…we could travel freely? Right about now we are more than half through our second trip to Scotland. Not! Bad timing! Ode to corona: who thought a trip to our mailbox would be a threat to our health. Confused? No. Alas, we are not in Scotland. We were told the sheep were dipped – yellow – for purposes of health. We never saw another flock like it. Reasons on the ‘net include: ID, ownership, ewes, theft discouragement and who knows? We frequently staged some gag photos for the kids. Yeah, shameless Photoshop. Why not? Poor Colleen. Why hug a post box? Hey! You would have to look in my brain. Me? Some days I’m locked out. Thistle: the national flower of Scotland. And right now I wish we were posting: “Wish you were here.”
Today’s Dave’s birthday. Happy Birthday! (I’ll remind his sister so she’ll look good. Hey! People remind me of dates all the time.) I write my posts in advance. So, the big question is whether we are on the plane today to Scotland or not. We were/are scheduled. …cancelled/postponed due to pandemic. Who knew? River Tweed panorama anyone? No, the sheep are not sick with yellow fever. And we/us? As long as we are safe and with/among loved ones, it’s okay by me. Colleen would like to be with the “sheepies” too.
It follows after I mentioned Brig o doon (yesterday)… the movie and the musical. Colleen adored the movie. I was indifferent having heard of both and having avoided them in my life until now. Here we were. Memory. New and fulfilled. Priceless. We had dinner (unplanned) in the nearby restaurant/inn – where the wedding reception was being held. Cullen skink, but of course! And, we both still smile at how it was a perfect day brought to us by the British Airway pilot action that never happened (cancelled). Just like the rain, if it does, go with it. Happiness is working without a plan.
This was worth a stop! We were speeding along to somewhere, when I spied this field of colorful sheep. Why?? I saw a similarly colored group once more during our trip. Otherwise it is/was a mystery. Disease prevention? Dyed in the wool? (sorry for the bad joke) What? We don’t know. It was definitely worth it to get the photos. I did not realize or know that I would not see this again. Whoa!
Sheep and wool fairs always have a place where they sell fleece. It would be fleece that is sheared from the sheep and sold in large plastic bags at $/pound. It’s less expensive than yarn ready to weave. But there is a lot of processing. Are all fleeces equal. Hardly. Picking fleece is an art. I’m learning. I used to go by feel. That would be too simple. As we picked and chose, a volunteer came up and “squoze” my bag. Huh? She recognized her fleece and was checking. Yup, it was from her sheep. A mother always knows. Neat! If you wander into the fleece barn… you get fleece. I/we must be good pickers. A couple people admired our choices and told us they’d take the bag if we changed our mind.
I actually had to pull these images off my iPhone. Per usual, I shoot an image with my camera. But I forgot…
Have I mentioned the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival? It’s huge. Folks from far and wide come. Who knew? It’s like a cult. There are a lot of people who love sheep and wool. And they spin and weave and knit and…. I’m a bystander through association. I have a big camera and it seems not too many (big cameras) are in attendance. Sheep are photogenic? There is a building devoted to photography and there are prizes for your best sheep portrait. I’ll pass. But here we are. And I suddenly needed something to send to the kids. If you know my sense of humor… the sheep contest. The judge waxed poetic about fleece, bone structure, roundness, squareness and so many other attributes. Sorry. To me, a sheep is a sheep and they all look the same. Heresy!! Shoot me at dawn. All around me they sell sheep – meat – lamb and mutton. Gyros! You can’t have a proper one without lamb. The folks selling did not look Greek. I didn’t buy any. But I can’t help wondering what happens to the losers? My kids thought the joke was horrible. They have their mother’s sensibility in them.
Old photos. I came across this. It’s about 2002, Lincoln Center. Barbara Cook – quite the diva. She’s starring. I didn’t know her at the time. About a decade later I discovered the American songbook. She’s a big part of it. Who knew? Lots of folks. I was late to the party. There was a craft fair that day I took this slide. Now that’s a full circle for me. Look! Sheep! A sheep shearing demo. Considering what I know about weaving, it’s odd to see that this image is in my files and I only just ran across it. How significant insignificant things seem on second look. History’s a funny thing.
