Friday, September 16, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 3: Excellent Fiber

Nice plaque! It was awarded for the ”Grand Champion Fleece Overall” (i.e., “best in show”) at this year’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival.

This year, Letty Klein
was the judge. She had somewhere between 120 and 130 fleeces to judge. That doesn’t include the Shetland fleeces; they were judged separately.

There were three fleece divisions, each with multiple classes. I emailed Letty to ask about the judging process. Here’s what she had to say:

“The Coopworth fleece won the white coarse division, then beat out a nice but kind of dingy Cormo to be Champion White fleece. For Supreme fleece overall, I had the white Coopworth, a stunning natural colored Bluefaced Leicester, and they brought over the Champion Shetland fleece to judge. Since this was the first time I had seen the black Shetland fleece, I looked it over closely. I was very surprised to find that the tips came off very easily. I tried in several areas, all the tips were tender. The audience groaned when I showed them. So, that left the Coop and BFL. I then asked the audience for a vote - more voted for the BFL. I said OK, but lets take a closer look at both of them. I showed examples and talked about the character, consistancy and handle - and talked both them and myself into selecting the Coop!”

Who knew that fleece judging could be so suspenseful! I was on the edge of my seat just reading Letty’s description!

Here’s the kicker: That winning Coopworth fleece came from Carol Wagner of Hidden Valley Farm & Fiber Mill!
I have always known that she has wonderful fabulous can’t-be-beat Coopworth wool. Now there’s confirmation!

Needless to say, Hidden Valley is my go-to source for Coopworth wool.

There are other vendors at WSWF who I consider go-to sources:

I always get my Cormo wool from Jill Johnson at Riverwinds Farm.
This year in her booth, she also had some fabulous Bluefaced Leicester wool. I bought some combed top and some dyed locks. Mmmmm…..

BrambleWool Farm
is my go-to source for Shetland wool. Julie Guilette had rovings, tops, and Shetland blends in her booth. By Sunday afternoon, her booth was nearly empty!

I have also in the past bought lovely a Shetland-Mohair blend combed top from Psalm 23 Farm
at WSWF. It is yummy!

This year, I ran into Neil Kentner several times at the festival. He’s from Mason, Michigan and he raises Wensleydale sheep at his farm, Wynsmoor Manor (sorry, no website). He has also been fleece judge at WSWF in the past. So, he knows fleeces. I snagged a pound of lovely washed Wensleydale fleece from him this year (from a sheep named “Beulah”). I suspect that may become an annual tradition!

Anyway, WSWF is an event that is guaranteed to offer magnificent fiber for handspinners. If you haven’t attended this event, do consider going in the future. It’s worth it!

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