Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2012

I'm so far behind on blogging that I'll never catch up, so here's an overview of this year's wonderful Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I taught a two-day workshop on rare wools, participated in as much of the book signing as I could get to, and facilitated two walkabout classes in the barns, which was a new event and a lot of crazy fun.

Here's everybody except the photographer (and me; I'm organizing things off to the left) concentrating on a new fiber. (Thanks, Nancy, for taking pictures while I was all-out focused on teaching!)

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One of the biggest reasons that I love teaching is the great people I get to meet. And that's a roomful of them.

And here are the fibers at the start of the workshop:

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We worked our way through them over two days. Our selection for this workshop included:

  • Black Welsh Mountain
  • Clun Forest
  • Dorset Horn
  • Gulf Coast Native
  • Jacob (American)
  • Leicester Longwool
  • Navajo-Churro
  • North Ronaldsay
  • Oxford
  • Romeldale/CVM
  • Santa Cruz
  • Shetland
  • Wensleydale

. . . and, courtesy of BitsyKnits, a sampling of Sharlea, which is a rare wool although not from a rare breed (it's specially grown and prepared Saxon Merino).

Thanks once again to The Spinning Loft and Spirit Trail Fiberworks for making these workshops possible. There's no way I could acquire, wash, and prepare all the fibers myself. I do some of that work: The Spinning Loft does most of it, with essential contributions from Spirit Trail.

On several of the evenings, after we had finished teaching, Maggie Casey and I were lucky enough to walk around the lake near the hotel. (I was looking for a photo of Maggie, but we'll have to settle for a selection of her DVDs and her book.)

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The barn walkabouts on Saturday and Sunday mornings were amazing. Registration was limited to a small group so we could move with relative compactness through the barns and talk about wools in connection with the sheep that grow them. We only had time to do barn 8: and it was a full three hours! There was a lot of variety in breeds and many topics to consider. The walkabout description said we'd cover between 10 and 12 breeds. Because they were there, we saw and talked about more than 25!

On Sunday, I juggled myself back and forth between the walkabout, the book signing, and the Parade of Breeds, which is my favorite event at the festival. Here's a Border Cheviot (in front) and a Border Leicester (behind):

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My favorite Shetland ram was there again, once again charming everyone within viewing distance. This year he had been shorn before the festival—many more of the sheep were in their summer wear this year than usual. The dogwoods and azaleas had also passed their bloom-time (climate change affecting shearing, as well as blossoms?).

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Sue Blacker and Douglas Bence of Blacker Designs and Blacker Yarn in the UK attended the festival and gave a presentation on the value-added work they do to increase shepherds' and farmers' income from the fiber their animals grow. One of the things they have done recently is work with some wonderful, visionary people to produce what is likely the first commercially spun Boreray yarn, and here's a ball of it!

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Boreray is a rare breed of sheep from the same small set of islands, called St Kilda, that are home to the Soay. This Boreray yarn is one of two that the Blacker mill is producing. The other will be a blend of finer Boreray fleeces, hand selected, with Soay wool, as a St Kilda laceweight. I can't tell you how exciting this is. It's one of the fantastic ideas that grew out of the odd experience that was UK Knit Camp in 2010.

What with teaching, book signing, and a few wonderful meetings, I finally got to walk around the festival for a short while at the end of Sunday. I spent most of that time taking pictures of sheep. And this Karakul sheep from Redgate Farm looked exactly like I felt at that point:

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So it was time to call the festival a huge success and wonderful time, and to go home.

At least for a few days.

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One Response

  1. The spinning class was great fun. It was a wonderful addition to the exploration I had begun with the book and DVD. I hope the walkabout will become a regular feature and that I will have a chance to do that sometime, too. Thanks for traveling and teaching. Maryland Sheep and Wool is a perfect place for the class. What a lot of lovely sheep!

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