It's been a while hasn't it? Without going into why I have stepped back for a bit I'm just going to burst right in with what really brought me back. The 10th year of the Manitoba Fibre Festival!
This past weekend was a whirlwind of excitement, inspiration and community. I missed this so much in the past couple of years. I taught 2 workshops; Learn how to Spin on a Drop Spindle (which sold out) and Fleece to Finish. I was also so lucky to be able to judge the wool show once again which is my true love.
These wonderful fleeces were the winners in their categories at the Manitoba Fibre Festival.
Starting on top left and moving clockwise: 1st Fine White Rambouillet (Graham Rannie), 1st Fine Coloured CVM (Christel Lanthier), 1st Medium White Rideau Arcott (Leah Bouchard), 1st Long White, Reserve Champion Wensleydale/Texel (Gerry Oliver), 1st Long Coloured Supreme Champion Romney/Costwold (Gerry Oliver), 1st Speciality Icelandic (Julie Schneider)
There were 39 fleeces that filled all 4 categories; Fine, Med/Down, Long and Speciality. I was pleasantly surprised to see a breed I haven't encountered in my 10 years of judging and it was a Romeldale CVM (California Vertigated Mutant). My favourite fleece from a sheep named Patches (winner in the fine/coloured above) was one of these CVM entries and they were all really very nice.
Thank you to Gerry of course for all she does gathering all the fleeces, preparing the prizes and running the auction (amongst so many more tasks!). Also to my scribes Andrea and Kathleen, I couldn't have done it without you.
This week I was lucky enough to talk to Andrea Geary with the Western Producer about the role I play at the Manitoba Fibre Festival, Knit Natural and my 10 years as a wool judge. There were 2 others also interviewed; Angie Baloun from Manitoba and Shannon McDowall from Alberta. You can see that this festival gathers fibre lovers from across the Prairies and beyond.
This year I taught both levels 1 & 2 of Wool Judging at the Manitoba Fibre Fest. It was an intensive 3 days of looking at the good and bad in many different breeds and fleeces.
At the end of level 2 there was a written exam as well as a practical judging portion. Every student did exceptional!
Above are examples of some of the very beautiful fleeces which were excellent examples of their breeds.
This fleece on the other hand is a VERY BAD example. It weighs 26 lbs!! This fleece came from a medium breed with the locks well over a foot long. It is a bit hard to see in the pictures but it also show canary stain which is unscorable. This fleece shows bad animal health, bad animal care and it should NOT be supported in any way. Locks WAY too long for breed type is not a luxury. It is animal abuse. This case was different from Shrek in the fact that this sheep did not escape and hide in the mountains, it was living on a farm not getting sheared. Yearly shearing is important for the sheep's health. The sheep that carried this 26 lbs of extra wool would have been very uncomfortable. It's skin would not be able to breath and bacteria grew rampant. Please keep this in mind when you see overgrown fleeces/lock online or in the field.
Most of our 2 classes were here for the certificate award ceremony. Many thanks to Gerry (3rd from left) who coordinated the course as well as sourcing all the fleeces and providing an insight that was immeasurable to class participants. Much thanks also to Wool Growers who provided learning materials, funding and backed the courses and provided the certificates.
If you are ever interested in wool judging keep an eye out for upcoming courses with the Manitoba Fibre Fest.
Registrations are soon to open for the long awaited Manitoba Fibre Festival!
If you are interested in learning more about wool than you ever expected and getting down and greasy in a hundred fleeces then you will want to sign up for the Wool Judging classes which are now open for registration! Both level 1 & 2 are offered this year. Once completion you will receive a certificate. This is a very informative course and people take it for lots of different reasons.
Wed Sept 12 - Level 1 (9 - 5)
Thurs Sept 13 - Level 1 (9 - 12)
* this is a 1 1/2 day class
Thurs Sept 13 - Level 2 (1 - 5)
Fri Sept 14 - Level 2 (9 - 12)
* must have level 1 as a prerequisite
I took this course in Olds in 2012 and have been working in the field since then. Out of all I do, wool judging is what I love most.
I will also be teaching a Fleece to Finish class on Friday
from 2 - 4:30
If you are interested in learning more about wool fleeces and how to choose a fleece at an auction or wool show you will want to sign up.
In this workshop I will take the fear out of buying and processing fleeces. We will discuss what to look for in a fleece and what to avoid as well as how to read the information on a judging card. We will look at 3 different wool breeds and discuss how to choose a fleece with an end use in mind. I will also talk about storing, washing and processing a fleece by hand using carders, and combs.
On Sat Sept 15 from 9 - 12 is my Learn to Spin on a Drop Spindle class
Ever wanted to learn how to make yarn by hand? In this class you will learn the time honoured tradition of spindling. We will be using a top whorl spindle to learn how to create your own leader, manage twist, understand the drafting zone and draft continuously, build a cop and prepare your spun singles for plying. We will also discuss spindle types, fibre preparations, and finishing techniques. Perfect for beginners.
On Aug 2 these and many other great classes are available for registration. Can't wait to see you there!
Blue Hills Fibre Fest was on June 9th - which was also World Wide Knit In Public Day. Jeremy and I spent the day in Carberry with the always amazing Manitoba Fibre Community. If you haven't visited a fibre fest before, you MUST add this one to your list. It may be smaller on scale but it is overflowing with amazing vendors, classes, fleeces and pie! This was my booth all set up and ready to go. Aside from our regular items we also had Straw into Gold kits and Cog Yarns hand dyed skeins for purchase. I am always overwhelmed at the generous support from the people in Manitoba. You all made my day so bright and one I can say I honestly enjoyed. Looking forward to next year already
I was very happy to judge the wool show this year. There were 16 fleeces in all and wow (!) most scored pretty high. Manitoba wool is exceptional.
Here are the first place winners as well as some of my favourites. My phone was a bit greasy so sorry about the shiny pictures hah!
I had a few new skeins to bring with me. Watch for an update in my Etsy shop very soon, were I will be listing the skeins I have. You can also find some at The Naked Sheep Yarn & Fibre Emporium.
If you are ever in Winnipeg then you MUST go to Baked Expectations. The cakes are so unbelievable, you will need to decide on a few to go as well. Jeremy had the Tia Maria torte. Next time I might get the Red Velvet cake and likely another cheesecake or chocolate cream pie. Also, take it from me - the hot chocolate is one of the best!
I did well. I could have bought soooo much more. The quality of vendors was outstanding and such a great variety. A new knitting wedge bag from Dragon Fibre Bags, project bag, sock yarn and t-shirt from Long Way Homestead, Sock yarn from The Sheep-ish Spinner, darning mushroom from Natural Knot Woods, french spindle from Homespun Tools and a cork wedge pouch, cedar/grapefruit handmade soap and merino hand dyed fibre from Last Dance Ranch.
Oh I love it all!!
Are you interested in learning more about wool fleeces and how to choose a fleece at an auction or wool show?
In this workshop you will learn how to choose a fleece with an end project in mind. We will go over the judging card to see what the judge is looking for in a fleece and what the different wool classes entail. Methods of storing and washing will be discussed as well as different ways to process fleeces. This is a hands on class and will involve a few example fleeces to gain greater insight. Bring a fleece if you have questions! Please bring an apron to protect your clothes.
Cost to register: $35/person
Payable in advance by paypal to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Golden Willow Alpaca Farm. Thank you to Sharon for providing the perfect backdrop ♥
Time: 1 - 4pm
Class size will be up to 15 people
Join in on the Facebook Event Page
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!