Lovely Lincoln Longwools, Estes Park Wool Market, and Craftsy.com

Last weekend I was at the Estes Park Wool Market both days. On Saturday, I went up with friends, to do some scouting for the video work scheduled for Sunday in conjunction with a course I'm doing for Craftsy.com. I'd already connected with some of the folks we would be visiting with for the filming, but needed to get a sense of what else was happening that we might need to know about. My reconnaissance was cut short because Saturday was the first day of the High Park Fire and as it grew (we could watch it), we needed to get back down the mountain. We had a good time, cut short.

Sunday, however, when the video crew assembled, we had a fantastic day. It was really windy, which made for some shooting challenges. I also kept an eye on the growing fire, although it was good to have work to distract me from what was happening in the mountains just north of us, closer to home. We got great interviews and video that will become part of the course, which should go live on Craftsy.com in July. I'll let folks know when that happens. It will be called "Know Your Wool," and it's about getting past the seduction of color (which is almost overwhelming) and softness (which is immediately appealing, too) to understand the fiber inside pure-wool yarns and to improve the knitter's (weaver's, crocheter's, other thread-bender's) ability to select the RIGHT wool for a project, and have more fun and more success with wool yarns.

Well. That was cumbersome to say, even if accurate. It's about wool. I like wool. There are lots of different kinds. Sometimes softness isn't what you need. Once you've picked the right wool, it can be made any color you want it to be. I think of the course as being about looking INSIDE the yarn and learning to tell the differences—like between pasteurized process cheese, mild cheddar, and asiago or brie.

Did I mention that viewers will be able to access the course free? Most of the Craftsy courses are paid products (reasonably priced), but the Craftsy folks are also making open-access offerings to introduce people to the idea of their platform, which is new and interactive and really cool. I talked to someone the other day who had signed up for a Craftsy course and was initially disappointed that she couldn't download it, like a normal CD thing—and then realized that there were so many extras involved that downloading would only provide her with part of the experience offered by the platform. There are downloadable support materials, but the courses as a whole involve a lot of other components that require the web. Yes, a decent internet connection is required. But this is fascinatingly cutting-edge stuff, and it's fun to be a part of.

Especially since we got to go to the wool market.

I didn't have many chances to take photos while we were there, because that wasn't my job, although I snapped a few and a friend sent me a couple that she'd taken. (I didn't even see her—that's how busy we were!)

We interviewed some of the shepherds who were participating in the National Lincoln Longwool Show and Sale. It was an incredible treat to have this show happen within reach of the video crew! I do love Lincolns. (I wrote a whole article about them for the Spring 2012 issue of Spin-Off magazine.)

We also interviewed Joanna Gleason, of Gleason's Fine Woolies, who raises Bond and Corriedale sheep. These breeds developed from crosses of Lincoln with Merino.

Working with Lincolns and Bonds for the video gave us the opportunity to offer a terrific view of one aspect of breed development and to provide dramatically different perspectives into sheep husbandry. And the shepherds with whom we were able to spend time are folks from whom I always learn something new.

Despite my lack of photo-taking time, this post will contain a lot of pictures.

Border collies really like to work.

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The sheep that Border collie thought needed to be watched were Columbias, which are really big (and a breed that provided one of the yarns I used as a demo in the course). I really don't think the sheep were planning to get out of line, but the dog was making sure they didn't.

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As I mentioned, having the National Lincoln Longwool Show and Sale at the wool market this year was a real treat for me. Very early in our visit to the fairgrounds on Sunday we saw this exceptionally handsome ram.

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When I caught sight of him, I was looking for Christiane Payton, of North Valley Farm in Yamhill, Oregon. When Carol Ekarius and I were working on The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, Christiane helped me out with samples that let me represent Lincoln wool in all its colorful variety. I also was able to visit her flock on a road trip: that was a treat! 

And there was Christiane, keeping a pen of Lincolns company. Including that ram.

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The photo above shows some of the great people I got to visit with that day. On the left, in the red jacket, is Christine Bazant, who bought the ram and would be taking him back to her flock in Oregon. In the dark green shirt is Brian Larson, from whose flock in Michigan the ram originated. In the light blue jacket is Christiane, who brought some of her beautiful colored sheep to the show and sale (I have a photo of one of them later in this post). And the woman in the blue shirt with all the equipment slung in bags on her shoulder is Liz Gipson, a former assistant editor of Spin-Off (after my time) and creator of books and DVDs on rigid heddle weaving.

Liz is the producer of the "Know Your Wool" Craftsy course that we were working on. She asked me to do it, and because I like her and thought it sounded like a cool idea, I said okay. Even though it meant getting in front of a camera myself (and talking and being recorded while there).

