Monday, September 19, 2011

Adventures at the Wool Festival

I took a day off from the computer yesterday to go with Diane, my good friend and spinning mentor, to the California Wool and Fiber Festival at the Mendocino County Fair.

Now this is not a Wool Festival on the scale of Maryland Sheep and Wool or Rhinebeck. CWFF is held in Boonville, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere the Anderson Valley. There are less than two dozen vendor booths in one building at an old-timey county fair. The sheepy goodness competes with the apple show, classic car show and a rodeo, not to mention Sadie the Balloon Lady and Kellie Karl the hypnotist.

But we, of course, were there for the fiber. We arrived just in time for the Sheep Dog Trials. I’ve never owned a dog willing to focus on much beyond his next meal, so sheep dogs just amaze me. Baxter thinks they are the doggie version of control freaks, and probably wouldn’t be much fun at the dog park.

Dog at work

In the fiber building, there was a demonstration of turning bunnies into yarn. A man was plucking English Angora Rabbits, while another was spinning the freshly plucked fiber. The surprise was how compliant the bunnies were. Loads of people were milling around, the plucking man’s patter was being broadcast over a loudspeaker while his hands flew and there was a vacuum system running in an attempt to contain the clouds of fiber. Yet the bunnies were motionless. Diane called this “placid”; the word that came to my mind was “sedated”. How is it that these rabbits don’t flip out with all the hullabaloo? Is it some strange trick of the bunny whisperer? Incredible.

Bunny on valium

Of course, I bought fiber. I was in search of naturally colored fiber, with a preference for grays over brown tones. I also hoped to find some California Variegated Mutant (CVM). And Diane and I had talking about looking for a fleece to share.

In Carolina Homespun’s booth, I came across a 50/50 blend of alpaca and Rambouillet in this lovely charcoal color. It’s a little neppy, but oh so soft.

I was also seduced by this pearl gray blend of Merino, silk and yak. I’ll spin it fine and use it to make something luxurious to snuggle into.

And yes, we did buy a fleece. I forgot to take a photo – I’m having trouble acquiring the habit of taking photos as I go. But we found a 7 ½ pound colored ewe fleece. We only had to carry it about 50 feet to the booth for Morro Fleece Works, who will do the processing. In 90 days or so we should get a box of pin-drafted wool top, ready to spin.

Here is the best part. The tag on the fleece said it was from Patti Sexton. A Google search when I got home told me that she raises CVM/Romeldale! Better yet, Patti’s family’s flock gave rise to the very first CVM lamb in 1968, when she was just a child. I’m just tickled that the fleece we bought is tied to the origins of this variety. I can hardly wait to see how it looks all washed and ready to go.

A spinning update: the BFL I showed a couple of weeks ago has become this – about 740 yards of DK weight. The color makes me very happy.

Miss Bab's BFL in Blue Ridge

A knitting update: I decided that I needed a plan to be sure I make progress on my handspun sweater, without letting it take time away from deadline knitting. Here is the plan: I can work on the sweater during 49er games only. I thought I was going to miss out yesterday, because of the trip to the wool festival, but I got home at the end of the 3rd quarter. Then Dallas kicked a last minute field goal, sending the game into overtime. More knitting time! Sadly, the 49ers lost in overtime. Happily, I got a few more rows done. It’s nice to have a silver lining.

Homspun sweater in progress

1 comment:

  1. Boonville is one of my favorite places. I want to move into the Boonville Hotel.