Valley Ford Wool Festival

Today I attended the Valley Ford Wool Festival at the Valley Ford Wool Mill.  I have driven through Valley Ford hundreds of times on the way to Bodega Bay but never noticed the Wool Mill.  This weekend was there 2nd Annual Wool Festival and it was fantastic!  I learned so much and got to see the whole process that wool goes through from the sheep to the final product.  So many wonderful people and Ariana is a wealth of knowledge.  She comes from five generations of horsemen and married a fourth generation sheep farmer.  They have a son who just completed shearing certification and gave a great demonstration on sheep shearing.  I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Of course he made it look very easy but it is labor intensive for sure and you really need to know what you’re doing.  Below are some photos from the day.

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The special shoes that the shearer wears are made of wool. They’re like slippers. The reason they use these is because of the lanolin in the sheep’s coat. Makes for a slippery surface. These work better than shoes for keeping traction and freedom of movement.
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For expert shearers it takes from 45 seconds to 2 minutes to shear one sheep.
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Wool straight off the sheep. This was from a Dorset sheep which is primary what Ariana and Casey raise.
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The sheep are sheared twice a year and when their coat is about three inches long. If one gets missed during a shearing the wool can sometimes become felted right on the sheep.

            

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The shearing done correctly will end with the wool all coming off in one piece. This was amazing to see. Each shearing on average weighs 7-8 pounds.
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In shearing the first shearing is graded A. Anything after that is AA for better than A and then B etc. for less quality than A. White is the most common which actually looks more creamy up close. Colors are harder to come by. White is raise more so it can be dyed.
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Karen here is showing some silk worms. Yes, they are really used. She was selling silk worm cocoons and even jewelry made from them. Karen gave me some instruction on drop spindle spinning. I’ve always wanted to learn and decided this was as good as time as any to learn. She’s a great teacher and teaches spinning classes in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. Very nice lady.
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A yurt made completely of natural fibers, mainly wool. Inside were clothing and wall hangings made completely by organic means. Really interesting.

This is just a sampling of the day.  I’ll do another post in a couple days about the Wool Mill tour and that process.  I wish I could spend a week just living a breathing wool.

BTW, as we were touching the freshly shorn wool it was really interesting to see the crimp in the wool and also come away feeling like I had just put lotion on my hands.  The lanolin is so heavy on the wool it just comes off on your hands.

Well, as I always say, Stitch On!  Maybe with some nice Dorset Wool.

~Tracy

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