Black Sheep Gathering

Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon was just a few weeks ago. I have to say, it was worth every penny and every bit of time. Not only was the fiber festival great, the scenery in Western Oregon can’t be beat. 

The drive up wasn’t too bad from the California Bay Area. (the drive home seemed much longer).

Friday morning started with a workshop on spinning silk with Shelia January. Not only was she very knowledgeable, it was a fun class. It was nicely structured with a good balance of time to experiment and try the different silk types, information about the types of silk, and hands on help. A very well done class. I was a little intimidated by silk and wasn’t sure my little Kiwi wheel could go quick enough to make it happen (I’m a slow treadler) But it, and I, did just fine. Of course I picked up a few silk hankies at the marketplace afterwards to play with when I got home.

Saturday afternoon was more of an art yarn spinning class from Laurie Weinsoft. It was a much less structured class. I wish there had been more structure, help, and demonstration. It was certainly a free-form time for experimentation. And, as much as I wished it had been more informative, I’ve have used the techniques since I’ve been home.

Sunday morning was Judith MacKenzie’s spinning Shetland. I was excited not only because Shetland is one of the breeds that I’m considering keeping, but because…well…because it’s Judith MacKenzie. In actuality I was expecting to be a little disappointed. After all, who could possibly live up to all of that hype. As it turns out Judith MacKenzie can, that’s who. Being an introvert there are few people, that I don’t know well personally, that I would want to spend a lot of time with. She is definitely an exception. The amount of knowledge she has on sheep, spinning, history, etc. is mind-blowing. Watching her spin fine yarn was stunning. And the techniques that she showed, just as afterthoughts from spinning, to hand carding, to skirting was the type of information that you spend years trying to find. Her class was well organized with hands-on, instruction, and her insights alone were worth the drive. I have no doubt that I’ll sign up for any class that she offers.

Sunday afternoon was Sarah Anderson’s success in Plying. Admittedly, it was hard for any class to both follow Judith’s class, and be at the tail end of a long three day weekend. But I was looking forward to taking a class from her. Sarah was definitely knowledgeable, talented, and had a wonderful way of explaining the energy in yarn. We had lots of hands-on and she certainly seemed like one of the nicest people that you could meet. Honestly, I don’t know if my plying is any better. But her instruction was really very good. I would love to take another class from her. I have no doubt that a technique class on something along the lines of core spinning or boucle would be fantastic from her!

The marketplace was addictive…perhaps too addictive. I had headed up with a list of things to buy, and of course picked up a few extras. I was happy to find some Santa Cruz sheep fiber. I’ve been wanting to try this since Wendy from Shaggy Bear mentioned that she would have some.

I not only picked more fiber than I really needed, but broke down and bought a spindle. And although I have resisted the drop spindle, I have to admit, I’m having a lot of fun with it. 

My marketplace highlight was picking up my Clemes and Clemes mini drum carder. I absolutely love it! Sweet and funny Gynna helped me play with it while the guys were busy teaching a class and I was thrilled to leave Black Sheep with it. The first thing I carded when I got home was a mix of my German Angora and Merino. It did a fantastic job with it. I’m having a great time spinning it up during Tour de’ Fleece. The carder is the perfect size to fit in my fiber studio/rabbitry.

My unexpected surprise was being able to show one of Robin’s Meridian Jacobs sheep! I was pretty nervous, convinced that she (the sheep, not Robin. 😉 ) was going to get away from me in the ring. But Robin did a great job of showing us how to handle them in the ring and my cooperative sheep did a lovely job of showing herself and even won first place. Honestly, I still have no idea what I was doing…but I certainly had a GREAT time doing it! Meridian Jacobs took first in a couple of divisions. I’m really not surprised though. Robin really is a remarkable shepardess and her sheep and their fleeces reflect it. I certainly have a ton of respect for both her kindness and abilities….and her sweet sheep!

