Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival 2013, a random report

I love the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I love other festivals, too, but Maryland was my first wool festival (many years ago, when it was substantial but significantly smaller than it is now), and always gives me a feeling that I'm going home to a place and a community (of humans and animals) that exists fleetingly but regularly. I've almost always worked when I was at the festival, either in the Interweave Press booth, or researching and gathering materials for The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, or, last year and this year, teaching.

For two reasons, this will be a brief and random report on Maryland 2013. First, I'm home just long enough to prepare to teach at a new-to-me festival, the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival. (There are still a few spaces left in the two-day workshop, 3Ls and 3Cs—it's about a variety of related sheep with diverse wools both from the UK (Leicester Longwool, Border Leicester, and Bluefaced Leicester) and from New Zealand and Australia (Coopworth, Corriedale, and Cormo), and about how breeds are developed and determined, all with fiber in hand.) Second, I have very few photos from the five days because I was teaching. (I do have a few, thanks to some participants in the groups. But when I teach, I teach.) I had Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon "off," so that's pretty much when I was able to take pictures. And meet up with people I had appointments with. And buy fleeces for future workshops.

One thing I always like to do at festivals is visit the animals and see what kinds of photos I can capture. This Corriedale and an Oxford were amazingly friendly every time I stopped by (which was as often as I could).

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While zooming through the Main Building (which I still think of as Building V), I spotted these Hog Island sheep (a rare breed), available in knitting-kit form:

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I was especially taken with the variegated yarn for the horns. The kits are produced by Yarn by Mills. They aren't on the website yet, so if you're intrigued  you'll need to e-mail Margy Mills at yarnbymills AT yahoo.com to ask about them.

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Then, of course, I had to visit George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate's Hog Island sheep, located as usual in the breed display section of the barns.

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Here's another photo:

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One of the ewes was being placed with a new young owner through a program that puts rare-breed sheep in the care of young shepherds, and the young woman who would be taking the ewe home showed her (with help from Lisa from Mount Vernon) in the Parade of Breeds on Sunday afternoon:

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Hog Island sheep have quite the story to tell. I'll be including the breed as one of four locally sourced wools in a four-day retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore in late October of this year.

I also bought two Jacob fleeces with different characteristics for the same retreat.

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And got some photos of Jacobs. They tend to be very photogenic, as well as nice sheep!

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This wee one seemed to have been hand-carried throughout the festival, as far as I could tell. I kept seeing it, always with an accompanying human.

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I got in a quick visit to Clara Parkes' gathering for people involved with the Great White Bale project (I'm an armchair traveler):

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It's all about the fiber.

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That's the first yarn spun from the Great White Bale.

It's Merino.

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I also got to see my friend Moe, who's a Shetland ram. He dressed up for the Parade of Breeds on Sunday.

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I also got to sneak away for part of the shearing demo. Kevin Ford blade-sheared. . . .

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And then Kristen Rosser, who is working with Emily Chamelin, showed how the job gets done with electric shears (she commented while Kevin sheared, and he commented while she did).

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Emily and I managed to meet up on the fly and talk sheep, which was one of the highlights of the festival for me although I don't have photos—just a great link.

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, I led barn walkabouts, which are a whole lot of fun even though they involve a bunch of on-the-fly changes of approach and plans (depending on what's happening in the barns). We alternate walking through the barns and looking at specific breeds of sheep, while either I or the shepherds talk about them. . . . (Thanks to Joanne Jaeger for the next photo.)

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(That's Melissa Weaver Dunning, with whom I had the great good fortune of spending a fair amount of time during this festival. She teaches at John C. Campbell Folk School, among other places.)

. . . and finding a quiet place to discuss questions that have come up or give an overview of what we'll be seeing next. (Thanks to Melissa Weaver Dunning for this next photo.)

Walkabout 10

We did the walkabouts for the first time last year, and there were a few scheduling tweaks that made them work better this year (like: not trying to do one during the Suffolk lamb auction in the same building!) and a few logistical shifts that made them a little more challenging (lots more breeds on display—like more than 40!—which meant one of the aisles was very narrow, but we managed).

When I worked the festival at the Interweave Press booth in years past, representing Spin-Off magazine, I used to go to the breed barns to take a break—there and to the sheepdog demos. I didn't have a free moment this year during any of the dog events, alas, so I missed them entirely. 

But I did find a few fleeces to bring home for teaching workshops this year.

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And more.

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ALL of this wool will be distributed to other people, mostly in workshops. Well, I'll get to make some swatches as part of the ongoing research. Yesterday I washed up the first two bathtubs-full.

Wow, do I love the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival!

And next week I'll be at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, which I'm looking forward to experiencing for the first time. I hear there are still a few workshop spaces available. All of my workshops sold out at Maryland, and it would be fun if the one in Kentucky did, too! I'm bringing plenty of wool (including some of what's drying downstairs right now), so as long as there's an opening even walk-ins will work.

My, this is lovely wool. I can't wait to share it.

Okay. I need to go wash more of it.

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One Response

  1. Wowie!! All those bags of wonderful wool!! I have several friends who go to Maryland for the Wool Festival every year but I haven’t made it yet. From your pictures I can see that it’s a fiber person’s paradise!!

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