I spent two days at SVFF taking pictures and volunteering at the fleece sales last weekend. Once again, we were lucky with the weather and there were two glorious early Fall days for the festival. I had been recruited to volunteer by the Coordinator of the fleece sales, Debbie, at Solitude's Open House. I have never volunteered at the festival before so when I asked her what I needed to do, she said "just help people pick out fleeces". I always have an opinion (ha-ha) and I like helping newbie spinners, so I thought that sounded easy enough.
I also wanted to cover the event for myself and get some good shots of the animals so that worked out great. I brought my brand new 18-200 lens so I didn't have to carry two lenses for wide and zoom and I really liked the way it performed. It took some time for me to get used to the particulars of the lens and this was a good way for me to try it out without risking an important job and not getting any good shots. The first day had some crappy shots with poor exposures and I had trouble with the action shots and some mixed lighting with outdoor and fluorescent combined, but other than that I got some pics I was happy with. I edited over 150 so I'm only showing a handful here. The rest are on my Flickr and Facebook pages or you can click on the gallery below to view the entire Flickr album.
Photo Album (Sat. and Sun.)
The Fleece Sales
I checked in at the volunteer table, picked up some nice swag, and then made my way to the Fleece Sales. I was there for about four hours so I didn't have too much time to walk around and see other things. I picked out two really nice fleeces for myself when I got there. I wanted to buy one of Rivanna River Farm Alpaca fleeces since they are retiring and this would be one of my last opportunities to do so. They really have some of the most beautiful alpaca fiber I've seen and I'm kind of hoarding what little I have left. Needless to say I am very bummed they are retiring, they are super nice people and they love their animals and it really shows in the quality of their products. I bought one of the first peg looms they sold and some amazing corespun jumbo yarn that I wove into a cat mat on my loom.
This is the fleece I purchased. It is an award winning Grade 1, 19.5/20 fineness fleece; 1 lb. 14 oz. It's super soft with a nice sheen. I will probably dye this and blend it with other fibers like merino and kid mohair for some really soft handspun yarn.
Rivanna River Farm - Huacaya Alpaca Fleece
I wanted to buy some other fleeces that I normally wouldn't buy or haven't worked with much. They didn't have any BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) - those always go fast and I think there were only a couple to begin with. Why are BFL's so hard to get?
Anyway, I have plenty of white fleece so I was looking at the colored ones and spotted a really nice Shetland X Finn in a chocolate brown with sun bleached gold tips. This is a cross between two breeds of sheep and is one fleece, not two fleeces from different animals! I thought I'd mention this because someone asked me that on Saturday. I guess it isn't obvious to someone who is not familiar with sheep breeds and how fleeces are sold.
Checking Out the Shetland X Finn Fleece
I grabbed it and made my way to the sales table. Bridget, who was also volunteering, saw me holding it and said "hey, that's my fleece, Kitty!". Bridget owns Bridget's Farm Cart and raises a variety of breeds of sheep. I have purchased fiber from her before and was happy to know that it was one of hers that I was getting, because in my excitement I didn't even read the tag and see it was hers. The description on the label says "It was hard to part with this fleece. Kitty's mom was a beautiful red Moorit Shetland and her dad is Phinneas 360, our dark brown Finn ram. The result is a beautiful reddish brown fleece with long locks that will be gorgeous when spun."
Kitty's fleece is super soft (some Shetlands and Finns can be more coarse) but has a lot of VM. That's OK though. I washed it up this week and it's wonderful. I picked out the burrs (ouch!) and I've really fallen in love with it.
"Kitty" Shetland X Finn Ewe Yearling Fleece from Bridget's Farm Cart at Sunnybrook Farm
This is a crappy pic (the daylight was going fast!). It looks like a bear skin rug when laid out flat. I think the tail end is at the top of the picture. After being sheared, the fleece is skirted which means removing any poopy tags, belly wool, and second cuts (shorter fiber that is passed over twice with the clippers). It's so cool how the fleece holds it's shape after being sheared off the sheep. After it's sheared it comes off in one big piece and they roll it up and pack it in a plastic bag with a label usually indicating the name, breed, weight, ID #, price, and comments or description for the buyer. I unfurled it so I could get a sense of how big it was and how much VM (vegetable matter) it had. The fleece weighs only two pounds so that's actually not very big. It doesn't have as much lanolin in it compared to a fine wool breed so that means it weighs less and you won't loose a lot of the weight after scouring it when the grease and dirt go down the drain.
"Kitty" Raw Shetland X Finn Wool Fleece
I really enjoyed helping people pick out fleeces and educating about the different characteristics of each breed. I'm not an authority, but I buy from many of the farmers there and I am familiar enough with their offerings to judge them in an impartial way. When I started out, I had to learn a lot on my own and some people and situations were a bit intimidating. I think the first fleece sale I went to was at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and I went in the wrong way or something and got dirty looks and a "Can I help yoouuuuu???" from some bitchy lady. That kind of scared me off for a while. So I think I sold about four or five fleeces Saturday and I could tell how excited and grateful the newbies were with help and advice. That's always a nice feeling.
Buyers Examining a Fleece
Later in the day, I was helping one woman decide between two California Variegated Mutant (CVM) fleeces which I had also been interested in. The fleece we liked the best was bigger and was $88 for 4 lbs. which is more than what I wanted to spend since I had no real plans for it other than it caught my eye and I haven't played with CVM before. She was on the fence about it so I offered to split it with her and she immediately said yes (score!). So we both got some awesome fleece to take home. If you haven't bought at a fleece sale before you can get some good deals this way. We literally split it down the middle lenghtwise and put it in bags and weighed it. It was almost exactly 2 lbs. each. This is a fair way to split a fleece - each person gets the same (more and less desirable) parts of the wool from head to tail.
Examining Our CVM Fleece on a Skirting Table
CVM's are a type of Romeldale sheep (fine wool) that had a mutation and resulted in a barred multi colored pattern that was then developed as it's own breed. They are not all that common and this is why I was interested in buying it for my breed studies. They come in a wide variety of color patterns including dark gray, black, brown, moorit, and spotted, and typically have a barred face badger pattern. This fleece is almost mostly lilac light gray, medium gray with gold tips, and some dark chocolate brown and is reminiscent of a Jacob in coloring.
CVM Raw Wool Fleece
The Fleece Sales
Outside and the Ruritan Building
I had some time to take a quick break in the afternoon and stopped by some of my favorite fiber people's booths. The fiber community is really strong in this area and it's nice to see some familiar faces and even run into customers of mine from time to time.
Here are some of the folks I visited and their gorgeous products they had for sale. There are more pictures in my photo album.
Kate signing a one-of-a-kind dyepot painting. Genius.
Ahhhh! I love these colors!
WIld Hare Fiber Studio
Melissa with some of her amazing fiber:
She's also a very talented spinner, weaver, and knitter:
Solitude feaures hand dyed, locally grown, breed-specific wool yarn and fiber:
Solitude Dot Hat Kits
Jeanette got a new bunny at the festival and named her Snugglebunny! I'm so jealous. She's a shop bunny now so at least I can visit.
They also had a hospitality tent with some lovely yarn and fiber displays:
Meanwhile back at the Fleece Sales
Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild
A lot of the ladies helping with the fleece sales are members of the guild and were doing spinning and weaving demos. They are a super great bunch of people and a lot of fun to chat with.
Well, that wraps up day one! There's more to come with Sunday's recap. So stay tuned, there will be llamas!