Sheep and Wool Festival

The Shepherds Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival was happening in the Twin Cities over Mother’s Day weekend when I was in the area for some other commitments. At first I did not make the connection that I would be in Minneapolis that weekend. Then, I concluded that I had too many other things to accomplish while I was in town, and that I did not need the temptation of buying additional fiber when I already have more at home than I can ever use.

On that Sunday it turned out I had some free time after all, so at the last minute I decided to go for it. I am glad I did as it turned out to be a nice Mother’s Day treat for me, given that Wayne was out of town for the fishing opener and my grown children live in other states. It is always fun to walk around at a fiber festival and check out all the vendors, get new ideas, listen to live music, and look at fiber animals. I always notice new products I have never seen before, and keep my eye out for fiber that is different than what I have at home.

Lately, I have been knitting socks, so this time I noticed circular sock knitting machines for sale, sock “blanks” that is sock yarn knitted into a square and custom dyed that you unravel as you knit into a sock, and tube socks all knitted and ready to knit on your own heels. There were also regular knitting machines for sale. And of course bags of raw wool and other fiber for spinning, fiber already prepared for spinning, and lots of yarn. There were some live fluffy angora rabbits on display, with their owners selling the angora fiber which is super soft and warm. And many other things I cannot remember at the moment.

Years ago I saw a vendor selling recycled silk saris at the Sheep and Wool Festival. She was demonstrating how you could cut it on the diagonal into thin strips and then spin it into yarn. That day I browsed at the many beautiful saris before selecting a purplish one to buy. Later, I made it into yarn that I used as part of a knitted shawl. I will tell you about that another time.

Of course I was not able to get away from the festival without buying anything! I bought some roving made out of 50% baby camel and 50% tussah silk. It was more expensive than what I usually use for spinning, and the colors are a little dark so I am thinking of blending it with some merino wool to made it go farther, lighten up the color, and make it easier to spin.

50% Baby Camel, 50% Tussah Silk

I also bought some flax fiber for spinning. Spun flax is linen. I have used linen blend yarn for knitting and weaving, but I have never spun any. Flax is very unlike the other fibers people typically spin such as wool and alpaca. The individual fibers in flax are longer and stiffer, and spinning is somewhat different. The vendor gave me a few tips including that you should get the flax damp while you are spinning it. I will have to do some research when I get around to spinning the flax. Assuming I am able to successfully make some linen yarn out of the flax, it will be good for weaving tea towels. The color in the photo below is more gray than the actual, which is closer to a tan. It looks like hair.

Flax fiber to spin into linen

Another time when I was at the Sheep and Wool Festival with my daughter, she bought some fish leather which she used to make a wallet. Fish leather is an eco-friendly product made from fish skins that would normally be discarded. I have read that it is nine times stronger than cow leather because of the crisscross pattern of the fibers.

Wallet my daughter made out of fish leather, folded up and showing the front side of the leather
Wallet made out of fish leather, showing the inside of the wallet and back side of the fish leather

I saw the fish leather booth at the festival again this time, so I bought two pieces to give my daughter as a gift. The smaller piece in the photos below is Tilapia, and longer piece is Salmon. She recently learned how to tan hides herself and has been making cool things out of leather such as bags, backpacks and clothing items. I hope she can use the fish leather for a small project, or as trim on a larger product.

The smaller piece if Tilapia leather, the longer piece is Salmon leather
Closer up view of the fish leather

The last thing I bought on this Mother’s Day outing was some roving ready to spin, made out of merino wool, bamboo, and nylon in pretty shades of blue with a little purple.

60% Merino Wool, 30% Bamboo, 10% Nylon

I had not worked on a spinning project since last fall, so I was excited to start spinning the merino/bamboo/nylon fiber right away. I had the idea of making sock yarn, since I have been into knitting socks, and it is the right combination of fibers for that. However I don’t think I can get it thin enough and also there is somewhat of a risk that they will not fit right. It would be safer to use this hand spun yarn in a woven scarf, with some other commercially prepared yarn. Following are photos of the fiber being spun into singles (one ply) yarn, in process and then on two bobbins completed.

