Farm Show Sheep-to-Shawl Contest continues a wild and wooly tradition

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HARRISBURG — Many visitors to the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show on Wednesday night wore wool to keep warm.

Yet seven visitors sacrificed their woolen coats for the 35th Sheep to Shawl contest.

The seven sheep provided the fleeces for the wild, wooly and much-loved Farm Show tradition. A sheep to shawl contest involves shearing a sheep, spinning the wool into yarn and using it to make a 22 by 78 inch shawl with five inches of fringe on each end — all in 2 1/2 hours.

By contest’s end, Time Warp of Montour County was named grand champion for the third consecutive year, and later sold its shawl for $900.

Dream Weavers of Northumberland, reserve champion, sold its shawl for $600. Friends Thru Fiber of Franklin County came in third and sold its shawl for $775.

Seven teams with such names as Just A Little Twisted and For the Love of Ewe competed in the event, which began with team shearers standing by sheep.

When a signal was given, most of the shearers grabbed their sheep, sat them on their rumps and began to shear off the heavy-looking woolen coats. Within minutes, piles of fleece were on the floor and the chilly-looking sheep were being put into their pens.

Then it was work time.

Team members carded the wool between two wire brushes to remove foreign matter and make the fibers go in one direction. Carders passed the wool to spinners, who spun the fibers into strands of yarn.

After winding the yarn on bobbins, the spinners handed the bobbins to weavers, who run wooden shuttles back and forth in their looms to create colorful shawls.

shawl2Members worked steadily but chatted with each other and visitors too as if at a special reunion, which it was.

Linda Gross of Fenelon, a Butler County Peddlers spinner and sheep to shawl contest participant for 35 years, knew a lot of people as did weaver Wini Labrecque on her team. Members of For the Love of Ewe of Dauphin County even discussed their friendship at the Christian Life Assembly Church in Upper Allen Twp.

Carder Kathy American of Lewisberry said that this team only began practicing in August. As the contest deadline approached, they had weekly practices. On Wednesday, they brought Sunday, their Romney ewe to
“We formed a team and started practicing in August,” she said as she carded. “In September, we competed in the sheep to shawl contest at the Bloomsburg Fair. We didn’t do well and realized we needed more practice. We had to either get serious about this or go home.”

They got serious and started practicing weekly.

On Wednesday, they transported Sunday, a docile Romney ewe, from Lewisberry to Harrisburg. American sat in the back seat of the pickup truck, Sunday on her lap and the seatbelt around both of them.

During the ending minutes of the contest, the laid back atmosphere became a bit tense.

Spinners and weavers worked faster. Team members tied fringes on the finished shawls and gave them to the four judges. The judges evaluated both the shawls and various aspects of the teams.

Special prizes went to:

– Donna Mentor,Paula Bier and Beth Sterling, spinners of The Ewetilitarians of Lancaster County, spinners award.
– Rachel Logue of For the Love of Ewe, weaver’s award.
– Time Warp of Montour County, team’s choice award
– Just A Little Twisted of Dauphin County, fleece award.

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