What on earth is a sheep and wool festival? And what can you expect to find or do if you attend?
You are in for a treat if you are an uninitiated sheep or wool enthusiast!
A Sheep and Wool Festival is a sheep show and sale combined with a wool show and sale that includes classes, demonstrations and many vendors that sell fleeces, roving, accessories, equipment and ready to wear woolen goods like shawls, hats and socks or ready to use woolens like rugs and wall hangings.
Sheep and Wool Festivals have sheep for sale
A sheep and wool festival has two main parts, the sheep side and the wool side.
The sheep side of things includes sheep exhibits and booths put together by breed associations and exhibitors.
There is usually a show and the following day a sale, which is done in the form of an auction.
The wool events include a fleece show and sale. The fleeces are tagged with a price, description and judges comments on the tag.
There are a variety of classes and tons of fiber and hand crafting supply vendors.
A sheep and wool festival has a county fair type atmosphere so there are loads of vendors, auctioneering heard over the loudspeaker and multiple food trailers.
100+ Sheep Breeds is an extensive list of sheep breeds with the main characteristics of the breed and the wool.
Fiber Festivals don’t have animals
A fiber festival has fiber vendors and enthusiasts only, no animals of any sort.
Depending upon the festival there may be classes offered, like knitting, weaving or rug hooking.
Fiber vendors have tons of great stuff for sale, as with the sheep and wool show and sale, but there is no auction, prices are all marked on the items.
Sheep and Wool Festival vs Fiber Festival
For me the main advantage of a sheep and wool show and sale over a fiber festival is the animals and fiber side are all at one place.
The sheep and wool show and sale tends to be a bigger event.
There is more to see and a wider variety of participants, since more people attending equals a more successful weekend for the vendors and the sellers.
I’ve tried to be unbiased so far but I have to own up to it now-I love the sheep and wool show and sale!
For me fiber festivals are interesting and fun and I’m always glad I went, but I love love love the sheep and wool show and sale!
I get a huge kick out of seeing all of the animals and it’s not just sheep! There are also alpacas, sometimes goats, and angora rabbits as well.
Fiber Festivals can be in the city
The biggest advantage that a fiber festival has over a sheep and wool festival is that the fiber festival can be held in more locations.
Our local area fiber festival is in the fall in one of the buildings on the fairgrounds, but just one of the buildings.
A sheep and wool show requires much more extensive facilities.
I went to the Mid Ohio Fiber Festival -it was in the middle of a shopping center! Click here to read my article about it.
I had a good time and met some great people (always the case), but that is clearly not a place to have an animal exhibit!
Sheep and Wool Festivals have everything!
From my perspective a sheep and wool show and sale has a very county fair type feel to it.
You will likely see lots of people attending of all ages and backgrounds, vendors from near and far and all kinds of demonstrations.
There are classes both days on fiber related topics like learning how to weave on a floor loom, or beginner and/or advanced rug hooking.
You’ll also see all kinds of livestock, not just sheep: alpacas, angora goats, angora rabbits and a wide variety of sheep breeds, of course.
Generally there are scheduled demonstrations throughout the day like shearing a sheep or needle felting.
The Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Festival has free kids areas with an easy, kid friendly craft to make.
Sheep Exhibitors have a show and sale
Since the sheep and wool festival is held at the fairgrounds there is plenty of space for all the sheep that go through the show and sale.
This year there were 15 breeds shown and sold.
Many of the breed associations have a booth set up with information on their sheep.
Frequently, the individual farms have information and pedigrees for you to look over right next to the sheep that are for sale.
Here is a list of the breeds that were shown and sold this year:
- Tunis-National Show and Sale
- Border Leicester-National Show and Sale, white and natural colored
- Lincolns, white and natural colored
- Merino-National Show and Sale
- Romney, white and natural colored
- Natural Coloreds
- Crossbred/Unregistered-these are club lamb genetics
There are also sheep equipment dealers, selling items like gates or corral systems, and livestock supply stores.
You can stock up on the supplies that you would otherwise have to pay to have shipped, like dewormer or clipper blades. We do!
Many breeds of sheep are sold
These are all sheep breeders who allowed me to film their stock at the Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Show and Sale.
These sheep are shown in a video above. The sheep are shown in the order listed and are right at the beginning of the video.
