Sheep to Shawl

Marcy Petrini



This past Saturday the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild held a Sheep to Shawl at the Mississippi Craft Center.

Ours is not the traditional Sheep to Shawl competition, where teams race against each other to determine who can finish first, going from fleece just shorn to a woven shawl (while maintaining good craftsmanship). Our guild is too small for that. But we set up stations for every step of fiber production so people can learn what it takes to go from animal to garment. Sheep are shorn outside on the front lawn, twice, at a preset time, for the benefit of the public and especially children who otherwise may not have the opportunity to see a shearing.

There are also outside stations for washing wool and dyeing; carding, spinning, weaving, knitting and crocheting are inside on the ground floor of the Great Hall. There are signs that explain each step in details for people to read; and we provide flyers that people can take, each describing spinning, weaving and knitting.

Still, I do wish we could show all of the steps in dressing the loom and weaving because some take away the wrong impression: they think that all there is to weaving is throwing the shuttle. I have had people being disappointed when taking our weaving class because they thought they would just weave, they didn’t wonder how those threads got to the loom. While demonstrating weaving in the past, I have had people actually ask me “where do you buy a machine with all those threads on it?” And I have had knitters say how much easier weaving is, since all I have to do is throw the shuttle for a complete row, while in knitting they have to work every stitch. Clearly more education is needed.

There is also a children’s art station where the little ones can make something to take with them. This year was Gods’ eyes. Some weavers are generous enough to allow children and adults to weave on their looms.

This year I spun. I keep several of my spinning wheels in the fiber studio for teaching, which is on the second floor of the Craft Center. So I took one of my wheels down for the event. At the end of the day, I brought it back up. As I was coming down the glass staircase back to the Great Hall, I stopped dead on my tracks at this sight:

This little girl was so wrapped up in her work, checking to make sure she had the right treadles, and then carefully throwing her shuttle, while weaving on Guild member Debbie Stringer’s loom.

I stood there and watched. It made the day worthwhile.


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