Monday, September 15, 2008

Sheep to Shawl Competition

Every year the Moonspinners Guild participates in the Puyallup Fair Sheep to Shawl contest. We have 12 hours to warp, card, spin, and weave a shawl. We're paid by the Fair to participate in the competition and that's one way the Guild earns money for programs, and library materials and supplies.

I've tried to be part of the team every year since I first started spinning. It's great fun! This year I was the chairman; I'm not sure how that happened, but I got to choose the project. I donated two Shetland fleeces and a part of a Fresian fleece for a natural colored shawl.

Ahead of time, we got to wash the fleeces and spin yarn for the warp. I got up early enough to deliver the loom to our spot on the fairgrounds prior to the opening time. We all gathered and were ready to start at 10 am.
In this photo, we're just getting started. Georgean is putting the warp into the reed and Michelle is picking fleece in preparation for drum carding.

Rocky and Dawn are carding and picking/combing the washed fiber for the spinners. The white is from a soft Shetland ram lamb. The black is from a Fresian sheep in the Black Sheep Creamery flock. I trimmed the sunburned tips, and it spun up a very black black with great contrast to the very white Shetland.

Below, Tony helps Georgean finish warping the loom. All of the shawls and scarves on display were spun and woven or knitted by Moonspinners, many of them by Tony. The one behind Tony's head is mine. It was woven on a triangle loom using my handspun bluefaced leicester wool.

Georgean starts weaving! Here she has just a few inches done. This shawl is woven as two separate layers to start with.

This is another view of the start of the shawl. The main body is white Shetland wool from Snowflake (the warp) and Phillip (the weft). Two stripes are black, and two are made with one ply of white and one ply of black - sort of a mottled grey effect.

Here are the Moonspinners working busily on the shawl. Georgean is winding bobbins for weaving, Dawn is getting ready to take a break, Tony, Evelyn, and Jill are spinning and Rocky is plying yarn just before giving it to Georgean. The red and cream shawl in the display is the same style as the one we're making this year.

Now we're nearing the end of the shawl. At this point, the warp threads come off two at a time and are woven back through the remaining warps. This joins the two layers and creats a point at the end of the shawl. The diagonal at the left is the center back of the shawl. Notice the high tech shuttle for this task, made from a notched Skarbo yardstick. ;-)

At the other edge, Rocky is taking the warp-turned-weft threads and knotting them at the edge of the shawl. You can't see me, but my task at this point was to hold the remaining warp threads and make sure Georgean had enough of a "shed" to pass her yardstick shuttle through.

Woo Hoo! It's off the loom! ...but is it done yet? Nooooooo, still more work to do.

Below, Georgean and Robin are laying out the shawl and tying the rest of the fringe yarns into bundles. This holds the warp in place and makes a nice finish on the shawl.

Georgean again, tying bundles of threads. After this, three of us wound the fringe bundles and twisted them into cords. This took quite a while! (No photo as I was busily twisting....). Georgean took the still "raw" shawl home to complete the finishing - a little tweaking on the diagonal, and washing and fulling to finish it up.

Today was the shawl judging. I haven't heard yet how we did. The shawl is gorgeous and has wonderful hand. No wonder I have Shetland sheep. :-)

If you get a chance to watch a Sheep to Shawl competition, there are slightly different rules in different venues. We were allowed to wash and spin the warp ahead of time. During the competition we could have 5 members working at a time, and we did this in 3 shifts of 4 hours each, although some of us stayed all day. We had to make a shawl with minimum dimensions, and we had to have people working from 10 am to 10 pm, no matter how early we got the shawl completed.

As soon as I can get a photo of the fulled and done-done shawl, I'll post it!

- Franna


Kara said...


Great post, thanks for sharing. Very cool and the shawl is beautiful!

Nancy K. said...

How fun! What great teamwork. And that shawl looks so soft and yummy ~ even lying in a heap, unfinished, on the table that it makes me just want to wrap myself up in it!

Thank you for sharing this delightful adventure!

thecrazysheeplady said...


Mim said...

Yumm, can't wait to here the outcome of all that work. How many groups participate?

Wrensong Farm said...

Wow! Amazing! So much work, and such a beautiful shawl! Anxiously awaiting to hear how you did!

Kathy said...

Cool beans! You guys way surpassed the pitiful s-t-s at our wool festival. For some reason the group was trying to do a knitted one using a raw Shetland fleece they bought from me. When I saw what they were doing I cringed until I heard one of them say, "My what a lovely fleece. Where did we get it from?" :)

Thanks so much for sharing, Franna.

Franna said...

Well, our shawl won 6th place. Hmmmmm, there were 6 entered. We still got high marks, just not quite as high as the other 5. Ours is still FIRST in my book.

I've thought about doing a knitted shawl. Somehow, you'd have to have several knitters working at the same time, around? I saw a photo of Elizabeth Zimmerman and her daughter Meg knitting around on the same shawl. Then I guess we'd have to cut it apart and finish the edges??? Has anyone done this?

- Franna

Christy said...

I really want to learn to spin. I've been doing some weaving and it is really fun!