Monday, May 6, 2013

Recounting MDSW 2013: sheepish impressions

Thank you for the well-wishes, everyone! I'm back home after a full night's sleep, and there is so much I wish to share with you.  But where do I begin?

Being the master of the obvious that I am, let me begin by giving you one word that expresses the largest impression left on me: sheep.

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That may sound stupid, but I think it reflects a significant change from my previous experiences at sheep and wool festivals.  In past years, I think it would be appropriate to cite "yarn" as being my primary impression; this year, I almost found myself buying an obligatory hank of yarn out of a sense of nostalgia.

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The yarn was there, but my mind didn't have much room for it. On Friday morning, Jeff and I took a class on beginning shepherding; this class opened my eyes to a whole different approach to sheep than simply as wool producers. There's a lot of work that goes into caring for sheep, and without the folksy farmers doing their part, the city slickers wouldn't have much to keep their fiber frenzy going.


And you have to admit, we fiber frenzied folks can be a bit nuts.

leicester longwool

I never really thought of myself as properly citified; in fact, I tend to feel like a country bumpkin when I hang with city folks. But the success of internet resources for knitters has led to an emphasis on the sleek and trendy, much like the flashing lights of the city. I have found much of my knitting driven unintentionally by the fads going around. While I enjoy the fresh, updated take today's designers bring to knitting, I am realizing that all the emphasis on the new and fashionable has encouraged me to overlook the plainer -- and perhaps more practical -- end of the spectrum.  If you've hung around my blog much, you'll probably remember that sheepy, rustic yarns have a special place in my heart. I think there's something wonderful to be said for the folksy side of knitting.

Well, that, and I could never defend my aesthetic on the grounds of fashion.

Kissy Fish
I had so many people sneaking pictures of my hat, there were times I had to pause what I was doing just so they could complete their photographing. I figured I might as well have a pic, too!

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Sunday we went on the sheep breeds walkabout with Deb Robson. If you get a chance, do it! Especially as a budding spinner, I found this class to be very fascinating.  One of the points Deb stressed is that we fiber enthusiasts play a huge role in providing support for the sheep that give us so much. I also was struck by the wide variety of fiber that is available, each breed with its own backstory. Once you begin putting names to faces, it changes everything.

hello, friend

Is it any wonder that instead of seeing yarn, I walked through the booths seeing breeds? Lemme see how many specific breeds I took home for sampling. Fiber for spinning: Falkland, Bluefaced Leicester, Border Leicester, Masham, Cormo, Shetland, and Corriedale.  I also picked up a beautiful skein of sock yarn made of Perendale wool blended with mohair to add strength.  Yeah, a little crazy, but so excited.

Parade of Breeds
The Parade of Breeds

Thanks to the walkabout with Deb, I have a better idea of some of these breeds and where they come from; I think I'll be consulting The Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook a lot more in the coming days. I also think Dan of Gnomespun Yarns deserves a shout-out for introducing me to some of these breeds before I even knew better.

little ones at the parade

Knowing many of you couldn't be there, I petted a few sheep just for you. They were wonderfully spongy and greasy, and very sweet.

Pettin' a sheep

I met old and new friends, learned a heck of a lot, and spent up all my money. And somehow I managed to completely evade the anxiety I was feeling beforehand.  I have some more I want to share with you, but I think I'll save it for another post.  



  1. The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook is such a good book! I have been trying to get my parents to add a herd of sheep to the alpaca farm. I spent some time getting to know some merinos and bluefaced leicesters. It was great getting to meet you at the festival!

    1. It was great bumping you into a couple times on Saturday! Like I said, putting names to faces makes such a nice difference. What a pleasure to meet you in person!

  2. Not to toot a friend's horn, but Spirit Trail Fiberworks has been working with small farmers to keep endangered breeds from extinction. She gets fiber to spin from all over the world, working with farmers to import breeds we don't normally see here in the US. Look for her at NYSW if you didn't see her at MD.

    Happy birthday sweety! I wish you another wonderful year!

  3. I wish I could have been there. I think my focus would also have been on the sheep. Thanks for this lovely post, and for petting a few sheep for me.

  4. Oh, it looks like you had so much fun!! And good news! I'm able to go to my fiber festival after all! Soooooooooo excited.

  5. Wow! Looks like you had a great time! I'm so jealous. We have quite a few good fiber shows here in Ohio, but none that really rival this. So many different types of sheepsies... You'll have to give us a review of all the different breeds you got, once you've spun them all up. I have the knitter's book of wool by Clara Parks and it's nice, but would love to have the fleece and fiber source book. But I think that will have to wait until after I get my own wheel. (I've been saving!) I've been holding hostage a loaner schacht matchless from fellow knit nighter for about a year now, so I better get it back to her soon. I think I'm going to end getting a schact lady bug.

  6. Oh hai! I'm so glad you had a great time at the festival this year. I too found myself less focused on yarn hoarding this year and, instead, enjoyed hanging out with friends and meeting other like minded fiber enthusiasts. One of these years, I'll get around to taking some courses too. You seemed to have had two fantastic courses. Although, I'm still disappointed that they didn't provide you with a shepherd's crook in the shepherding class... That would just add to your "rustic" charm!