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