please don't think I'm crazy

Tonight I’m spending the night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, home of the Packers.  (Wisconsin is one of those states where the entire state is made up of fanatical, crazy fans – all rooting for the Packers – and you know this from the moment you enter into the state.  It can’t be missed.  Cheeseheads are EVERYWHERE!)  I’m taking a little mini-vacation and hope to accomplish two things: attend the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival and see/photograph lighthouses on Lake Michigan.  I’ve done the first, so let me invite you into one small part of my world.

I learned to knit about 5 years ago (the baby sweater in the previous post was for the woman who taught me how to knit) and I have taken to it like a bee to honey.  Seriously.  I can’t get enough.  I’ve actually developed an interest in the industryof knitting, something that most people don’t really think about.  I bought a book a few years ago that went into detail about the different types of fiber, how it is process, how well it takes dyes, quality to look for and how it is spun.  Facinating.  One of the things that I enjoy about this hobby is the sheer diversity of yarn – wool, alpaca, angora (goat or rabbit), cotton, bamboo, silk, and even oddities as corn.  Each type of yarn has different properties for knitting (wool has a spring-back quality that helps it keep its shape while cotton, generally, does not) and has its own type of feel while you knitting as well as the drape of the garment.

Then there is the knitting itself.  There is color work, entralac, cables, lace, ribbing, and all sorts of other things that, in combination, form garments, blankets and other stuff.

Now, I attended the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair, held this year at the Lake County Fairgrounds (Lake County is the county that I live in) and it is huge.  Over 200 vendors of varying type: yarn, accessories, felting, quilting and many more that I can’t remember off the top of my head.  In comparison with the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, the MFFAF tends to focus on the artistic side of the industry while the WSAWF tends to focus more on the process of the industry – the process being taking the yarn from sheep to garment.  Here are my pictures from this morning with comments.

This is the first of two barns where all the vendors were set up.  The barns are quite long, and with two doors on each end, the vendors were set up in double isles – making it about a 2-hour job just to walk through and see all the wares.

Here is just one small view of the inside:


Right off the bat, let me show you some of what you can find at this Festival:

This is raw fiber – basically straight off the animal.  One would have to wash, card and then spin this into yarn.  I can’t do this.

This is a vendor with prepared fiber – all it needs is to be spun into yarn.  This is the “type” of yarn that is sold here mostly – dyed wool that is ready to be spun.  Speaking of spinning, there are spinning wheels here too:

A wheel type for just about anyone.  (Mom, Dad, if you’re reading this, please know that I have NO plans to purchase a wheel.  I’m perfectly happy buying yarn that is ready for knitting.)

Another method for spinning is to use a drop-spindle.  Here’s a picture of some for sale:

These are where you take the prepared fleece, attach it to the spindle and while standing, kind of let the spindle drop and spin, thus twisting the yarn.  This take more coordination that I have, so I won’t be trying this anytime soon.

Finally, what really sets the WSAWF a part from the MFFAF are these little guys:

This is a little dude holding on to his lamb during a lamb contest.  All of the other lambs around him were bleating and moving around, causing a ruckus, but this little guy was still and quite.  The boy was very still and patient, stroking the lambs neck the hole time.  (BTW, he didn’t win.  He was actually towards the bottom of the pack – there were about 10 in this group.  😦  )

Finally there was this:  fleece judging.

The woman on the far right in blue (partially hidden) was the fleece judge.  The first group that she judged was a group of 5 fleeces in the “junior” category.  Once they got all 5 bags up on the front tables, she was very educational about what she was looking at and the points upon which she was judging the fleece.  Really interesting.  I had no idea – none – of what qualities of raw fleece would make a good yarn.  She was judging these for commercial grade, which is apparently different from non-commercial grade, but it was still very interesting. (I’ll be nice and not bore you with the details.)

The sad thing is that this is my third trip here (its about a 2-hour drive from my house) and I had never seen this side of the Festival.  (Kate, we’ve been missing out – you’ve got to see this next year – put it on your calendar NOW.)


5 thoughts on “please don't think I'm crazy

    1. Laura, no, I’ve never tried dying my own, although I’ve thought about it. Especially when I know what colors I want to use but can’t find the EXACT match anywhere. My friend Teryn, though, does dye her own and has used silly things like cool aid. There is a yarn company called Knit Picks that basically takes the middle man out of the picture and they manufacture and sell their own yarn – and they sell “blanks” in all weight groups (the weight of yarn is basically how thin or thick the yarn is) so that you can dye your own. Kinda cool, actually.

  1. After you left, I spent a while talking to a woman who was spinning some beautiful black alpaca. She told me how she and (I think) her sister had bought a property with a huge field together after she’d been laid off her job. The field was too big to mow, so they bought some sheep. So at some point they had all these huge bags of shorn fleeces in their living room, and her sister asked her: “So what are YOU going to do with these?”

    From this beginning they built up a business in sheepskins, roving, handspun yarn and all things fleecy. Visiting the restroom before I left for home, I saw a notice advertising five sheep for sale at $25 each… But no, not this year.

    You’re right, though: the fair is about so much more than just buying yarn. I love the way you documented it. I loved the recently shorn sheep, with their warm pink skin overlaid by a fuzzy coating of new wool. There was so much to see and begin to understand! Thanks for encouraging me to go again this year.

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