a big gob and just let loose.
Several of her sheep are lambing and she checked on them every few hours. I was hopeful I would see a new baby lamb but Janet texted me after I had left with some good news; She had her first lamb! Isn't it tiny?
We spent the rest of the afternoon spinning together. Janet has an Ashford Traditional wheel and would love to teach her children about raising sheep, processing fleeces and spinning their wool. It was such a relaxing day. Those who know me, know I am a huge animal lover and I would love to live on a hobby farm. Jeremy and I had looked at a couple when we were buying our first house. Maybe some day. What kind of animals would you have on a farm of your own? Thanks for such a wonderful day Janet!
This unique spindle is cute and the workmanship that went into making it is clear
Weight: 42 g / 1 1/2 oz
Length: 12" Shaft 3" Whorl
Style: Top Whorl
Woods: Purpleheart, maple, hickory
Upon closer inspection, you can see that Thomas Forrester really enjoys his work. He pays close attention to detail (he even included lips on the sheep) and the carved lines are smooth and even. He creates neat shaping in both the crown ontop of the spindle and the whorl shapes. This spindle is very smooth with no rough edges.
For Day 3, I have another great deal to offer. I have a couple of Spinner Starter Kits with Corriedale or Southdown wool. If you or someone you know is looking to learn how to spin and would like a great starter spindle and 4 oz of fibre to practice on these kits are exactly what you are looking for. Corriedale is a
great wool for both the beginner and advanced spinner. I really like
it because its a nice soft fibre, not slippery and the staple length is
nice and average. Southdown is a medium/down breed sheep and their
fibre provides bulk without the weight. This wool is lofty and springy. Great for
socks, hats, mitts and sweaters. It is a very versatile wool with
a medium-soft feel. The top whorl spindles are made from maple. These kits went like crazy at the Manitoba Fibre Festival and you can get your hands on one too but only until Dec 7th. These usually sell for $25 each but....
Today's Deal ~ $15.00 each
(That's a 40% discount!)
*I have 3 Corriedale kits and 1 Southdown kit available*
This year was a big success for both the sheep and wool shows in Drake Sk. The event kicked off with a wine and cheese sponsored by Granite Quarry Farms with sheep cheese from the Cheesery in Kitscoty. I have to say the maple/chive spreadable sheep cheese was the best I have ever tasted. It didn't hurt that the wine was my favourite too :P
I spent the whole weekend surrounded by sheep many of which are common in this province and the prairie provinces in general. Down breeds such as Dorset, Suffolk, N. Country Cheviot and Arcotts are known for their superior meat but I like them more for their wool. Down/Medium breeds have wool that has bulk without the weight. Their staple lengths average 3-5 inches and the fleeces can be quite large. To many of the producers in the sheep industry, the meat is the main focus and their wool takes a back burner, even though it also has a value. The point of the wool show is to show producers that there is another side to their industry and wool DOES have a value and as a renewable resource it can be productive over and over. Rambouillet sheep are also common in this province and their fleeces can be gorgeous. I bid on one that was entered into the wool show and won. Their fleeces fall into the fine category and can weigh between 9 - 14 lbs! Next year we are promised a Targhee fleece :P I am still learning and seeing more breeds this year was great. We had double the amount of fleeces entered this year compared to last and we even had an audience. We had the fleeces categorized by fine, medium (down) and coarse (longwools). Winners were awarded ribbons at the end of the show and I chose a coloured BFL X Corriedale to win the "Judges Choice" Ribbon. Prizes were awarded at the banquet on Saturday night. Special thanks to my friend Lindsay of Wired WhimZee for helping Val and I make everything go smoothly.
My friend Val Fiddler from Wooly Wool of the West co-ordinated the show and is a big supporter of the wool industry. She has a lovely flock of sheep and brought a few for the breed display; a Corriedale ewe and her lamb (so cute!), a big, beautiful Blue Faced Leicester and a handsome Black Welsh.
I also had a booth set up with all my wool items. I sold lots of SOAK, t-shirts, yarn and all my buttons :) I even had one customer say "It's SO nice to see wool at a sheep show!". Thanks to everyone who came out, I can't wait for next year.