Monday, June 12, 2017

LMSPA Fair 2017

I attended the Lower Mainland Sheep Producers' Association annual fair last weekend again (I went a couple of years ago, too).  It was fun!

The fair is showcases local fleeces. It has only a few vendors, and those vendors sell basically exclusively fleece and related item - there are no yarn vendors. The main focus of the fair is the fleece auction, where you can bid on bags and bags of local fleeces, all judged. The prices run from $6-$15 per pound ($1.3-$3.3 per 100 g) of raw fleece - but there's a lot of work involved before you have yarn!

It starts with a sheep-shearing demo, and then the demo fleece is judged according to its breed standard. The shearing was fun to watch, the sheep didn't seem to mind the procedure too much. The fleece comes off in one piece, like a mat. Included in the price of shearing: a hoof trim!

[step one: shearing off the stomachy bits - carefully!]

[the last bit is the tail end. The fleece comes off like a mat]

[a hoof trim, and we're done!]

[the fleece on the skirting table]

The fleece is spread (thrown, actually) onto the "skirting table", which is nothing but a coarse screen on a set of sawhorses, which lets most of the really nasty bits fall through. It lets you see the full thing in all its glory, so the judging can be done. The demo judging was very informative - the judge talked us through how she judges "soundness", "evenness", "staple", "handle", and other qualities. I learned a lot. Part of the judging involved washing some of the locks to see how they cleaned up.

After learning how to judge a fleece,  you can walk around the tables and poke through the bags of fleeces, all with scoresheets attached so you can see for yourself how they stack up. 

I was particularly attracted to the primitive coloured fleeces - the primitive breeds (mostly Shetland, Icelandic, and some Gotland) have fleeces that are about 1/2 the size of the standard breeds. They come in at around 3-4 pounds (1.5-2kg) so are a bit more manageable for beginners like myself. Some of them were really beautifully black!

There were some beautiful coloured finewool breeds (some BFL, CVM, and merino crosses) available as well, but at  9 lbs of fleece, these were a bit daunting for me!

I liked being able to feel the downs breeds - there was one bag of Shropshire which felt wonderful, like it would make a lovely, cloud-like sweater.

One of the attractions of this year's show was the cashmere goats. Very cute! There was cashmere fleece on offer, as well as some spun cashmere. Very pricey, though. The interesting thing about these little guys is that they LOVE Himalayan blackberry, that hugely invasive thorny blackberry that's all over the Lower Mainland. And the breeders from Chiliwack offer "targeted grazing"...I'm already thinking of proposing this to our City for the ravine park, which is overrun by blackberry bushes. Maybe we can get a cut of the cashmere crop?

[cashmere goats]

I have recently come into a drum carder, so I think that next year, I will be dipping my toes into fleece processing!

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