AROUND THE STATES
Sheep to Shawl Contest Draws a Crowd
Inspired by Braille and a love of soft texture, a Franklin County team won the coveted sheep to shawl contest on Jan. 8 at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Members of Friends Thru Fiber, a long-time competitor in the contest, said they were delighted to win after placing second for many years.
“This is our 11th year in the contest but the first time we came in first,” said a jubilant Michelle Lushbaugh, Friends Thru Fiber weaver. “We’re ecstatic.”
The competition, now in its 40th year at the Farm Show, involves a team shearing a sheep, spinning the wool into yarn and using it to make a 22- by 78-inch shawl with five inches of fringe on each end, all in 2½ hours.
The wild and wooly event on the fifth day of the Farm Show puts the state’s wool industry in the spotlight. Pennsylvania has 96,000 sheep and ranks 14th nationally in wool production, according to the Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association.
About 2,000 people filled the small arena to watch what sounds like a relatively easy contest. How difficult can it be to shear a sheep, process its fleece, make a shawl and sell it? Difficult but doable, the nine teams showed.
The competition began when the sheep were brought into the arena and sheared. Carders brushed the fluffy piles of wool between two wire brushes to remove foreign matter and make the fibers go in one direction. They gave the soft fiber to the three spinners on each team.
Spinners, using foot-operated spinning wheels, spun the fibers into long strands of yarn and wound that yarn on wooden bobbins. Finally, the bobbins went to the team weaver who ran a wooden shuttle back and forth in the loom, creating the shawl pattern.
Creativity was the name of the game this year. Several teams said their shawls and stand décors were inspired by weather and nature.
Judges awarded points for shearing, spinning, weaving, shawl, design, speed and team identification. Special awards went to: Friends Thru Fiber, fleece award; For the Love of Ewe, spinners award; Libby Beiler of Time Warp, weaver’s award; Weaving Wabi Sabi of Lancaster County, team’s choice award; and Shetland Circle of Lancaster County, shearer’s award.
Source: Mary Klaus/The Sentinel/Cumberlink.com
Industry FAct Cards Available
The Utah Wool Growers Association developed an interesting way to quickly pass along facts on the sheep and wool industry to consumers with a new folding business card.
These “Fast Fact” business cards are the size of a regular business card – so they fit nicely in a wallet or shirt pocket – and they have fast facts about the Utah sheep industry, American wool, and American lamb.
It’s a great, compact way for producers to pass along a lot of information when interacting with consumers.
UWGA Executive Director Sierra Nelson said the state would be happy to share electronic files of the card with other state associations, who could then customize the cards to their state and share their own version of the cards with their producers.
Email Nelson at Utahwoolers@gmail.com for more information.