North Country Fiber Fair 2008

Arriving at the hotel, I think, “Where I come from, if you have an inconvenient corpse to dispose of, you do it yourself or impose on some friends, not pick someone from an advertisement…”

Really a profitable profession in SD?

Note to self: when a gathering advertises “Livestock Exhibitions”, wear closed-toe shoes.

Mohair goat

Sheep-shearing is hilarious. The sheep are flipped upside down and bent in half so they don’t wiggle, and their skinny sheep legs stick out in all directions. If I ever acquire some, I am so enrolling in the manual blade-shearing class.

Icelandic-cross lamb
Angora rabbit

One of the instructors, Kelly Knispel, sheared an Icelandic-cross lamb as a demo and was kind enough to bring the shorn fleece over to the spectators so they could feel its softness, crimp and grease. She produces wool products as part of NaturalColoredWools, so when the fleece turned up for sale next to her sales lambs and mohair goats, I had to purchase it. How cool is that? To be able to say, “I saw this sheep being sheared, bought the fleece, washed, carded and spun it, and made that thing you have there in your hand.” Of course I am nowhere near that skill level yet – in fact I am still working on perfecting drafting on a handspindle – but it is a goal to work towards. Plus it was 1.8lbs of wool for around the price of a skein of handdyed sock yarn. You can definitely see the value-add in processing.

my very own fleece!
See the crimp and sheen?

The Llama Obstacle Course was quite amusing; most animals were quite tolerant of being made to do silly things and get petted by strangers, but there was one young male who kept putting back his ears in a “wtf?” and finally, when being made to walk backwards, spit in his handler’s face from 3 inches away. The audience looked at each other amusedly and said “I knew that was going to happen.” I also learned llamas and alpacas will always poop in the same area of their pasture  as several encountered a poop pile and had to stop and add to it before proceeding through the course. I spoke over lunch with someone who has a few fiber alpacas who confirmed this, and greatly talked up the virtues of an intelligent animal of a good size who was easy to clean up after; they have made great strides in my Imaginary Future Livestock list.

I want a llama.

The NCFF is still a small gathering – there would not be enough to do to justify a weekend trip, if you didn’t enroll in one or more of their classes. I went through the vendors in three deliberately-paced hours. The classes were quite cool though – I ruined my now-irreplaceable Rusty’s Day Camp for Boy Adventurers tshirt wetfelting a pirate hat from llama fiber, when the red turned out to be a bit overdyed; and I did get to experience how a nice heavy dropspindle turns longer and makes spinning much much easier, in an Intro to Handspinning class. I am itching to pull out my Spindolyn and keep practicing, but the upcoming holiday season requires I finish a few knitting projects first.

Rustic Pirate Hat of Overmuch Redness

I came home with two bags of llama fiber straight from the animal, from the felting teacher; a few ounces each of a brindled wool roving, carbonized bamboo, bombyx silk, tencel and a camel/silk blend, for spinning playtime; a huge braid of dyed top; three more skeins of handpainted sock yarn (curse you, Ravelry!) in merino/nylon and merino/tencel; a book on rigid-heddle weaving; a tiny needle-felted llama kit; and two shuttles for my homemade Craft Magazine loom. I have never seen so many different spinning wheels in one place, let alone in use in one place; but I managed to restrain myself from purchasing one of those, yet.

Fiber for playing
Softest grey alpaca, plus three socks

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