Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Visit A Fiber Fair

Yesterday the Lower Mainland Sheep Producer's Association (LMSPA) held its annual sheep fair at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, about 30mins south of Vancouver. Took me a while to find the right hall; the Fairgrounds are pretty big and I visitied the Forklift Competition and a horse show (for horses pulling those little racing carts) before finally hitting the right place (first clue: sheep baa-ing!).

The fair is a fairly small event, aimed at showcasing locally produced fleece. This was apparently the first year it has been held in Cloverdale.

There were a few sheep present, including a couple of Shetland sheep, which was interesting because you could really see that they were much smaller than the more modern breeds next to them.

[shetland sheep]

There was a sheep-shearing demo as well, with a skirting table to show how the fleece is trimmed after it has been removed from the sheep.

Most of the fair was given over to bags and bags of raw fleeces, from all kinds of breeds, which had been graded by judges. The bags were all there to be auctioned off, so you could feel the fleece and decide which ones you wanted to bid on. The judging sheets were on the bags so you could see for yourself how the points had been awarded, which I found quite interesting. There was quite a bit of difference between the different bags, even if they were from the same breed of sheep. The starting price for a bag ran from $40 to $80 (for about 10-15 lbs of raw fiber).

[bags and bags of fleece!]

[fleece judging sheet]

I didn't stay for the auction - I don't have the equipment to deal with raw fleece - or the time, to be quite honest - but I love learning about this type of stuff. There was a lady there from the Custom Woolen Mills in Carstairs, AB, there as well, and I chatted with her about her fleece supply. All of what they sell under their own label is from BC, AB, and SK - they do not import fleece from international sources. The different provinces provide different breeds: apparently there is quite a bit of Romney on the west coast (a breed developed in the marshes of the UK, suitable for our climate!!), while in the drier and colder prairie provinces you'll get more of the downs-type and merino-type sheep. They buy from larger suppliers so that they can get consistent supply, and also for lower prices (they could not support a spinning mill on the prices being asked for at this auction!).

There were some vendors with bags of carded and combed roving, some from local supply, so I did pick up 100g of local mainland "GKW" (God Knows What breed), which I hope to spin up for socks. I need to learn how to judge if a specific roving can be spun up fine enough...will have to read up about how to do that.

[local fleece, locally dyed]

Quite an enjoyable way to spend a few hours!

1 comment:

  1. I was there too - so much fun! I can't wait to see your socks spun from the 'gkw'. What a great idea for that fibre! Funny enough, I actually bought the fleece that went with the picture of the judging sheet you showed. Good stuff! :)