shearing day


Shearing Day, at Rising Meadow Farm in Liberty, NC. You could feel the excitement in the air - the culmination of months of waiting is this morning, when the 75 beautiful rams and ewes of Rising Meadow lose their fluffy winter coats and usher in spring. And the weather did not disappoint! Cloudy, but nearly 60 degrees. This is why we live in the South, for Februaries like these. 

The rams are being shorn today, and one by one they move from a holding pen inside the barn to their stage, a wooden platform where two strong shearers take on between 4 - 10 pounds of fluff. It is magical - seeing the outside of the coat be slowly snipped away to reveal, sometimes, completely different colors and textures underneath. The rams are atypically calm during this process, lying on their backs in strange angles, and yet totally at peace with this process. It's amazing to witness. The whole fleece gets picked up and carried out to the skirting table, where the fleece is picked over, weighed and bagged, to the delight of spinners and fiber enthusiasts roaming around, checking out all of the beautiful fibers for sale. 

There are CVM Romedale, Corriedale, Navajo Churro and Dorset, all with different locks, crimp, staple length, smiling eyes, and personalities. How am I supposed to just pick one fleece?! I decide on a heathery grey Corriedale, with flecks of tan, brown, black. I love the way that the lanolin feels on my hands, and at the same time I can't wait to get it home, wash it out and card it up to see what it will become. 

For lunch, we have lamb chili and homemade bread, sweet conversations and strangers becoming friends, neighbors reuniting. It was fun to experience both as someone new to the area and the community, and someone who felt instantly at home, even amongst folks I had never met. After saying goodbye to the llamas, alpacas, ewes, chickens and cows, hauling 4 pounds of Leah's fleece to my car and driving home with sheepy smells and fond memories in tow. For me, the banner displayed proudly on the shearing barn says it all: great wool grows in North Carolina. I am so happy to call this place home. 

Rhinebeck 2015


Rhinebeck 2015 was Rhinebeck round two and it was everything I remembered and more. We arrived to our hotel late on Friday night and got to the festival early Saturday morning just in time to see a line 100 people long! The madness continued all day long, a dizzying frenzy of people everywhere, lines everywhere, yarn everywhere EVERYWHERE and wind so strong I was happy I had my hat this year for sure. The five in our party ran to tents we wanted to make sure we got to, and then mosied all over the whole place. We made it to every barn, which compared to last year was an amazing accomplishment. We saw sheep, goats, alpaca, and angora rabbits. We met farmers and dyers and authors and donut purveyors. We sipped on cider and ate falafel. It was one of the most perfect days I have had in forever. 

A highlight of this wonderful day was getting to go to a talk put on by Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm about natural dyeing and her new natural dye book, The Modern Natural Dyer. She had beautiful samples and answered a ton of questions from the crowd about mushrooms, iron, ph, foraging, and knitting. You could so hear the passion in her voice when she spoke about the process. I bought the book and devoured it on the plane ride home - it is gorgeous and now I am totally inspired. 

If you have any doubts about whether Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool is worth it, be assured that it is. This year I came back as a knitter and spinner, and it totally changed my perspective on the whole festival, and I actually only bought one type of yarn, my favorite, O-Wash Fingering. On the other hand, I spent about 30 minutes ogling and feeling all of the raw fleece for sale, I even found an NC Rambouillet that was being judged! It was gorgeous, and I wanted to box them all up and take them home. I had a feeling my sweet Mr. would have a few things to say about that, though. :) In the end I probably brough home half a sheeps' worth of roving. I can't wait to dig in. 

And to top it all off, it snowed. In October! At the festival and while we were driving home on Sunday. Beautiful, fluffy snow. Everything was perfect. And Christmas-like, which is the best type of day. There is talk of Maryland Sheep & Wool in our future in the spring, but in my heart my first love will always be Rhinebeck. 

Hudson Valley, I'll see you next year!

Carolina Fiber Fest

A few weeks ago, the day was completely perfect, not a cloud in the sky, and I drove my Civic out past Chapel Hill towards the Carolina Fiber Fest. My first and only other experience with fiber fests being Rhinebeck, the queen of all festivals, I didn't know what to expect. But I'm so glad I went!

I showed up around 1 PM, just in time for the sheep herding demonstration, which was crazy! The border collies were so incredibly well trained, even the smallest changes in the intonation of the whistle and they knew which way to go. I was hoping for a chance to get up close with some sheep, but it was still a really fun experience. 

There were about 30 vendors in two different warehouses so I went and perused, not really sure what I was coming for but knowing I was going to leave with something! ;) I finally made it all the way over to Heelside Farms' tent and on a whim, decided to buy a drop spindle. The sweet woman who sold it to me asked if I knew how to use it, and when I replied that I didn't, she had her son sit down with me to show me how. 20 minutes later, I knew how to spin! It was such a thrill, and I was so excited, I went by Echoview and picked up some alpaca fiber, and then to another vendor (that I can't remember, ugh!) and bought some Shetland roving. 

I finished off my frankly WONDERFUL afternoon with a chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick. I kid you not. (And it was awesome, and I should have bought 20 of them.)

If my knitting was going slowly before, it has gone half speed recently because of all of this lovely spinning. I first finished 2 oz of single ply Borderlecister that came with my spindle from Heelside, and have been alternating between the alpaca and Shetland roving whenever my spindle fills up. And though it's wonky and uneven still, I'm getting the hang of it and it is so beautiful and fun.