Throwback Sheep to Shawl

The videos below are great retrospectives of two of our previous Sheep to Shawl Demonstrations. We hope to see you at the Ohio State Fair!

Shearing Day at Stratford

two adults and two small children, stand at the left, watching a silver haired woman spin on a spinning wheel, center. To the right, a brown haired woman spins wool on a drop spindle.
Members Julie (at the wheel) and Sue (with the drop spindle) talk about spinning to interested adults and children.

The Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware recently held their spring shearing day and invited us to demonstrate different aspects of processing that fiber into cloth.

The Stratford Ecological Center is a non-profit educational organic farm and nature preserve on 236 acres in Delaware County, Ohio. Visitors are welcome to explore the land, hike the 4 miles of nature trails, visit the livestock, tour the gardens and greenhouses or explore the creek, pond, prairie, swamps or State Nature Preserve. Farm products are available for sale seasonally, based on availability.
Stratford offers workshops and classes for children and adults, annual festivals, farm tours, school tours, farm camp and family programs.

Our members enjoyed a day demonstrating spinning wool into yarn, while visitors could observe spinning, as well as DIY stations where they could try processing wool. The barn and farm were open for walkthroughs as well!
Stratford was a wonderful host and we are excited to return for future demonstrations with their farm in the future!

4 guild members demonstrate spinning on various spinning wheels and spindles, as onlookers sit on the floor to get a better view.

Why Demonstrate?

A smiling blonde woman with glasses sits at a spinning wheel in the corner of an antique farm house

There is something special about doing a spinning demonstration. Maybe it’s the fascination of the people who watch, commenting that it is so soothing to watch. It could be the eagerness of people from all walks of life and all ages to learn what exactly it is I am doing, and how the wheel works. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and combining my passion with the ability to share something new with people just seems to make me feel good.

A smiling blonde woman with glasses sits at a spinning wheel in the corner of an antique farm house

I have done a lot of demonstrations over the years I’ve been with this guild, in many different arenas: from the Brown Animal Building at the Ohio State Fair to an 1880s era farmstead at Slate Run Metro Parks. I’ll set up my wheel, take out my fiber – usually wool but sometimes alpaca – and begin to spin. I enjoy spinning for its own sake, but it increases my enjoyment to see people stop and watch. Some just stand there, enthralled by the action of the wheel. Some have questions, and I answer them to the best of my ability.

Whenever I go to a demonstration, I make sure that there will be a spindle or two about in case people want to try. I ask everyone who shows an interest whether they would like to try, and if they do, I’ll get them started on a spindle. Very rarely, they want to try on my wheel – and while some people I have noted do not want strangers to use their wheel, I don’t mind. This is probably because I’m right there, controlling the motion of the wheel itself. Only a very few people show any skill on the wheel, and those were people who are in contact with fiber anyway. One was a man who had practiced a lot on a spindle and was hoping to get a wheel, and another was a child who was around looms and wheels because his mother was involved in the craft.

If I can, I also bring a pair of hand cards, and if people are interested in the process of “sheep to shawl” I have these on hand to explain how the fiber gets organized after coming off the animal. While I don’t get these questions all the time, having the cards close at hand often brings up what they are and what they are used for.

This was supposed to be a little article about why I love demonstrating so much. I’m not sure I can answer that ultimately; I suppose it’s because spinning is one of my passions, and because of that I love sharing it with others. Most people see the fiber arts as a dying art, and I would like to see their view reversed. I love to hear that someone wants to learn to spin, because that means one more person in the world who knows it’s not a dying art, but one gaining in popularity.

Dori Smith, Guild Member

Editor’s note:  See more of our members in action, please visit our Facebook page and click Photos on the left sidebar menu!

2018 Sheep to Shawl Demonstration

A smiling group of people (mixed ages, genders and races) pose beneath a banner reading 2018 Ohio State Fair
2018 Sheep to Shawl Team

Every year our sheep to shawl experience is a bit different than before. This year we were lucky to feature wool from Susan Johnson, one of our Guild members who raises sheep at her farm, Blue Sheep Fiber, in Westerville.  Susan donated a luscious white fleece from her Bluefaced Leicester ewe named Bumblebee.

