21st September 2009
After last year's Sheep to Shawl demo at Evergreen Fair, shearer, Amy Wolf, and weaver, Kathy Nelson, laughingly discussed how great it would be to spin colored wool. Outrageous ideas about publicly dyeing a sheep were flying.Fall hurried on;the jokes faded.
This spring Valley Spinners Guild again voted to host the educational Sheep to Shawl event. I asked Lin Schwider, owner of Pines Farm Romneys(Amy's mom) if they could loan us a sheep to be shorn again. She said, "sure". I called Amy to see if she would shear it for us. She said, "Sure"...then added in a low, conspiratorial tone, "Do you want it dyed?"
Amy told me she'd been thinking about it all winter! Then her schemes and plans came spilling out. I am always up for something crazy to promote sheep, but I too had been thinking... "What about a safe dye for the animal? What about the public getting their hands dyed? What about dye permanency? What about heat setting?" Amy had considered all the "what ifs" and more; she was ready to start dye swath samples on her mom's flock of white show sheep! "I told mom to put her best ewes in the barn to save them from the dye pot!" said Amy. I imagined Lin hurriedly hiding sheep from a crazed, dye-weilding Amy.
Fair time came. Thursday, Amy pulled Rainbow out of her stall and onto the fitting stand. She'd never been on a stand before, she was real leary of Amy, who'd given her a bath(!) and dyed her topknot green!!
Family members took turns keeping Rainbow calm while fairgoers delightedly squirted dye on her white fleece. Amy started in gloves, but soon off came both gloves and the serious dye-squishing began. Many fairgoers dyed a little, others just enjoyed the spectacle. Several young barn-members employed professional and artistic techniques to become totaly immersed in this project.
After about an hour Rainbow went back to her stall to dryand fume just a little.
The fair went on, and so did the cold, wet weather. Rainbow did not dry as well as we'd hopedbut that is the price of innovation!
Sheep to Shawl day came Monday, along with 25 Guild members. It was a delight to see so many wheels and carders descend and lead a freindly "take over" of the sheep barn. Meat sheep producers who had never spun were entranced by the scene and tempted to join. A large crowd gathered early for Rainbow's haircut. Suspense had built all weekend. Rainbow was the talk of the fairgrounds, the subject of countless comments and photo-ops. Many fairgoers now believed they at last knew where colored wool came from! Others,afraid she'd had eaten too many snocones!
Amy sheared Rainbow in 4 minutes to a packed audience. See the movie on youtube.Sumptuous, many-hued locks fell to the floor. As soon as Rainbow left the mat, spinners fell on that gorgeous pile of wool like bees to honey!The sorting, picking,carding,spinning and weaving took off. What a wonderful dimension Rainbow brought to a timeless event!