HARRISBURG, Pa. — The team members working together at the Pennsylvania Farm Show’s annual Sheep-to-Shawl contest aren’t just coming together for a once-and-done competition.
In fact, the contest caps off a team’s familiar routine of brainstorming ideas, choosing just the right wool, picking out a pattern, and putting the team members’ skills together to create a finished product.
By the time January rolls around, teams are ready to put their best work in front of a large Farm Show crowd and team of judges. They’ve decided on a theme, chosen the team’s matching clothing, have just the right fleecy lamb ready to be shorn, set up their loom with the agreed-upon colors, and have a finished shawl hanging on their display to show what the contest shawl will look like when they have finished.
The contest, officially opened by Pennsylvania’s 2011 lamb and wool princess, Anna Stoner, Gettysburg, Pa., begins two-and-a-half hours of shearing, carding, spinning and weaving.
This year the winning team, Northumberland County’s “Dream Weavers,” rose to the top of five five- or six-member teams.
Dream Weavers chose a bluebird as the inspiration for the colors of their shawl. The bluebird focus gave them a springboard for the rest of their presentation — which is also judged — as they added in blue and grey hues to their overall presentation.
The Dream Weavers team included Jack Smith, shearer; Abby Schrack, Carol Chaapel and Joanna Smith, spinners; Wayne Appleman, carder; and Francie Appleman, weaver.
Conducted in the sale arena at the Farm Show complex on Wed., Jan. 12, the contest is in its 32nd year.
Following the award ceremony, the newly crafted shawls are auctioned off. After the auctioneer finalizes each sale, the shawls go back to the teams. Team members take the shawl home to wash it for the buyer since the shawl is, of course, made with half raw wool and the excess lanolin needs to be removed.
At the auction, a shawl made by the team Friends Thru Fiber garnered the highest price, at $2,250. The winning shawl made by Dream Weavers sold for $925, with the remaining shawls going for prices between $650 and $850.
Judges for the contest were Ben Bow, Lebanon County; Cynthia Baker, Lancaster County; Kris Peters, York County; and Susan Withnell, Westminster, Md.
Contest judging includes more than simply the finished project. The team of judges circulates throughout the contest, evaluating not only the finished work but the process each shawl takes en route to the finish line.
The shearer is judged on even shearing and lack of second cuts, which produce shorter, less-desirable lengths of wool. The spinners work hard to spin evenly and produce a uniform product. Weavers must be sure their shawl measures at least 22 inches wide and 78 inches long.
Additionally, although bonus points go to teams that finish first, the design portion — originality in design, difficulty of weave, color coordination and execution of the finished fringe — accounts for a large percentage of the teams’ scores.
Then Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding gave a brief address and handed out awards to the winners.
1. Dream Weavers, Northumberland County
2. Treadlers Through Time, Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counties
3. Fort Freeland Flickers, Montour County
4. Friends Thru Fiber; Franklin, Adams counties
5. Time Warp, Montour County
Champion Shearer Award
Matt Geissinger, Treadlers Thru Time
Friends Thru Fiber
Friends Thru Fiber
Libby Beiler, Time Warp
Premium Spinning Group Award
Ellen Anderson, Irina Lawrence and Kathy Kenworthy