Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bradner Flower Show -- Sheep-to-Shawl demonstration

Last weekend the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild spent time at the Bradner Flower Show doing a sheep-to-shawl demonstration.  The fibre we used was actually alpaca, but that doesn't have the same alliteration as sheep-to-shawl, and the idea is the same.

A sheep-to-shawl is a popular competitive event amongst spinning and weaving guilds. Yes, competitive.  You have a clearly defined team, four spinners, one plyer, a weaver and an interpreter.  The interpreter is the person who speaks for the team, answers questions and helps the general public understand what's going on.  The loom is warped ahead of time, but the fibre, while washed, is unprocessed.  The task of the team is to card, spin, ply and weave the yarn into a lovely fabric:  a shawl.  The team scores points for completing their shawl within the timeframe, usually 4 1/2 to 5 hours.  The also get (or lose)points  for the quality of the yarn, the complexity of the weave pattern and the finishing. 

We didn't want to be part of a competetion, but thought that this kind of event would be just the match for the Bradner Flower Show. 

Here's a photo essay of the various aspects of the sheep (alpaca)-to-shawl event.  Below is stage one: after the shearing that is.  This is the carding phase.  This is where we take the fibre shorn from the lovely alpaca, see her photo there?  and card it into fluffy, manageable batts for spinning singles.

This next photo is a shot of one of our guild members spinning the alpaca into a fine single.  The weave pattern for the shawl is a twill pattern with different coloured warp threads, so we wanted the warp and weft yarns to match.  Near her wrist you can see the lovely fluffy, carded fibre.

This is the plying stage.  We take two bobbing of freshly spun singles and ply them into a balanced 2-ply yarn that we can weave with right away. After this is done, the yarn is loaded onto the weaving bobbins and handed to the weaver.

And the weaver weaves.  The cream coloured alpaca matches wonderfully with the purple, green and yellow of the warp yarns.  Making for a wonderful, springtime shawl.

We finished this shawl on day 2 of the flower show and started on a second one.  The second one has a slightly different weave pattern -- still using the twill idea, it is a zig-zag twill.  I am sure there is a better name for that pattern, but I'm not a weaver (yet) so I have to name them as I see them. 

After it's taken off the loom, it will be washed and fulled and the fringe will be twisted.  The completed shawl will be actioned off at the Beyond Fibre -- Annual Artisan's Sale that the Langley Weaver's and Spinner's Guild hosts every year.  This year it's taking place on Saturday, November 3rd and Sunday, November 4th at the Community Hall on Glover Street in Fort Langley BC.  Hope to see you there.