The last surprise was the wonderful people. I was shocked at how many Bay Area people were there. It seems like half of the Treadles to Threads spinning guild was there. I ran into a fellow student from our Wool Classing School, a few people from farm club, and made a few new friends. It really was a nice reminder of what a great group of people the fiber world is made up of.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Black Sheep Gathering!

Certified Wool Classer! 

With the number of fleeces that I look at during fiber festivals and more, and my limited experience in skirting at Meridianjacobs farm, I decided I REALLY wanted to understand what I’m looking at and looking for. Then of course there’s the research in which type of sheep I want to raise in the next few years. What better than the American Sheep Industry Association to learn about wool. And if I’m going to do that, I might as well jump in all the way.

There aren’t that many schools, but luckily there’s one about three hours from my house through UC Davis. The classes fill up fast, I mean …within hours.

It was a FULL three days. Information ranged from the cellular structure of wool fibers, estimating the value of a fleece on the commercial market, recognizing the qualities in a particular fleece (as well as the entire clip), to breeding strategies in a flock. An amazing amount of information. Of course we spent a good amount of time in the barn. And, while shearing students learned their skill, we dug deep into skirting and sorting fleece after fleece, after fleece. I think we all loved every moment of it!

On top of it all I got to meet some great people; from the stunningly knowledgeable instructors to the other students that included other fiber enthusiasts & artists as well as the enviable small sheep & alpaca farmers.

I’m missing sheep already and even more excited about Black Sheep Festival and the fleeces. And of course all of the sheep breeds!

Shearing Sheep

I was lucky enough to spend the day at Meridian Jacobs at Sheep Shearing. That was fun! Robin has the processes dialed in and the experienced Shearer, John, was really amazing to watch. I worked some at the skirting table and although the process was more guess work for me than knowledge, it was great to have the opportunity for so much hands on. I have managed to enroll in the wool classing school at UC Davis after being on the wait list. I have high hopes in the knowledge coming out of that. Anyway, back to shearing. 

The rest of my time was in with the sheep. I learned about sheep; 

  1. Sheep do NOT go where you want them to go …just because you want them to go there. 
  2. Sheep are stubborn
  3. Sheep are very heavy
  4. Sheep can’t be reasoned with
  5. Did I mention that sheep go where they want to go?

It was actually quite a workout. With several sheep in the “staging area” I could more-or-less push one into position, place my hand under her jaw, and with one thigh against her front and one against her side, attempt to keep her still and near the gate waiting as she’s next in line to be sheared. Oh sure it sounds easy, but I’m not sure that I weight much more than some of those sheep. And, they have the advantage of horns. But for the most part, and with the help of the experienced “wranglers” I got the hang of it and the sheep, for the most part, relented. 

Vanna on the right

One sheep stood out to me, Vanna. She was young, small and sweet. So, I knew that was the fleece for me! It’s not exactly the most educated way to pick a fleece. But actually she did have a beautiful one and I couldn’t be happier. I’m looking forward to spinning it up!

Vanna being sheared

Angora Shearing Day

Daisy had her 9 month shearing this last weekend. She is SO much happier with the ability to move around. Actually, I think she’s barely stopped moving. And only 2 days in and she’s already growing it back. 

Using the link in the IAGARB website, I made her a coat with some heavy duty fleece fabric from Joanne Fabrics. Actually, I made three sizes since I really couldn’t estimate the size I’d need. But the large worked fine and by day 2 she’s almost ready to be out of it. 

Her fiber, I have to say, is stunning. It is as soft as a cloud, the staple length is impressive at approx 4 inches and the yield was over 480 grams (or over 16 oz). Which is really amazing to me for only 3 month’s of growth.  

My plan was to mix it with Merino. But, I’m a little torn and may just spin it as is. 

There’s certainly enough to test both ways. Which alone will be a great experiment. I’ll probably crochet it up in a simple scarf as soon as I’m done spinning up some glitzy yarn to get up on my ETSY site. I guess I better get started though afterall, It will grow back fast!