Monday, 20 May, 2024

By The Fibreside

Knitting and spinning on the Sunshine Coast of BC

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Life, Spinning

Sheep to Shawl

When I’m teaching knitting or spinning, I always say that there are no fibre arts police. Yes, if you want to achieve a certain result, sometimes you have to do things in a certain way, but otherwise, as long as you’re making fabric or yarn that you’re happy with, go to. However, sometimes, there are judges…

Yesterday was the Edmonton Weavers’ Guild‘s Open House for their 60th anniversary, and they held a sheep-to-shawl competition as part of the fun. In August, the call went out on Ravelry for teams to take part, as there was some concern that there might only be one team (which would make for a pretty poor competition). So the Edmonton Knitters group put together two teams, just for the fun of it, and down we went early yesterday morning to see what kind of trouble we could get into.

Yarrrr(n), we're all ready to go! Mascot, sample, yarns, and fleece ready to be spun! Oh, and my sabre...
Yarrrr(n), we’re all ready to go! Mascot, sample, yarns, and fleece ready to be spun! Oh, and my sabre…

My team was Team Sheep Shape, so there was a definite piratical flair to, well, just about everything we did. I broke out pieces of my old pirate costume, crocheted a quick eye patch for Læmmer, and actually ran back into the house to grab my sabre, which I figured might make a good prop for the table (but would get in the way as I was spinning). And from 10 to 4, we had to produce enough yarn for an 80″ x 18″ woven shawl.

Weaving away on Team Sheep Shape's shawl.
Weaving away on Team Sheep Shape’s shawl.

Team Captain Carla had spun up the warp for our shawl and had pre-warped the loom, and decided on the pattern, and she also did all the weaving. The rest of us carded and spun singles of two washed fleeces to keep her supplied with weft for the shawl. There were some requirements: the warp had to be mostly Alberta-sourced wool and handspun, and the weft could be no more than three times the width of the warp. We went with singles instead of plied yarn for the weft, and all got to work.

Team Sheep Shape on the right, Team Diamonds (the EWG home team) on the right. Some of the fleece we were spinning in the front.
Team Sheep Shape on the right, Team Diamonds (the EWG home team) on the right. Some of the fleece we were spinning in the front.

All the teams were just fantastic. Speaking for myself, I was there for the experience, to see if we could do it, and to spend some time spinning and practicing woolen more than to win or for bragging rights. Spinning for our team there were two Master Spinner students, two spinners with a few years of experience, and one who’d just learned about two weeks before the competition. Carla made sure that everyone had some of their handspun in the shawl as well.

Team Weave Me Alone, I'm Spinning, hard at work.
Team Weave Me Alone, I’m Spinning, hard at work.

There was singing, stretching, and laughs. There were cookies and cupcakes, tea and coffee. There was wool everywhere, and people helping other people. There were members of the public coming to the open house who were just fascinated by the whole process, and we answered any questions they had.

Part of the EWG Juniors group display.
Part of the EWG Juniors group display.

The EWG Juniors (between the ages of 10 and 16) had put together an absolutely amazing display. They had decided on a Star Wars theme, and then just gone to town. There were just fantastic examples of felting, weaving, knitting and dying, all produced by their group. I got really great instructions on how to use an inkle loom by a young man who spent the day walking around in the Jabba the Hutt costume that he’d dyed himself.

Getting close to the end of the 80 inches.
Getting close to the end of the 80 inches.

But as we bore down on 4 pm, we remembered that this wasn’t just all in good fun, it was actually a competition. … Okay, well, not really. To be honest, we didn’t really care one way or the other, but there were judges wandering around, and in the end we were going to have our shawl judged, but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to see if we could do it, and we did.

Team Sheep Shape with their shawl!
Team Sheep Shape with their shawl!

We got our shawl off the loom just as the judges called the competition closed! Team Diamonds, the EWG home team, made 80″, but hadn’t gotten it cut off yet, and Team Weave Me Alone made about 50″ on their shawl by the end of the six hours. I wish I’d gotten photos of their shawls as well. Their weave structures were very interesting. All three shawls were very different, and all really, really lovely.

Second place!
Second place!

By the time the judges had scored each shawl, Team Sheep Shape brought home the silver trophy! What a fantastic experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat! But maybe not tomorrow. I’m pretty tired today. 🙂

Needless to say, it was an all-around great day. But there was one unforeseen side effect.

That's one night's progress.
That’s one night’s progress.

Hemstitching times two and and 6″ of weaving, all in one night. Homework? What homework? 😉

5 comments on Sheep to Shawl

  • Susan

    Arrr, what a great day! I love the attitude your team evidenced. And the intent to involve each and every member as a valuable resource.

    And you answered a question I had – that of which weapon you competed in. I had guessed sabre based on a comment you made in a past podcast. This is now confirmed.

    Enjoy the foray into weaving. Put aside some time each day/week to enjoy.

  • Frazzlehead

    You took a real sabre to the event? YOU ARE SO COOL!

    Someday, will you show me how to use one? I’ve always wanted to try fencing. I know, it’s completely wrong for a totally pacifist Quaker to want to play with weaponry, but … well … call it historical research! 😀

    That looks like it was a real blast, I hope next year I can participate. Thanks for the awesomely detailed post! 😀

  • Retta Williams-Green

    I am interested in presenting a Sheep to Shawl at the historical park near my home. I live in Corona, CA. We are located in Southern California near Yorba Linda, the location of the Nixon Library and burial place. Also near Anaheim and Los Angeles, great for a vacation in the spring. Why don’t you consider doing the Sheep to Shawl again and visit the wonderful sites here in Beautiful Southern California? If not, please let me know if you ever got any responses from S to S teams from your adverts. We are staring a crafting shop and would love to have a S to S event to kick it off.

    Retta Green, fiber hound

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