I learned to spin about 5 years ago, and shortly after moving to Vallejo met up with a group of local women who spin, weave and knit. Under the team name of Silverado Spinsters we began participating in Sheep to Shawl competitions around Northern California at county fairs and other regional events, as well as occasionally at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. What's a Sheep to Shawl competition? The rules vary from venue to venue, but in general each team is allowed about 5-8 members. We begin with a fleece that has been washed and dyed but not prepared for spinning in any other way, a warped loom, and a good sense of fun. Over the pre-set competition period (usually around 4-5 hours) we card the wool, spin it, ply it, and then weave a shawl of a minimum size of around 20 x 72 inches (also pre-set by the competition rules).
I was a beginning spinner when I met these ladies and participating in these events compelled me to improve my spinning in a real hurry! The team had placed first in several S2S events before I joined on and I sure didn't want to be the reason they didn't win anymore. There are many more people who contribute to this effort than in the picture (from left to right, is Cathi, Kathleen, Christy, me, Cat, and Barbara); each event has a slightly different team makeup; everyone helps out at some point in the preparations as well as the competition itself. As a group we spend most of the off-season in"training" by practicing spinning to a standard (ie all spinning to the same grist), taking workshops to improve and expand our skills, designing and planning the next season's shawls, and experimenting with different wools and weave structures to get the result we're after - a light, drapey, soft shawl that feels as beautiful as it looks.
On May 26th we competed in the Sacramento County Fair's first S2S event. We're always eager to support a new event and had a fantastic time, largely due to the efforts of Sue McCormick, who set the whole event up. Stephanie Gaustad, fiber fanatic extraordinaire, was the judge for the event. Along with two other teams, we started at 10 am sharp; feverishly carded the beautiful Romney fleece from Terry Mendenhall's ranch, spun like demons, plied a 2-ply yarn, wove like mad, twisted fringe with frenzy, and whisked the shawl to Stephanie just in time to met the 3:45 deadline ( a much needed 45 minute lunch break was in there somewhere). After careful examination, Stephanie talked about each shawl in a way that always enables us to learn more about what worked and what didn't, and at long last announced the Silverado Spinsters as the winners!
It doesn't show off as well in the photo as it does in reality; it's shades of a rich Prussian blue as the main colour, with accents of olivey-gold and some bright gold silk as accents. We spin our warp from a Romney/merino cross that is also from the Mendenhall ranch; Terry's fleeces are pure joy to work with. It weighs in at about 12 oz finished; it will be interesting to see how it changes with washing.
My teammates are amazing ladies and I feel so privileged to be a part of this team. Thanks, Silverado Spinsters! Let's do it again at the Alameda County Fair on July 8th!