Spinning the wool / bamboo / nylon blend fiber
The fiber spun onto two bobbins

Normally when making hand spun yarn I divide the fiber into equal parts by weight and then spin onto an even number of bobbins. Once the yarn has all been spun into singles, I make two ply yarn by spinning two singles together. Invariably, even though they have the same amount by weight, one of the bobbins will have more yardage and so at the end of plying the two singles together there is still some yarn left on one of the bobbins. I had heard about plying from both ends of a center pull ball of yarn, so that you will not have any waste, so I decided to try that. I used my ball winder to make center pull balls out of each bobbin of the singles yarn. At one point in the process the yarn broke, so I just overlapped the ends together and kept going.

Center pull balls of yarn from each bobbin of singles yarn

I plied two strands of yarn from one of the center pull balls by using the end coming out of the middle, and the other end coming off the outside. It turned out to be difficult as the yarn coming off the outside kept twisting around the strand coming from the middle and getting tangled up. Maybe there is a way to avoid this problem but I did not stop to research it. I had to keep stopping to get the singles yarns lined up nicely for plying, so it took longer than it usually does, but finally I got to the spot where the two ends met and no yarn was leftover.

I should have done some research on this method of plying, but instead I decided to split the second ball of yarn into two balls and then ply those together so I would not have to fight with tangling strands. I used my ball winder and scale to wind another center pull ball from the end of the first one, until they were the same by weight. Then I was able to ply those two together using one end from the center of each ball, ending up with only a couple of inches of waste when one of the balls ran out before the other one. When I got to the place where the yarn had broken, I overlapped it and keep plying. It blended together nicely and looked normal, and I am hopeful it will not come apart later.

When hand spinning, it is challenging to spin the fiber so that the yarn comes out with a consistent thickness throughout the entire supply of fiber. There are tips for how to do this, but I always feel that I am doing well if I am actually able to spin my fiber into any yarn, much less to spin it so that it is all exactly even. When the two skeins of two ply yarn were complete, I measured the length and weight of each. One skein was 2 ounces and 130 yards. The other one was 2.2 ounces and 158 yards. Using some math to determine the yards per pound, which is a way of measuring yarn, it was not a surprise that one of my plied skeins of yarn was a bit thinner than then other one. It is not enough to cause a problem. Other than that, I was happy with how it turned out.

It will be a while before I get around to doing any more spinning as the busiest time of summer is coming up. There will be people coming and going at the family cabin, family visitors at our house, our annual family reunion at the cabin, and a girls trip at the end of July.

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

12 thoughts on “Sheep and Wool Festival

  1. The colors are absolutely beautiful. I am so glad you got to go to the festival. It just seems to me you are meant to go to such an event. And I am sure the vendors love someone like you attending. Not only because you may buy something, but you are someone with a real interest and skill. I wonder – how did you ever get into spinning? I also wonder how many young people are spinners? I also had not heard of fish leather, so I learned something new today. Thanks for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had been a knitter for many years, but one time around 15 years ago I saw someone spinning. I had never seen anyone do it before that and I was fascinated. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and knew I wanted to learn. However I was intimidated and thought about it for about a year before I took any action. I love that you can take an unlimited resource (sheep wool that keeps growing and needs to be sheared) and make something useful out of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your yarn and fiber look lovely! There is a knack to plying from a center pull. I hold the ball in my right hand and make sure the center is on the outside. You only have to make minor hand adjustments when it is plying. I used to have a lot of issues when I first started and it used to get twisted all of the time. You will get it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for those very helpful tips! I will try this again another time. I should have done some research before trying this method, but I was kind of in a hurry to get it done which is always a mistake. Fortunately my result turned out fine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I only ply this way Meg. I hold the ball in the palm of my hand, upwards and hold the singles in my left hand as I normally ply. Because I spin twisty singles, it almost plies itself. You eventually get into a rhythm. Your result looks great and such a lovely color! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The flax fiber does look like hair, LOL. I didn’t know that fish leather is even a thing. (I do find the use of fish skin on burn victims fascinating.) I look forward to your post on the recycled saris!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm I did not know about using fish skin on burn victims. Interesting. My photos from the silk sari project are not very good, and too late to take new ones! But I will write about it as some point. Thanks for reading!

      Like

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