Saturday, May 14, 2016

Willamette Heritage Center Sheep to Shawl Festival

I love fiber festivals. The yarn! The animals! The other fiber lovers! The yarn! The demonstrations! The yarn! It can be difficult and expensive to travel to one of the big fiber fests, but if you can't get to one of those, there might be a small one near you. Last weekend the annual Sheep to Shawl festival was held at the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, OR. The center is located in the buildings and on the grounds of an old woolen mill so it's an appropriate place for a fiber festival. I'm going to let some photos tell most of the story of our fun day.

The old mill building:

Where does fiber come from? Plants and animals mostly except for the synthetics. Being a "sheep to shawl" festival, the animals were featured. There were, of course, sheep. This is Rosanna Caswell of Caswell Farms with some of her Dorpers. I had never heard of this sheep breed. They're very nice looking sheep. A little googling told me that they are a breed developed in South Africa for meat production. I did find at least one web site selling Dorper fiber.

A sheepdog brought his little buddy along.


In addition to sheep, there were goats like these Angoras. Keep an eye on the guy on the left. We'll see him again later.

The Cashmere goats had kids all of which insisted on staying partly in bright sun and partly in shade.

The camelids were represented by these alpacas. We'll see the white one later as well.

Lastly we have the Angora rabbits.

This fuzzy guy sat right there while people brushed him and his owner spun the fiber.

We've got our fiber animals. Now we have to get the fiber off the animals. First up was one of the alpacas. He wasn't thrilled with the process so his owner lent a hand. The gentleman doing the shearing was a real pro and gave an entertaining description of the procedure.

And here's our much cooler alpaca. It was a hot day. I'm sure he was more comfortable.

Next up was one of the Angora goats from which we get mohair. The shearer said that they go completely limp like they have no backbone, and that's just what it looked like. It's a good thing because he could have done some damage with those horns if he'd wanted to.

 Ho hum. Just relaxin' here while I get a haircut.

I think he lost half his volume. That was a lot of mohair. Very dirty mohair.

The next step in the process is cleaning and carding the fiber in preparation for spinning. There weren't any demos of that, but here are some bags of processed fiber (roving) for sale to spinners.

Some local spinners demonstrated their craft. Notice the woman at the right with a drop spindle.

Here's Wanda Jenkins with one of the old time walking spinning wheels. Wanda is holding one of the Turkish drop spindles hand made by her husband Ed Jenkins.

After the spinning we finally have our yarn! A local farmer and hand dyer - Shaggy Bear Farms - was there.


Her yarns are lovely, and I bought two skeins in different colorways for some experimenting in planned pooling. More about that in a future post.

I was going to stop with two, but I found this skein of Paca Peds in another booth, and it really wanted to go home with me also.

All of this work - raising the animals, shearing, processing, spinning, then knitting or crocheting - finally gives us our shawls. Here are some made from hand spun yarn.

Even this sheep has a shawl.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Great post! LOVE that cute little sheepie at the end.


  2. Looks like a lot of fun! I love watching people spin yarn right off the angora rabbits. Thanks for the pictures!

  3. Looks like a great event! Thanks for sharing.


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