I love watching animal judging, especially with a good judge—as was the case on Sunday. Here he's evaluating our friend the ram, being shown by new owner Chris Bazant. (I only discovered the ram's identifying number, not his name. I suspect he has a name, and I look forward to knowing it.)

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The judge liked what he saw.

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The sheep had some commentary about being tied up and ignored in the barn. He was scheduled to be shorn that afternoon, and we were working out the timing issues for some video work. He was, I think, BORED.

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One of my favorite parts of the day was talking with Brian and Christiane about their Lincolns while we had the white ram and one of Christiane's colored rams with us. (The colored sheep had been shown on Saturday, so he was just hanging out with us.) Thanks to Theresa Meyer for this photo.

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Here's another of Christiane's ram, although you can see more of his character in the photo above. He's a very mellow fellow.

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Shearing a Lincoln ram is not a job for an amateur. There's a lot of mass, muscle, and intelligence. It's a good thing the shearer on site at the festival is a pro! Here's Brian talking about how they'd like the ram's topknot to stay in place, with shearing to happen from the ears back.

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It's a lot of sheep to manage, and the shearer's skill is apparent in the ram's relaxed face. As you could see above when he was tied up, he would have complained if he'd been unhappy.

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Ideally, the fleece will come off in one piece. The shearer follows a pattern and takes it off very methodically, shifting the sheep's position and his own grip as he proceeds. Lincoln locks, being long and relatively low in grease, tend to only loosely maintain their sheep-shape as a whole fleece as they're removed.

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Chris showed the ram his fleece when the job was done, and he seemed pretty curious about the whole thing, although he obviously felt lighter. Given the weather, it was probably pretty pleasant for him to be no longer wearing about 20 pounds (9kg) of wool, handsome though he was while he had it on. (He'll grow more.) Thanks to Theresa Meyer for this photo, too!

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Then we went over to the vendors'  barn to talk with Joanna Gleason, although I don't have any photos of that. Some of the other folks may have had their cameras out, and if I can connect with anyone who documented that part of our trip, I'll share more in a future post. Otherwise, there will be video in the Craftsy course when it's available in July!

The video for the rest of the course was shot in Denver. On Wednesday, I drove to the city and stayed in a hotel so I wouldn't have to get up at 5 a.m. to be up the Craftsy studio for makeup at 7:45 a.m. We worked up the rest of the course between then and about 6:15 p.m., after which we went to the Craftsy offices for a meeting with all the other people who are involved in making the course happen and getting the word out. Yes, that meeting started at 6:30 p.m. Following that, a couple of us went back to the studio to pack up my demo supplies and all the clothes I had to bring (I wore something different for each lesson). I was home by a little before 10, and ready for dinner!

It was a positive experience throughout. The team was great. I look forward to seeing what they do with the materials we generated: it's all editing and presentation now. Out of my hands.

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6 Responses

  1. I am looking forward to your wool course! As it happens I am currently spinning up two of Joanna’s fleeces and I need to wash another.

  2. Freyalyn

    Sounds a very exciting thing to look forward to – can’t wait. Some great photos in the post, especially the one of you with the two rams.

  3. The course sounds like fun and how lucky for us it will be available as a Craftsy ‘sample’!

    I have been mailing Oxford shepherds – I sent you a note on Rav about a message I got back from one of them…

  4. Mandy, you have three of Joanna’s fleeces? That’s like having really good desserts three times! By the time we got there on Sunday, she’d sold almost everything, but what was still left was (of course) gorgeous.

    Freyalyn, Theresa took that wonderful photo and was kind enough to send it to me. I didn’t even *see* her there. I was a bit distracted, of course. It’s pretty intense being on camera. Not especially familiar or comfortable territory for me, but . . . the sheep made me do it.

    Caroline, thanks for letting me know you sent me a message on Rav. I’ll get over there. With prepping to teach again and the fire, I haven’t been over there–just wishing I could be.

    And Flickertail Fibers, I’m glad you’re on the Craftsy list. I got an e-mail this week about Edie Eckman’s course on pattern-writing for knitters. Even though I’ve been writing and tech editing knitting patterns for years, I know I’ll learn stuff from Edie and I signed up. Fortunately, the course will wait for me to have time to check it out–which is not right now!

  5. Christine Bazant

    Hi Deb,
    It was so nice to meet you in Estes Park and thank you for the wonderful article about Lincoln sheep and the big white ram in particular. I was fortunate to be able to buy him and I look forward to his lambs next spring. His name is Gunnar (you had mentioned you only had his number) and he was happy to help with the video!! I look forward to that as well.
    Chris Bazant
    Missing Creek Farm
    Lebanon, Oregon

  6. Chris: Gunnar is the perfect name for the ram! Thanks for letting us know, and it was a delight to meet you at Estes Park. I'm looking forward to when our paths cross again.

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