1/19/2013 7:00 AM
By Dick Wanner Reporter
HARRISBURG, Pa. — For the sixth time in 11 years, Montour County’s Time Warp team won top honors in the 2013 sheep-to-shawl competition at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg on Wednesday, Jan. 9. A lot of the credit for this year’s victory has to go to Donovan, the Lincoln-Corriedale-CVM wether who gave a year’s worth of fleece to Time Warp’s 80-inch-by-23-inch finished shawl.
Libby Beiler, Time Warp’s weaver, said Donovan was a sweetheart, with the fun personality of a bottle-reared sheep, and that his wool had just the right amount of lanolin for one of the Farm Show’s most colorful events.
Time Warp’s members are fiber artists who come together several times during the year to practice for the Farm Show competition, Beiler said by phone from her home in Milton, Pa. They’ve established a routine for the sheep-to-shawl contest. After the shearer, Carl Geissinger, harvests a pound or so of Donovan’s wool, everybody cards. One by one the spinners — Katherine Dashner, her daughter, Ivy Allgeier, and Emily Kephart — start to spin, and then Beiler starts to weave.
Prior to the Farm Show, Beiler spent two days setting up the loom with the warp threads. The weft — the threads that weave across and between the warp — was the wool straight from Donovan’s body. Beiler likes his rich, chocolate brown fleece, and would never dye it. Once the shearing was completed, Geissinger stepped aside to make room for Jeff Johnstonbaugh, the team’s carder.
Johnstonbaugh’s job is to keep up with the three spinners, whose job is to keep up with Beiler’s loom, and if everything goes according to plan —which it did at the Farm Show — nobody stops until Beiler decides that the shawl is complete. Sheep-to-shawl is a timed competition, and everybody has to stop after no more than two-and-a-half hours of intense labor.
Beiler announced completion an hour and 50 minutes after sweet Donovan gave up his first strip of fiber. Time Warp was the first team to finish, which was worth 10 points on the judges’ scorecards.
Everything gets judged. The shearer has to do a good job. The fleece has to be clean, lustrous and crimped. The spinners have to produce uniform threads that relate to the design of the shawl. The quality of the weaving has to look like much more than a two-and-a-half-hour job.
Then there’s the design, which counts for a large percentage of each team’s score. The judges want an original design, a difficult weave, color coordination between the warp and weft, softness and a well-finished fringe.
The artists of Time Warp chose a rail-to-trail theme for this year’s entry, and took their inspiration from the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Lycoming and Tioga Counties as well as the Buffalo Valley trail in Union and Snyder Counties. Donovan’s fleece contributed the trail part of the design. The warp threads represented more colorful parts of the trails — farmland, forest, wildflowers, even a family of Canada geese. You can see it all if you look.
The Jan. 9 event was the 34th annual sheep-to-shawl competition. Judges for the contest were Terry Kunst of Dauphin County, Pa.; Kris Peters of York County, Pa.; Suzanne Fry of Lebanon County, Pa.; and Susan Keslar Simpson of Montour County, Pa.
Time Warp’s shawl sold to Kelly Barbara of Cumberland County for $1,375. The shawl made by the reserve grand champion, Friends thru Fiber, sold to Chris Repes of Westmoreland County for $2,100. The third-place shawl sold to Donna Wright of Perry County. The fourth-place shawl sold to Michael Bomberger of Cumberland County for $1,300. The fifth-place shawl sold to Dennis Hass of Lehigh County for $900.
The team placings are as follows.
1st Place Grand Champion
Time Warp of Montour County
2nd Place Reserve Champion
Friends Thru Fiber of Franklin County
Fort Freeland Flickers of Lycoming, Montour and Northumberland Counties
Dream Weavers of Northumberland County
Pedalers of Butler County
Cat’s Cradle of Bradford County
Just a Little Twisted of Dauphin County
Dick Wanner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 717-419-4703.