See Sheep to Shawl coverage Jan. 11

Spinner Darcy Maier of Franklin Township, Adams County, reduces the pile of wool to spools of wool thread for the weaver on the Friends Thru Fiber team during the 2009 Sheep to Shawl Competition at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

I’ll be live tweeting from the Sheep to Shawl competition from 3 to 6 p.m. today at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. In preparation, I checked out who ran in past farm shows, who won, the winning shawl’s theme, the top shearer, and anything else I could dig up.

Each team of shearers, carders, spinners and weavers has six people. The teams have two and a half hours to shear a sheep, card and spin the wool, and weave the resulting yarn into a shawl.

The shawls must be 22 inches wide and 78 inches long (almost 2 feet by 6 ½ feet long.) Eight teams competed in 2009, five in 2010 and eight in 2011.

Four judges base their evaluation for the winning team on shearing, fleece quality, design of the shawl and speed of execution.

Other prizes are given with each step of the process: Champion Shearer Award, Fleece Award, Team’s Choice Award, Weaver’s Award and Premium Spinning Group award.

In 2009, the winning shawl had a rock-and-mineral theme. In 2010 and 2011, the shawls had ruffed grouse and bluebird themes, respectively. Will the winning team this year bank on a bird theme again? If not, maybe a Pennsylvania theme? A keystone shawl? A mountain laurel shawl?

During the competition, the judges check each team to see how they perform. At the end, they make a detailed inspection of each shawl, judging the evenness of the weaving and checking for any errors.

After the competition, the shawls are auctioned off. The top-selling shawl doesn’t necessarily come from the winning team. Here are some facts about that:

Highest-selling shawl (sold for):
-2009 — $3,400
-2010 — $1,300
-2011 — $2,250

All of the top sellers each year were made by Friends Thru Fiber of Franklin and Adams counties, and each shawl was purchased by a different person. Will Friends Thru Fiber be the top seller again this year?

Winning team’s shawl (sold for):
-2009 — $900
-2010 — $800
-2011 — $925
Will this year’s winning shawl top $1,000?

Sheep-to-shawl competitors this year will need to watch out for Time Warp of Montour County and Dream Weavers of Northumberland County. Time Warp came in first place in 2009 and 2010 and were knocked out of the top spot by Dream Weavers last year. Dream Weavers and Time Warp have also been rivals for Weaver’s Award, with Time Warp winning last year and in 2009 and Dream Weavers winning in 2010.

Friends Thru Fiber has proven for the past two years that they have the best fleece, and Matt Geissinger of Treadlers Thru Time (Lancaster, Lebanon, Berks counties) has won best shearer for the past two years.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the competition live tomorrow and possibly chat with some of the team members. Follow me on Twitter (@craftyork) to ask questions and receive live updates about the competition. Here’s where you can join in the conversation on this blog, too.

2 Responses

  1. Carole Ohliger says:

    I loved the “tweet” re: the sheep to shawl contest, but am wondering how they get all the various colors into the wool. Pastels are mentioned and as far as I know there are no pastel sheep. Just curious.

  2. DaynawithaY says:

    The warp, which is prestrung on the looms, is dyed and spun before the show. Then, during the contest, the natural-colored weft is spun and woven through the warp. In other words, the long threads of the finished product have color, while the short threads do not.

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