Tag Archives: CT Sheep Festival

On Getting Our Hands Dirty

The other day I was in the car listening to an interview on one of Boston’s PBS stations with a man who was discussing the value that people put on objects they have created or put together themselves. He was using IKEA furniture as an example while stating that people who don’t make furniture feel pride over putting an IKEA chair together. He commented that few people in our society see tangible evidence at the end of the day of the work they have done. They have been doing work on the computer, or pushing papers, or both but have no object to show for it. He believes that we are programmed to want to see something tangible that we have created.

That was thought provoking for me because part of the joy I find in all of my fiber activities is that I have created something. Something I had to give thought to, envision,  and then I had to do something with my hands so that it came about. While intellectually I know that a lot of people in this world don’t care to create things, anything, most of the people I choose to spend time with outside of work do and that can skew my viewpoint. They aren’t all huge animal lovers and obsessed with fiber like I am, but they do things with their hands. Things that are slow, things that take time, things that make us forget time because we are so absorbed in them.

On Saturday I went to a place where hundreds of my kindred spirits who thrive on making things with their hands congregated. The 106th Connecticut Sheep, Wool and Fiber Festival. Here are some images from it.

lamb in sweater

Lamb in Sweater

big fleece

Gigantic fleece

Doesn’t get much cuter than a  tiny lamb in a sweater on a chilly morning. Normally a lamb wouldn’t be away from its mother at this age but her mother was unable to feed her so her owners are giving her bottles until she is old enough to no longer need them.

This fleece had just been sheared from

a Dorset sheep on the other end of the spectrum, one that weighed around 250 pounds. The shearer was a woman who probably weighed half of that. She is very experienced so she knows the very specific techniques and positions to use so that she can keep the sheep relaxed and docile and allow her to shear it.

I have never wanted to shear but I sure do like getting the fleece right off the sheep, getting rid of dirty parts and then using my hands and imagination to go through all the absorbing steps to get it to the point where it can become a sweater…maybe for a tiny lamb, who knows?


People sometimes ask me what made me first think about learning to spin. I used to ask myself that and then gave up trying to figure it out long ago.  It didn’t come from any  life experiences. I didn’t even know any spinners. Maybe some deep genetic influence rising from the past? I try to tell people the truth- that it came from within me-almost welled up- and some are satisfied, others still don’t understand and I don’t worry about that. I am too busy doing what I am happily driven to do!

What I do know is that I

1) can’t imagine my life without the inner fulfillment that it gives me and the friends I have made because they share the love of it

2)  understand the infatuation people have with their interests even when I have no personal interest whatsoever in what they enjoy. I know how it feels to them and I respect that.

3)  feel a bit sorry for people who don’t have a grand passion whatever that might be. In addition to creating wonderful communities for ourselves these passions are always there just waiting for us to make time to indulge in them. They are also very therapeutic. But maybe even though I don’t understand it, many people are happy without a grand passion. That’s fine.

But then how did I learn? Spinners have never been found in the yellow pages and the internet was not a source of information then. I will write more about that next time because I’m dying to get back to fiber itself which this month is Gulf Coast Native sheep wool!

My previous post had pictures of them and information about them and their fiber. I currently have Gulf Coast fiber from three sheep. For fun and to distinguish our vast amounts of fiber we often name the fiber for the sheep it came from. The creamy fiber below is Sophie. She has moved but then lived on Cape Cod. Here I am with her son Boone a few years ago.

Me with Boone

I have 8 oz. of her springy fiber left which I combed and then carded into batts which are seen below. I  used the rest of her fiber for outer socks for her shepherd and wove some of it into coasters after dyeing it green. Her strong textured yarn was used for both part of the warp and the weft. It is a coarse yarn, lovely in its own way, not to be spurned because it can’t be worn next to the skin. Another form of respect I guess because I aim to use all my fiber in ways that fit its basic nature and not try to make it into something it isn’t.

Sophie with coaster

Next I have fiber from two Gulf Coast sheep from the same farm. They live on Iris Creek Farm in Scotland CT and their shepherd, Keri, also raises the rare Leicester Longwools. Her fleeces are huge and gorgeous and always sell right away at the CT Sheep Festival- https://www.ctsheep.org/sheep_and_wool_festival    which is always the last Saturday in April. Keri has a Facebook page called Iris Creek Farm which has pictures of her sheep and darling lambs.

This white fiber is her Henna before I dyed her. It was the last ounce of her and had some vegetation in it. Most of her fleece was free of it but there is always a bit since after all they are animals who are outside most of the time. Again, I was not going to spurn her because of some vegetation so I decided to dye it and I will comb it to get out the vegetation and then card it into a batt maybe with some other color and some sparkle. I won’t know what I want to combine her with until I sit down to do it. I’ll post about it when it is done. Here she is now:

GC Henna before dyedDyed Henna GC Blue Purple

A funny story about Henna: I was so taken with her fleece that I got a few years ago that I e-mailed Keri before the next CT Sheep Festival to see if I could have her latest fleece. She told me that Henna had so well  evaded people trying to catch her for shearing that she didn’t get shorn. Perhaps some of her primitive feral ancestry was coming out (see my last post for details). As aggravating as it must have been for those trying to catch her, you have to admire her. At least I do! She hasn’t had such luck since then.

Next time I will write about Fernando. He also lives on Iris Creek Farm. Lest you think spinning is all sweetness and light be prepared later on to see some pretty scary fiber processing tools that could double as medieval torture instruments. Definitely could figure in murder mysteries.

I would love to hear anyone else’s experiences with Gulf Coast Native sheep. Also how others explain their love of spinning to people who can’t believe anyone wants to do this. Maybe like me, just a shrug of the shoulders which are covered in a handspun sweater named Inez?