Saturday, April 16, 2011

Denmark Maine's 2011 Sheepfest

I LOVE fiddle music and was pleasantly surprised to hear it when I entered this quaint building.

Today I got to go to the Denmark Sheepfest. It had everything I enjoy about local fiber events. It was in a rural location, was small and intimate, and had a nice balance of fiber animals, and folks demonstrating different fiber activities such as spinning. And as you can see from the photo above there was even wonderful fiddle music!

According to the website this event began a few years ago as a way for local shepherds to gather with an experienced shearer and have their sheep sheared. It has grown from there to include demonstrations, fiber items for sale, food, and music. I really enjoyed it. Some folks may find it too small to travel any distance for. But I find it's exactly what I want to travel for. I wanted to watch skirting and I got a brief chance to see that in action.
Experienced shearer. This was amazing to watch. He sheared each sheep with such skill and precision. And quick as a wink!

Here's the fleece of that shorn sheep being skirted at the skirting table. Skirting is the process where all the yucky wool is picked off and discarded. This is the first step to preparing a fleece for spinning by a hand spinner. The next step is decided by the spinner. Some spin in the grease, meaning they spin right from this fleece. The smell and feel of lanolin is absolutely delightful! There is nothing like it. Well, maybe the smell of beeswax. But most spinners choose to take the raw fleece and wash it very carefully in hot soapy water to get dirt and most of the lanolin out. That's what I prefer to do. I like to wash my fleece before I spin it. I find it easier and more enjoyable to spin. But that's my opinion. Some spinners would disagree whole heartily with me on that.

This picture gives you a sense of the intimacy of the day. What I realize I didn't capture with this picture was the different folks spinning and felting. I didn't see a weaver but I'm sure there was someone weaving. There were a lot of beautiful finished knitted items available and quite a bit of needle felting materials. I would have liked to have been able to purchase a fleece from a sheep being sheared. If that was an available option I missed it. I was particularly interested in a Finn fleece. Oh well. Maybe next year.

And finally, a woman spinning angora right from her beautiful and healthy angora rabbit.

It was a nice day and I can't wait to go again next year.
May your fiber be clean, soft, and a joy to work with,


  1. Interesting. I'm trying to understand how much vegetable matter needs to be picked out of my fleece before washing it. I plan to give it a good shaking outdoors, and to pick out as much as I have patience for. Then, as I'm picking apart the wool to spin, I hope most of the rest will come out, with a bit of help. I'm wondering if it's going to be harder to pick out after washing. I get the impression that a fleece is generally washed whole, not picked teased apart for spinning. This is all a learning experience for me. I'm eager to use the new drum carder and eager to try the whole process.
    Today I cut one of the armhole steeks for the jade green homespun, hand-dyed sweater I'm working on. The steeking technique doesn't worry me, but I sure hope the final outcome is reasonable, as my self-designed sweaters can occasionally "go wrong."

  2. Hi Lesley! If you want save the fleece for Thursday and let me look at it. I didn't realize you bought a fleece! What type of fleece is it? I spoke with the Thyme ladies (is it Wrinkle in Thyme?) about their Finn fleece when I saw them at the Denmark Sheepfest. They don't part with it at this time. Bummer. But hopefully their flock will grow to the point that they feel comfortable selling some of their fleece. I hope so!
    I can't wait to see your sweater!