Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iowa Sheep & Wool Festival

This past weekend, Kelly and I spent much of our time at the Iowa Sheep & Wool Festival that was held in Adel, Iowa. We packed an awful lot into two days, but it was worth every minute.

It was difficult to choose from all the classes and workshops available, but here is some of what we did...
  • We both attended a class in parasite resistance and strategic deworming of sheep.
  • Kelly attended a FAMACHA class and received his certification (FAMACHA is a technique of determining the worm load in an animal by comparing the color of its inner eyelid to a chart, thus determining if it should be dewormed or not)
  • We both went to the "hall of breeds" exhibit to see all the different sheep varieties
  • Kelly had a great time learning from the shearer after a demonstration of shearing
  • Claire attended the "adding pizzazz to your yarn" class (I'll blog about that separately)
  • Kelly attended a workshop on learning to judge sheep
  • Claire visited the fiber vendors far too many times, but there were so many lovely things to touch and look at and buy!
  • We met Jill from Blue Gate Farms in person! She's lots of fun and we really enjoyed spending time with her on Sunday afternoon!
  • Kelly ate lamb burgers, lamb jerky and a lamb bratwurst. Claire didn't.
  • Claire attended the "Spinning Woolen & Worsted Techniques" class
I thought I'd give a little more detail about the spinning woolen and worsted class, because it was very interesting for me as a fairly new spinner, and I certainly learned a lot. For those who are not spinners, let me just preface this discussion by saying that when you spin yarn, the fiber that is spun is held in your hands, and your foot spins the wheel. The spinning of the wheel makes the fibers twist together, and the twisted fibers are pulled through the "orifice" of the wheel and wound onto the bobbin.

We started the class with raw Romney fleece. We learned to flick card (for those who didn't already know how) the fibers to open out the tips and make the fibers align together. Then, we took those fibers and spun them in the way that most spinners use, keeping our hands fairly close to the orifice and smoothing down the fibers as we spun, thus making what is referred to as a "worsted" yarn. In the picture below, the middle skein of brown yarn is that worsted yarn which I made from the raw fleece.The top skein in the picture above is a semi-worsted yarn. The difference between it, and the worsted yarn that we first made, is that the semi-worsted is made from wool roving. In roving, the fibers are somewhat meshed together, so that they are not all aligned in the same direction. We used a white Corriedale roving for that skein. Here is the closer picture of the semi-worsted skein on the bottom of the picture below, next to....something awful looking!
That awful looking stuff is my first attempt at true "woolen" yarn. The difference between spinning a woolen yarn is that you use what's called a "long draw" technique, which means that your hands are a long way from the spinning wheel orifice, and you do not touch and smooth down the fibers as you spin. So you're holding this hunk of fiber a long way away from the wheel and letting the spin travel up the line and just pinching near the top. This is not easy, my friends! That is why my above sample looks like something one of my chickens got into. How embarassing. Clearly, I need more practice with this technique! I think I need to "pre-draft" the fiber more before doing it again. Most of us in the class came to this realization - it is difficult to spin woolen without considerable pre-drafting. Pre-drafting means stretching out the fibers before you start to spin with them. The same corriedale roving was used for the woolen skein.Finally, we did a semi-woolen skein. In that case, we prepared the fiber as one would do for worsted (made all the fibers line up by flicking out the locks of raw fleece) but we spun as one would do for the woolen technique using the long draw. I actually really liked the yarn that I spun using that technique. You can see it in the picture below - it's the bottom skein. It has more texture to it and a more interesting character. The point of woolen yarns is that there is more air space spun into them and that should, in theory create a warmer yarn because it has more air pockets to hold warm air, such as in a hat or scarf, against the body. I will be trying some more work on semi-woolen yarns in future.
So, to summarize...
Worsted yarn - align fibers, use short draw, smoothing of fibers as spun
Semi-worsted yarn - not aligned fibers, use short draw, smoothing of fibers as spun
Semi-woolen yarn - aligned fibers, use long draw, no smoothing of fibers as spun
Woolen yarn - not aligned fibers, use long draw, no smoothing of fibers as spun

One of my upcoming blog posts will cover the yarns I made in the "Adding Pizzazz to Your Yarn" class, featuring Flash, soy silk, merino, tussah, and more!


Lola Nova said...

That sounds like a lot of fun and so educational. I love hearing about your spinning adventures and getting to see the end result. I get my dose of a vicarious wool thrill ;) I am so glad to see what you have been up to.

corinne said...

Your yarn looks great to me!

Flartus said...

Ok, the first thing that came to mind was: how did you leave for 2 days?? Who's taking care of the sheep and chickens and dogs and llamas and lions and tigers and bears...oh my!?

Sounds like a fun trip, though, and like you both learned a ton. Your sheep sure are lucky!

Claire said...

Flartus - Adel is about 20 minutes drive from us. We did our normal morning feeding and we were back by 6 both days!! No worries here! Everybody was well taken care of!

Mom L said...

You guys sure packed a lot of learning into those 2 days. I'm really impressed that you do so many things yourselves - cripes, I'd have to have a vet on call to do all the stuff you do. And your work with the fiber and yarn is amazing - you'll be completely self-sufficient in no time. (But I couldn't have eaten the lamb, either!)


Terri and Randy Carlson said...

We went to that festival the first year it started. I bet it has grown, wish it were closer! Looks like you had a great time.

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

Sounds like you did pack a lot into two days, wow. We're going to our first goat show this Saturday.