You take pictures of cats? Same principle – sheep. Eyes, it’s in the eyes. Focus. I’m tying up loose ends here. I just readjusted my DSLR camera to focus as I would like it to be. And it was largely more successful. These days I am so used to the point and shoot cameras that I don’t look in the view finder as much. It’s not laziness. I’ve gotten used to holding the camera at the level of my subject. This means that instead of bending I simply hold the camera lower and press the shutter. In a pen, this means I can get closer to the sheep without climbing in. if you recall, everything is related. Only the subjects change. The technique crosses over. So, I have been asked, how many pictures of sheep do I need. I’ve got one already. It’s like why I go to the movies. I’ve seen one already?
No, I’m not OCD. Am I? No matter. Here’s something you don’t see every day: Spinning in the park. Or, bobbin lace. It’s a craft not in much popularity. It’s intricate and fascinating. The artist said take all the pictures you want, just none of me. The sheep are trimmed and groomed for show. Why? The fleece is reduced to short fiber. The sheep sure look better. But then again maybe I forgot, they are destined to be eaten. Lamb burger? Gyro?
In order to get yarn you start with a sheared fleece. The fleece is washed. It’s turned into roving. Then, it’s spun. After that you knit or weave. If you skip the spinning, you can felt. Felt? The would be pressing the fibers together until they form a sheet of fiber all on their own. Like art, this is the raw material for creating a myriad of things. I’m more interested in the process than in creating art. People like came to buy the raw materials. Sometimes it’s the journey more than the destination. It’s all here. If you know fiber – ie spin and weave or knit – then you recognized the various states I mention. Otherwise, enjoy the patterns and color.
They’re cute. I think they are cute if you are sheep yourself. Otherwise, one looks the same to me as another. Except – I can tell you that the sheep with a haircut to its neck is a blue faced Leicester. Imagine that! They come that way – no wool on their head to the neck. At least I can recognize one! Ha ha, someone I know also thought a sheep was a sheep and that there was just one sheep. I have come to know that you have long and short hair, coarse and fine hair, and clean (coated) or dirty (uncoated). Yes, they really do keep the sheep covered in coats. They are pretty messy if they sleep in grass, straw, and dirt. I look at a sheep and see all the stuff (straw, dirt, shit) in the fleece and dream about cleaning (picking) it. Cute? Well, if you are the end user – scarf, sweater, blanket – well, yeah! Otherwise I can now appreciate why they can sell stuff for so much.
Hand weaving and spinning is a lost art. Wrong! There are many enthusiasts. It’s not too common. Your average person does not weave or spin. But the gatherings – so called festivals – draw thousands – of people, sheep not included. There is fiber on the hoof and fleece and finished product. Lots of money changes hands. There was a classic auction complete with rapid fire auctioneer. His job is to rev up the crowd and grow enthusiasm and drive the price ever higher. The tapestry loom he was standing in front went for $20. Really!? The wood was worth more ( a whole lot more). But there were other things that sold for a lot more. Last spring I bought a loom – sight unseen – for a mere bagatelle. This time around I stood pat. Yes, there are llamas – and alpacas – and sheep – and goats. A good time was had by all.
From hoof to finished product – I’ve been exposed to a new hobby. I only have a passing interest. But the photo ops led me to see different sheep and appreciate the natural fiber as it was processed from animal to point of sale. The Common Ground Country Fair is a must stop for crafts including fiber. This encompasses much but mostly it involves wool. But there are many different types of sheep which leads to different textures and softness.
The wool requires processing and spinning before it can be woven. I bet you knew that. I just took it for granted. It does not naturally occur in Technicolor.
And the final finished product – well , the yarn – is a long way from the initial raw locks that are shorn.