Fun With Sheep
Online editor Kathie Gartrell recently learned the virtues of natural fibers at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.
As a novice knitter who has recently taken up the craft, I was excited to attend the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend, the largest and longest-running show of its kind in the U.S. Held at the Howard County Fairgrounds, just west of Baltimore, the annual festival is a showcase for hundreds of vendors who sell hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn. You can even buy your own spinning wheels… and sheep.
Amid the barns and tents filled with yarn and wool roving (the raw material used to spin into yarn) were several pens with llamas, alpacas, and angora rabbits. Sheep of all sizes and breeds were shown in the sheep ring. But the crowd favorite was the sheepdog demonstration, where Nancy Cox Starkey and Mark Soper showcased their hardworking border collies. The dogs directed five hapless sheep through a series of patterns, including a figure eight around two cones.
Traveler photo editor Carol Enquist and I just started knitting earlier this year, so we were a little overwhelmed at all the yarn choices at the festival–merino, bluefaced leicester, cormo–but senior editor Sheila Buckmaster, a knitting pro, met us there and gave us good advice on what kind of yarn and patterns to buy.
Sheila introduced us to Linda Cortwright, publisher and editor of Wild Fibers magazineWild Fibers magazine, who had a booth in one of the barns. The magazine is participating in the U.N. International Year of Natural Fibres by joining in an effort to create the world’s longest scarf. As a fundraising project to help Heifer International
raise $250,000, everyone who participates is asked to donate $1 for each row she knits, or $10 per inch. Donations for a five-foot section are enough to buy five sheep for needy families around the world. Carol and I happily picked up some needles and joined several other women at the booth who were knitting portions of the scarf for the cause.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is held every year during the first weekend in May. If you missed it this year, catch one of the other state festivals. Here are a few: Iowa, June 13-14; Wisconsin, September 11-13; Vermont, October 3-4; and New York, October 17-18.
Photo by Carol Enquist.