Abandon hope, all ye who read here. Beyond this sentence lies an account of the first step of a helpless soul into utter madness. Beyond this sentence lies an account of… SHEEP DAY!!!
(This is my Sheep Day face. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning, halfway through the stocking candy.)
“Sheep Day” was actually the Fiber Festival of New England. It’s basically a big geek fest for people who like wool. If you’re a knitter and you’ve never been to a fiber festival (as I had not), all I can say is WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Tickets were cheap ($5.00); the bounty of beautiful yarns, tools, and crafts was deliciously overwhelming; and the camaraderie of fellow wool-lovers is a delight to the heart. And the mind–I talked to dozens of incredibly knowledgeable people. In the course of a few hours of glad-handing and eavesdropping, I learned more about wool than I have in six months of Google searches. I mean, sure, you can find everything on the internet, but people are much better at answering the questions you don’t realize you need to ask.
I dragged John (who I owe big-time for being such a sport about my insanity) to the festival on the theory that I could meet people and learn things to prepare myself for ownership of wool-bearing animals. I am a mouse, in that classic “if you give a mouse a cookie” sense. A knitter/reader friend recommended Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter to me, which led me to the realization that knitters can spin their own yarn. From roving, which can be carded from clean fleeces, which can be washed out from dirty fleeces, which can be acquired from OHMYGODLIVESHEEP.
So now I must have sheep. Or rather, after touching more than a batt-load of yarns and fleeces (eeeeww…or should I say ewe?), camelids, rabbits, and maybe a few goats. I must have sheep so I can have wool so I can spin so I can knit. Spinning went on my list of things to learn first, of course, since there’s no point in buying sheep if I hate spinning.
And now I know how to spin. A bit.
I also learned how to shear a sheep: hire a pro. Apparently they say in New Zealand that it takes ten years or ten thousand sheep to learn to shear one, so if you’re aiming for a hobby farm and would rather not maim your animals or destroy your fleece, your best bet is to schedule far in advance with a professional itinerant shearer. The demonstrator made shearing look pretty easy, but I think that no matter how you slice it, wrestling several hundred pounds of sheep flesh while wielding power tools is a job best left to people who can convince a sheep it’s comfortable like this:
I had to exercise a great deal of restraint. There were such beautiful rovings and skeins and tools (and bunnies)–several people almost got felted gnome kits for Christmas. In the end, I walked away with some amazing alpaca yarn that John will eventually be wearing on his feet, a set of carding brushes, and a beautiful fleece from a Romney lamb that I now have to figure out exactly how to wash and card.
My favorite souvenir from the day, however, is this:
The first yarn I ever spun myself.