Bumblebee’s wool became the weft for our shawl.  Kim Johnson washed the fleece and Kathleen Craig carded it.  The resulting fluff was soft and gorgeous, and the spinners created a beautiful yarn that Ed Morrow wound onto bobbins for Scott Hanratty to weave with.  This year, we opted not to ply the yarn for the weft, and the beautiful singles yarn that our spinners created proved we made the right decision! Thanks to spinners Annette Dixie, Connee Draper, Inge Noyes, Joanne Knapp, Lori Seeger and Susan Johnson for stepping up to the challenge.

The back of a Schacht weaving loom, warped, displaying a beautiful gradient of pinks, purples and teals

Scott Hanratty, Kathleen Craig, and Sue Briney prepared the loom.  We choose pattern #727 from “A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns” by Carol Strickler.  This pattern is very popular on the “Strickler in Color” Facebook page. It caught our eye and we opted for the straight treadling version in order to show off the warp.  The warp was wound as a gradient, using 3 ends of 2/20 wool acting as one. We used 20 different colors in the warp, ranging from greys, pinks, maroons, browns, and even some orange.  (One of the advantages of having a stash!) We gave Susan the option of picking the warp colors for her shawl, and she couldn’t decide. So, she ended up getting almost every color!

a multicolor yarn is threaded on a golden wood loom. A beautiful weaving shuttle is adding a cream yarn to show a beautiful chevron pattern
2018 Sheep to Shawl

The demonstration wouldn’t be complete without our terrific spokespersons who demo and educate the crowds who come to enjoy the show.  Nicky Fried demo’d on the drop spindle and Kim Johnson brought her great wheel. Everyone enjoyed seeing different methods of spinning yarn and hearing their explanations of the process.

The folks from Malabar Farm Spinning and Weaving Guild joined us again, and this year they were using natural handspun for both warp and weft.  They added a little Angelina when spinning their weft yarn to give the shawl a little glitz. Their weaver was creating a beautiful Leno shawl, which they plan to complete when they return to Malabar. 

A smiling group of men and women standing beneath a 2018 Ohio State Fair banner

Thanks to Jon Briney for taking photos.  We hope to have an updated Sheep to Shawl scrapbook soon to share at guild meetings.

On Sunday after the Sheep to Shawl demo, the hand spinning fleeces were judged at the fair.  Linda Reichert won for the white fleece as well as the natural colored fleece. We gifted her with the second shawl (woven using commercial heather gray yarn for the weft) and the hand-spun, hand-knitted afghan that the guild created using natural colored fiber.

Guild member Sue Briney

Editor’s note: To see all the photos from this year’s Sheep to Shawl presentation, check out our Facebook page!

Westerville’s Starry Night is a great engagement opportunity for students, young and old!

Guild members Linda Hall and Sue Briney organized the Guild demonstration for Westerville’s Starry Night Family Learning Festival.

Sue and I had a grand time with wonderful guild members. Parents & grandparents were engaged & the students were curious & engaged.  Everyone was very appreciative of our guild’s participation. One member brought her wheel & a sheep that baas when turned over. Just great fun.

Guild Member Linda Hall

Students had the opportunity to try weaving on tapestry floor looms, flat looms, and table looms.  We also had a spinning demonstration and examples of all sorts of textile art!

This event had close to 2000 participants and great engagement at our booth!

Thanks to Starry Night for having us back again this year – we hope to return! For more information on Starry Night: Art & Science Fueling Imagination, please click here.

Thanks to our Guild member volunteer demonstrators as well! As you can see from the pictures below, demonstrations are an involved endeavor, requiring coordination and legwork to get the equipment and materials into the space! These demonstrations are a vital part of our mission to share the fiber arts with those who aren’t currently involved. 

Guild Member Donita Westman

A Wool Gathering at Young’s Dairy

As part of our 80th anniversary, COWFG attended the 22nd annual A Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs at Young’s Dairy on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17.  We had a great time teaching all ages to weave and spin. 

Many people were interested in trying the loom. I talked with a quilter who had always wanted to learn how to use the drop spindle.  She shared a private lesson with Pat Bullen.  I also received questions about our guild from a member of the Miami Valley Weavers Guild. It was exciting to know that people were interested in our upcoming events.

