wisconsin sheep and wool

I dragged my little fambly out to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday morning. All right, "dragged" might be too strong a term, actually, because it was a really beautiful sunny day, so Stuart was glad to have somewhere to go, Daniel was excited about seeing sheep and lambs, and Anya...well, Anya's generally game for anything as long as she's with us. By far the coolest thing we saw was the shearing demonstration. This picture isn't great, but Daniel took it with his own camera:

This man has made shearing sheep an art. "It's harder than it looks," he said, and it surely didn't look easy, though he moved swiftly, gracefully, deftly and with impressive strength. He trained at a shearing school in New Zealand, he has sheared sheep all over the world, and through the winter he keeps in shape by chopping firewood and running on a treadmill. I think Daniel watched the shearing demos for at least 45 minutes; it was that captivating. He took a sheep out of the pen, turned it on its back, gently holding its forefeet in his hands, shaved off the wool, and released it back through the gate all in less than a minute (here's a link to a youtube clip from a couple years ago, same guy.)

We watched part of the Crook and Whistle dog trials, during which at one point a competitor gave up on her dog completely and herded the sheep into the pen herself. We also saw different breeds of sheep, some with truly strangely shaped horns, and petted newborn lambs. All very nice and fun but I didn't want to lug my camera along, and Daniel's pictures are too blurry to share.

When the kids were starting to wilt, I bought them ice cream and sent them to a shady spot with Stuart so I could go to the vendors. Two barns full of vendors, people! I happen to think I made it through pretty quick, but by the time I was finished walking through, I found my bedraggled husband with our daughter sleeping on his shoulder, Daniel following him with dragging feet and tired eyes. As we were getting in the car, Stu left for one quick bathroom stop, and I said to Daniel, "Is Stuart mad that I took so long?" "Yeah," he replied, "he said Sorry, sorry mom's taking so long a lot!" Harumph. If he only knew how much longer I could have taken! To Stuart's credit, he never complained to me. I think 3/4 of those vendors sold exclusively rovings, fleeces, and spinning supplies, for which I had no interest. I don't spin, and I don't plan to start.

But don't think I left there empty-handed. Oh my no. It's actually not too difficult to limit myself at these things. I didn't even look at commercial yarns because those can be found easily enough in the Madison shops. I'm not interested in sock yarn because I have plenty in the stash and I don't even knit socks terribly often. I don't like variegated or self-striping yarns, so that eliminates most of the hand-dyed. Basically, I was interested in the stands representing small farms and mills offering yarns that can only be had on site. Mind you, even with those limitations there was plenty to choose from. I was mighty tempted by many things. I yielded twice:

1) Honest-to-Pete shetland yarn in natural colors. Black and white sportweight, enough to make a hat and mittens. I'm thinking Norwegian-style snowflake/star motif, but I welcome suggestions.

2)Alpaca/merino blend from Frontier Fiber Mill that was too gorgeous to pass up; the pictures on the site linked there do not do the yarn justice. I had the hardest time settling on a color because there were several irresistible heathery shades. I had a sweater's worth picked out of the green you see in the picture below, plus another skein of a light blue, and I was about to buy both when she offered to put the blue back for me. It's probably a good thing she did because my knitting queue is already about to explode!

I'll have to swatch this and see how it knits up (the label says "DK" but it looks like it could knit up nicely in a worsted gauge), but I think it would make a very nice Margot from the new Knitty. Thoughts?


Oh, I love that shade of green, and the sweater is marvelous. I think it will be fantastic in that green!
Steph said…
I was so upset by sheep shearing when I saw it as a kid; I think the shearer you saw must have been much more gentle. Anything having to do with sheep is just...challenging.

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