Fiber Festival Time And What I Learned

Well, way too much time has gone by since my last entry. No excuses, but life happens. Since the end of April, I had the privilege to weave on a Fleece to Shawl team for Loyalhannon Spinners of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. In the past, I’ve been one of the spinners, but I’ve absorbed the role of weaver from our usual weaver who suffered a stroke last Fall (see the Farm Show entry).

This festival, in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, allows the teams to bring a shorn fleece, rather than a sheep and a shearer. It’s easier on the teams, for sure.

This year, our team decided to recognize Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “Starry Night” as our theme (we heard there would be some kind of eclipse this summer, as the original inspiration).

I chose some colors of Harrisville Shetland wool that seemed to represent some of the colors in the painting, and then designed warp stripes that would resemble the painting a bit. To give it an added element, I used a Fibonacci sequence in placing the threads and a weaving draft that reminded me of stars (goose-eye twill).

We wove with a black Shetland fleece to create the black diamonds.

It was a fun day and I think we turned out a nice, light-weight shawl.

Typically, shawls produced at these competitions are heavy, more like blankets more suitable to wear in some polar climate. I thought it would be different to try to make a shawl that was light-weight and more easily worn in our own more temperate, northeast United States climate.

What I learned from the experience is that public expectation plays a big part in what is successful. Our shawl didn’t look as big and robust as the other shawls in the competition, and wasn’t as well received by the judges or the people bidding on it at the auction.

The product off the loom was not its finished state.

It looked like window screen, way too open, and apparently too unlike what people expect a shawl to look like.

I completely agree. It needed to be wet-finished, where it’s yarns would open and full (controlled felting) into a cohesive fabric.

So, the moral to the story is: perhaps there is a good reason why these shawls at competitions look the way they do. People see them right off the loom, and if they don’t look like a finished product, it’s asking too much to ask them to imagine what it WILL look like some point in the future. The team still had a good time doing the competition, and I learned something from the experience.


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