A huge thank you for everyone who volunteered to demonstrate, for the donations that were enjoyed by all who visited and for all who shared their knowledge.  I am looking forward to next year.

Guild Member Connee Draper

2017 Ohio State Fair Sheep to Shawl Demonstration

July 28, 2017 was the 5th anniversary of the guild Sheep-to-Shawl demonstration at the Ohio State Fair!  The fleece this year was donated by shepherd Alison Ungar of Chaotic Farm in Medina, Ohio.  Since the fleece was so white, we decided to feature its bright color.  We combed the fleece instead of carding it, which supplied the spinners with the nicest and whitest spinning fiber.  The spinners loved it!  We also featured the bright white wool by a subtle contrast with a closely-colored warp.  We purchased a natural colored Australian merino commercial yarn and dyed it to a light golden tan in a tea bath.  Scott Hanratty, our weaver, suggested a few designs, and we choose a 6-shaft twill-based pattern.

We were really thrilled when the plan came together and the shawl turned out even more beautiful than imagined!   Alison loved her shawl and was excited to also receive the guild’s knitted afghan for her prize winning hand spinning fleece.  

The winner of the colored hand spinning fleece this year was Linda Reichert, who took the grand champion award for her gorgeous black wool!  We awarded Linda the 2nd shawl woven from the S2S warp.  This second shawl was woven with 3 strands of fine commercial yarn in light beige and grey colors which gave it a wonderful tweedy look! 

We were glad to have our friends from the Malabar Farm Spinning and Weaving Guild join us again in the sheep barn for the demonstration.  They brought a floor loom, rigid heddle loom, and a rectangular loom, and showed off many techniques.  

Thanks to the great team from COWFG who made this another successful year:  Caye Aiello (spin), Cheryl Koncsol (plan & select fleece), Donita Westman (ply), Ed Morrow (bobbin winder), Jann Offutt (card), Joanne Knapp (spin, fleece preparation), Jon Briney (photographer), Kathleen Craig (coordinator, plan & warp loom), Kim Johnson (great wheel, fleece preparation), Laura Brendon (fleece preparation), Linda Schweiger (spin), Lori Seeger (spin), Mary Beth Sassen (spin), Nikki Fried (fleece preparation), Scott Hanratty (weave), Sue Atkins (spin), Sue Briney (plan & warp loom, drop spindle), Susan Johnson (spin).

We’ve started a scrapbook to capture the memories of the Sheep-to-Shawl demo that began in 2013.  If you didn’t see it at the Fair, it will be available at the guild meetings this fall.  

Guild Member Sue Briney

Editor’s note: See more pictures from the 2017 Ohio State Fair on Facebook!

Guild invited to Starry Night: Arts & Science Fuels Imagination

The Westerville Partners for Education was founded in 2011. Parents and teachers saw a need for programming and advocacy. In 2013, Starry Night began as a way to enrich science and the arts curriculum. This free event has grown in scope and size. Organizations, businesses and individuals had skills, expertise and the desire to help with the educational experiences for all Westerville school students and residents. At Westerville North High School, 72 exhibitors and demonstrators participated in zones, each having a specific focus: medicine, machinery, arts & crafts, science & math as well as an area to showcase student projects.

A student tries out a loom at Starry Night

Our theme, Fiber Fun: From Fleece To Fabric, provided hands-on activities so everyone could experience the process. We had a display that featured wet and dry felting, natural and dyed wool fibers, hand and machine carding, hand/”drop” and wheel spinning, as well as table and floor loom weaving. Many handwoven items were also on display. Two freestanding tapestry looms enabled children to weave with wide strips of fabrics. Motor skill “issues” were eliminated on these large-scale looms and the children enjoyed being weavers. Many had done some weaving in art classes and they were proud to show their skill.

The interaction each of us had was wonderful. Ten of our members spent at least 4 hours interacting with attendees. We were well received and asked to return.  The chairperson told us, “I expected a great activity, but your group hit this out of the park! Seeing the whole fiber process at one time was, I am sure, an eye opener for our students and their families.”

 Guild member Linda Hall