Boersma Ranch Lincolns
Lincolns are a larger bodied, longwool sheep.
Fleeces are very popular with hand spinners, I found Lincoln wool to be very user friendly and versatile when I tried it out.
Lincolns would also be a a great choice for crossbreeding, they are used to increase the size and hardiness of the flock.
MB Genetics, Inc. Southdowns
Southdowns are known for their meatiness of the lambs.
Looking for an early maturing, forage efficient, compact sire for your next year’s lamb crop? Look into the Southdown.
Rising Sun Cheviots
Cheviots are continually popular with market lamb producers.
They have a distinctive look and are an active sheep.
For our local market the highest priced market lambs for the day are always (really, always), a group of cheviots.
Wilson Border Leicesters
Border Leicesters (pronounced Lester) are known for being docile and having wonderful maternal qualities.
They are known as the “Great Improver” in that the Border Leicester can be crossed with nearly any other breed of sheep to improve the lamb crop.
Merinos are famous for wool quality. Most of the fine woolens manufactured today are made from Merino wool.
As a hand spinner or felter, you don’t get anything better for next to the skin softness.
Merinos are also known for having a long lifespan and maintaining productivity as they age.
Sheep and wool festival has tons of vendors
There are tons of fiber vendors at the festival!
In this group I am also including the people who sell non wool items that fiber enthusiasts would purchase like looms, spinning wheels, knitting needles etc.
The fiber side of the festival continues to grow, this year there were five building of fiber vendors!
If you can think of it, chances are it is there somewhere-just keep looking!
You will see hand spun yarns, hand dyed yarns, felted items, ready to wear/use knitted and crochet items, woven wearables and home decor fabrics, hand made looms, spinning wheels, and shuttles, tons of fleeces for sale, both washed and raw, roving, batting and more.
The best part for me is that I can ask directly to get the details on ideal uses, best ways to prepare and spin the fleece, things to avoid doing, all straight from the source.
These folks have tons of knowledge and will help you pick out what will suit you best and will be able to tell you if what you want to make will work with their creations or if you need to try something else.
Exhibitors share their knowledge
All of these exhibitors listed below are in the video above.
These are wonderfully talented and creative people who can help get you started in the fiber arts.
The video is on the long side, so the time each interview starts is listed in the information below.
Gwen Erin Natural Fibers
Gwen Brown is the owner and fiber artist for Gwen Erin Natural Fibers.
She does all of the fiber selection and dyeing of the yarns herself. Gwen was wonderful to talk with and allowed me to film a great interview.
She explains all of the different yarns and fibers that she offers in her shop and shows some of the fiber and dyeing options that customers have to choose from.
She is incredibly knowledgeable and clearly loves her craft. Gwen’s interview starts at 3:35.
Hooked On Ewe
I missed out on talking to Linda Harwood, the owner of Hooked On Ewe, since she was teaching a class at the time.
I did however get the basics from her daughter, who was handling the booth during the class. As you will see when you watch the video, this is one really talented lady!
Her designs and color choices are truly beautiful. She offers supplies for rug hooking as well as makes commission pieces.
Hooked On Ewe booth tour starts at 12:07.
Maple Row Stock and Wool
Maple Row Stock and Wool is a yarn shop and farm owned by Deb Cline of Colon, Michigan.
She hand spins all of the yarn for sale.
Since I’m a sheep owner and fiber enthusiast, I asked her opinion on what breed of sheep she felt would be best for someone just getting into sheep and wool.
Her answer may surprise you, she suggested getting a crossbred. This way you get the best of both parent breeds in the fleece.
Deb’s interview starts at 14:03.
Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill
Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill is owned by Paul and Carol Wagner of Valders, WI.
Not only do they have yarns for sale, they sell fleeces and quilt batts, all from Coopworth sheep raised on their farm.
They also do custom wool carding.
Carol reminded me that people get four main products from sheep.
Four? Off hand, I could only think of three: meat, wool and milk. I had forgotten about pelts!
Carol’s booth tour starts at 16:13.
Si Suri Alpacas
Si Suri Alpacas, LLC is owned by Carol Korba of Akron, Ohio.
Her booth has all kinds of alpaca items, yarn, little cute animals, ready to wear socks and cardigans, and more.
