In Which I Go to the Maine Fiber Frolic

I went to the Maine Fiber Frolic, held in Windsor, Maine, about two and a half house away (well, a bit more than three if you get lost). I got up early so was there just after 9 AM and got to check everything out without a huge crowd and then enjoy the mass of people that are fiber-lovers.

There were a TON of vendors, something for everyone – fiber, yarn, some wheels, some spindles, lots of knitting needles, a wool pool, hand-knit things, hooked rugs, felting fiber, baskets, livestock, fencing, the list goes on and on.

First, let me introduce to the stars of the show – the livestock!

We will start with the llamas.

Llama fiber is lovely, very fine, comes in lots of different colors, and has no lanolin so it doesn’t require the same preparation as does other fibers (namely wool). Plus, they’re pretty cool dudes, the surfer guys of the fiber livestock world. Good karma.

There were also lots and lots of goats, in many different varieties, angora and cashmere. All were friendly, from the adults on down to the kids, and there were several for sale.

There were signs posted all over the place, warning everyone not to feed their fingers to the goats, but all were very sweet to me! A few were very indignant at being penned up, calling to their owners and to other goats, demanding to be heard. I took pity on one and stopped to say hello – as you might imagine, he was very grateful.

For most of the llama and goat farms, you could buy their fiber right there – meet the goat, take his coat kind of deal. Everyone was very friendly and I learned how to groom a goat (much like grooming a dog or a horse, really) and how different their personalities all are.

Not do be outdone by the goats, the angora bunnies were out in full force. And since they breed like rabbits (obviously), there were a lot of bunnies for sale. I was very tempted, but I held firm. But don’t you think an angora bunny would be perfect for my St. Louis apartment?

Since I was there already, I figured I would hang out and learn how to groom and shear angora rabbits – it’s much simpler than I supposed, but I think it must be pretty hard to get the knack of. The bunnies don’t seem to mind at all!

Then, of course, we have the sheep, the beautiful, beautiful sheep. I may stray off to other fibers, but I think wool is what I really love.

There were white sheep and black sheep. Young sheep and old sheep. Sleepy sheep and hungry sheep. And, as always, sheep interested in what I was doing.

Throughout the day, I wandered through vendors, had a go on some gorgeous (and perfectly balanced) spindles, talked with everyone I saw, and fingered and smelled all fiber in sight. I also tried my hand at selecting a fleece – yes, that’s right, a whole fleece. There was a building devoted to it, whole fleeces bagged with the type of sheep and information – where it was from, what the farm is like, what the sheep was like, some of them even had the sheep’s name! Of course, there was also fleece from other animals, but, like I said, I’m a sheep girl.

My fleece is pretty small, only 2.25 lbs of Border Leicester with a staple length of about 3 inches. I’m really really excited. Selecting this fleece took me about an hour after digging through dozens of other fleeces, finding the really expensive stuff and then looking at the cheap stuff to try and sort out the differences. Unfortunately, I forgot that sheep like hay and that I’m very VERY allergic to it, so by the end of it, I was happy but my arms and hands were a bright angry red from the hay.

At lunchtime, I set out to the field where Dave Kennard, an honest to goodness professional shephard, gave a sheepdog presentation. It was incredible. He was working with several sheep and two goats, one old sheepdog, one puppy (only nine months old!) named Dottie, and two middle-aged dogs, Nellie and Brittany. All were border collies and even the puppy who was having a very hard time listening, were incredible. They know over 40 verbal and whistle commands, including directions for clockwise and counterclockwise, lieing down, crawling on their bellies, backing up, the list goes on. It was absolutely fascinating. Borders heard with “eye power,” essentially staring the sheep down. It only takes three dogs to move a herd of sheep down a road (you read that right, down a road) – one in the front who walks backwards, one who pushes them from behind, and one on the side to keep them in the correct lane of traffic. The entire time the sheep were being herded, made to stand in a square made by cones, and split by the dogs, the shepard stood still in front of us.

Last, but not least, I have to show off some of my new fibers. I’ve already spun up some of it and will post pictures as I go.

A picture of my fleece is above, but here is a lock to show you staple length – I can’t wait to prepare it!

I found some gorgeous Navajo-Churro roving, it’s delicious, a long, pretty straight staple, really textured,I decided it was time for me to try something new – vegetable fiber. I chose some gorgeous bamboo. It has a lovely sheen, almost like silk, and has a super-short staple that will be a challenge. But it is so so so soft!

Now for some exciting stuff – blends and colors! First, we have some hand dyed roving, 50% Mohair and 50% wool. It’s really really soft and lofty, and I think it’ll spin up beautifully. I think I may try for some plied worsted-weight with it, so I’m going to practice some more with my regular wool first. Sadie, who you see modeling the fiber, is one of my god-dogs — we spend a lot of time together. Her dog-mom’s blog is here.

Last, but certainly not least, is this gorgeous hand dyed blend of wool, mohair, and silk. It’s incredibly textured, each fiber taking the dye differently. I’ve spun it up (as you can see here – and more pictures to follow), and it’s very moody, jewel colored, changing from green to purple to almost yellow, and quite strong. It’s spinning up to be about lace weight, a bit more a bit less.

I will keep you updated as I spin up this wonderful fiber and prepare my fleece.

Happy fibering!


One Comment to “In Which I Go to the Maine Fiber Frolic”

  1. It looks like you wound up with all kinds of treasures! Very very exciting. Does this mean a carding drum or set of hand-carders is in your future? The more I look at fiber stuff, the more I am tempted to spin. I also feel your temptation on the bunny front. I've thought about it often…

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