Taking In the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival

Corporate espionage isn’t usually as adorable as this charming Cotswold awaiting her turn in the show ring!

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Mom, Dad and I spent Saturday at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival in Cummington, Massachusetts.  I feel a little guilty and I feel a little bad, but our main purpose was the conscious observation of how different shepherds market their sheep products.  Above and beyond that, I was happy enough to meet (and pet!) some new sheep breeds and to enjoy a fine day with my parents.

The first lesson of the day came early – walking past a booth in the dusky fairground barns, I watched as one vendor flicked on a set of lights.  Instantly, their products were brilliantly illuminated in contrast to surrounding vendors.  Note to self- Lights!

The second discovery involved the prevalence of dyers using commercial base yarns (Superwash Merino, 80% Blue Faced Leicester/20%Silk) and hand-painting two or three colors on the skein.  While each artist had a unique touch and no two skeins were identical, the hand-dyed yarns from Tidal Yarns, made from New England farm fleeces and custom spun stood out clearly in a crowded category.   I had a long chat with the proprietor about her fleece selection and her technique.  The colors were calm shades that an average person would want to wear.

Original patterns stood out as well.  Mom and I have some great patterns in development, but we might not quite compare to Tsock Tsarina’s incredible designs!   While we noted that purchasing was light throughout the fair, this booth attracted attention and interest by offering something truly unique:

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I also noticed that most of the shepherds at this fair were raising Shetlands, Icelandics, Border Leicesters, or Romneys.  Only two people had finer Corriedale, Cormo or comparable breeds.  I’m hoping that my yarn will compare well with other shepherd’s creations in style while equaling the commercial products in softness.

I was a little disappointed to find that the sheep show was heavy with meat breeds, as I wanted to see more wool breeds and some rare breeds.  I did see my first Cotswold, pictured above.  I also saw how big a Suffolk could be – this big galoot must weigh more than 300 lbs.  All of the show sheep wore these show covers to keep them clean after intensive grooming.  I didn’t get to see this sheep without his hay-resistant garb.

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For fun, Mom and I entered the Speed Knitting competition.  Here we are, doing battle.  You can probably guess that I didn’t win, partially due to distraction…

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Mom turned out to be a ringer, though, and handily won with 22 20-stitch rows generated in 10 minutes.  She blew them out of the water.

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