Carol told me that you can use alpaca for anything that sheep’s wool could be used for, in addition, alpaca is hypoallergenic.
The quality that stands out the most to me regarding alpaca is the beautiful drape of the garments made with it. Carol’s booth tour starts at 18:04.
Ed, the Wheel Healer
Ed, the Wheel Healer, is Ed Rowe from Oberlin, Ohio.
He hand crafts great wheels and makes all manner of other spinning items out of wood.
Years ago Ed drove his wife to a spinning class where he was asked if he could fix something for a lady in the class and his business has taken off from there.
I had a great time talking with Ed and learning about the great wheel. Ed’s interview and demonstration of spinning on a great wheel start at 19:05.
Egill’s Woodstuffs is owned by Chuck Jones of Columbus, Ohio.
He is the craftsman that has hand made all of the Inkle and Rigid Heddle looms displayed in his booth.
These are small table top looms used for making items like belts or table runners and are an easy way to get started in weaving.
He also has weaving cards, shuttles and Andean Plyers. Egill’s booth tour starts at 25:35.
Prairie House Fibers
John and Laura Fulkert are the owners of Prairie House Fibers, which has “supplies for fiber addicts.”
They have weighed and bagged roving, sorted by the animal who contributed the fiber-alpaca, wensleydale sheep or angora or pygora goats.
Prairie House Fibers also has in stock sock darners, drop spindles, dryer balls and more.
Additionally, they have angora and pygora goats for sale as long as they last! Fulkert’s booth tour starts at 26:50.
Conover Workshops is owned by Susan Conover of Middlefield, Ohio.
Susan travels the country giving lectures and teaching at guilds and craft school and offers hands-on workshops in her home studio.
Classes are anywhere from one day to five days in length and are available at multiple times throughout the year.
Susan’s weaving demonstration and booth tour start at 28:37.
Want to learn? Attend the sheep and wool festival
Anyone who wants to learn more about using or producing natural fibers, sheep and the fiber arts would benefit from attending.
Wanting to learn about things like knitting, crochet, weaving? You’ll find attending a sheep and wool show and sale to be a fun an informative adventure.
One of the things I love most about going to events like this is that the people there are so knowledgeable and friendly!
Just ask when you see something that catches your eye!
It is amazing the talent that is all in one place and looking forward to meeting you and sharing some of their insights and experiences.
Sheep and Wool Festivals are at the fairgrounds
Sheep and wool festivals are normally held at a county fairgrounds.
The event is large and needs to have facilities that can handle lots of visitors, vendors and livestock, including the pens and the sale ring area.
Just look up sheep and wool festival on the internet and you will get the events that are closest to you.
These festivals are annual so if you happen to have missed the one in your area for this year, be sure to mark your calendar for next year.
Classes are available-but they fill up fast!
At the Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Festival, the sheep and wool festival that is closest to me, the classes fill up super fast!
Definitely get to looking up the schedule early in the year so you can get your spot reserved!
The festival is always the end of May, classes open up for reservations the first of March.
Here is a list of the classes that were available this year:
- Broomstick lace
- Spinning Dog Fibers
- Intarsia Crochet
- Stranded Knitting: Norwegian to Fair Isle
- Color Filled Spinning with Top and Hand Carded Batts
- Continuous Strand Weaving on a Pin Loom
- Choose and Process a Handspinning Fleece
- Rug Hooking
- Bavarian Twisted Stitch Knitting
- Beginning Spinning-The Next Step
- Curious Creatures-Needle Felting
This is the list directly off of the Great Lakes Fiber Show website- check it out for yourself at greatlakesfibershow.com.
The instructors for each class/workshop are also listed, including a bio from each.
The specific classes change every year, but the topics always cover a wide range of fiber arts.
I took a class a few years ago about continental knitting for beginners.
At the time I was an absolute beginner to knitting and had tried to learn from books but it just wasn’t making sense to me and incredibly frustrating!
I took the class and it made a world of difference! This is still the method of knitting I use today and love it, it’s fast and easy to learn.
Sheep and Wool Festivals are great
If you have the opportunity, please make plans to attend a sheep and wool festival.
Even if you are not really a fiber enthusiast you will be glad you went.
You will see an amazing amount of creativity and talent in person and get an up close look at some great livestock.