Sheep thrills

Nothing instills a sense of going back into time like a
sheep and wool festival. They are scattered around the
country with a big one each spring at the Howard County,
Md., fairgrounds. Fortunately it was an unusually cool,
soggy weekend, which kept the crowd down to being just
packed. License plates from Ontario to Missouri cluttered
the parking lot. Attendees clustered into pavilions, tents
and muddy walkways in between reflected this geographic
diversity yet were united in a single pursuit of a love of
fiber and all of the crafts it entails. The very most basic
level of course was that of the producers, the animals that
provide the fluff, or rovings as they're properly called, that
can be spun into thread. Whether you weave it, knit it,
crochet it or use it as a substrate for molded high-tech
materials, fabric begins with the thread. Sheep, rams and
goats were judged to a tee. Generations of livestock
raisers bonded and battled over what it takes to make the
perfect fleece. Products of their best efforts were judged
by some of the keenest eyes in the wool industry. So
valued are the rovings that some even hand-shear their
flock of its once a year harvest of wool, which the critters
seem quite content to lose in the spring. No point in
wearing a fur coat in the summer, eh? Gathered all around
the producers of fleece were avid consumers; people who
spin it into thread to feed their homegrown urge to make
garments the way they were made centuries before Target
offered acrylic sweaters from Sri Lanka for $9.95 a pop
($8.50 on sale) plus tax. They know of the hundreds of
hours it takes to grow the rovings, shear them and spin
them into thread and ply that into wool that takes even
more days to turn into a basic garment like one sock or a
scarf. And they revel in the simplicity of this complex
process. In between it all a band played here and there. Its
schedule was "roving."
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Bob Sterner
photos © 2009
Bob, BKrooss photo
Thinking of Ewe
Butt Judge!
MD Wool Festival 09
Shear Delight
Generations of growers
Tatting away
Roving Band
Scratch m'chin? Please?