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North Country Fiber Fair

September 23, 2007

Last weekend I went to the North Country Fiber Fair in Watertown, SD. It was my first. I couldn’t have picked a better one. There were llamas, alpacas, sheep and bunnies, an impressive lineup of workshops, fiber competitions, and a spinning circle. Vendors and shepherds from all over the upper Midwest and Northern Plains offered a tempting array of regional fiber specialties. Me? I succumbed.

My first purchase was a tote, which I soon filled with tools, a spinning book and fiber. My last buy was a handful of luscious goatmilk soaps from Prairie Comforts in my own state of North Dakota. In between came more fiber and an armload of fleeces.


First, the fiber.

Lisa Mendez of Carpool in Chicago (no website) was almost sold out of silk, so I was delighted to score this pair of fraternal twins: handpainted merino and tussah bumps that will ply together into a luxurious yarn.

From the heart of southwestern South Dakota’s wool country, Navajo Churro dyed in sandstone brights by Joy Kammerer of Joy’s Wool Bag in Rapid City (no website). Happily, I remembered seeing a Navajo spindle a few booths back. I raced back and snagged it. Here you see the fixin’s for a bedside rug to warm a winters morning.

Also from southwest South Dakota came a truly rare treat: Teeswater/Cotswold roving.
Marilyn Clark Lucero of Black Hills Woolies in Custer raises these two rare English breeds, and crosses them to produce a fleece which is both lustrous and soft, with a good fiber length for handspinning. I bought a pound of gray/white bicolor at the show, and after spinning up a semi-worsted aran weight sample, I ordered enough more to make a sweater.

Another surprise came from Northeastern SD: airy spinner’s web of half natural brown Wensleydale and half Icelandic dyed with real indigo, plus a little white mohair. Maire McClintic and Kelly Knispel of South Dakota Natural Colored Wool in Groton raised the two sheep and the angora goat that supplied the fiber, and they did the indigo dyeing. They had the fleece processed by a mill which uses an old industrial machine to make clouds of truly randomly oriented fibers. I spun up a little sample, by point of contact drawing from a delicately held tuft. I was so charmed by the spinning and the ethereal wooly yarn it made, that I ordered a whole bunch more.


It wouldn’t be a fiber fair without fleeces.

There were some fine ones at NCFF.

Here is a quick look at the three lovelies that came home with me.

Alpaca from Southeastern North Dakota.

Shetland crosses from Western Minnesota:

A black ewe.

And her snow-white daughter.

I’ll tell you more about them in a future post.

The big shows are rich and overwhelming and truly wonderful, but smaller regional shows are rich in their own way, with personal contact, abundant good cheer, quality fiber, and unexpected treasures.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2007 1:14 am

    Wow, all the fibers are gorgeous but that green merino/silk combo is my favorite!
    Are you going to process the fleeces yourself or send them out?
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. September 24, 2007 7:45 am

    Thanks for the field report. What pretty pictures. Jan is going to spin something that isn’t silk! heehee

  3. Jan permalink
    September 24, 2007 9:13 am

    I’m going to process them myself. I wouldn’t want to miss a minute of the fun. And yes, spin wool–luscious, rough-hewn, lustrous, cozy, caressingly soft, no two fleeces the same–wonderful wool.

  4. September 24, 2007 11:25 am

    lwow, Jan, so much fibery goodness! I wish I could be in your neck of the woods for such a great fiber fair. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

  5. September 24, 2007 12:12 pm

    I am loving the Teeswater/Cotswold! I’ve never spun those, but are they similar to Wensleydale in sheen and staple length? I’m going to a small fiber festival in October (SAFF) and can’t wait to try new blends!

  6. September 24, 2007 12:37 pm

    Ooooooooh. Gorgeous stuff!

  7. Jan permalink
    September 24, 2007 12:50 pm

    It’s finer and softer than the Wensleydale top that is available commercially. She shears twice a year to keep the fiber length manageable. Here are some links with pictures that will melt your heart:
    Teeswater:
    http://www.angelfire.com/wy/teeswater/
    http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/teeswater/index.htm
    Cotswold:
    http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/cotswold/index.htm

  8. September 24, 2007 1:02 pm

    whoa! nice haul 🙂

  9. September 24, 2007 7:01 pm

    I like the teeswater/cotswold, too. Two breeds we just don’t see much of around here. Send me a little snippet, will you?
    You’re going to find that the festivals make the vortex spin faster.

  10. September 24, 2007 7:14 pm

    Ohhh. Teeswater/Cotswold. Wow. Seriously Good stuff. (do I sound like I’m talking about crack?!) I am also excited by basically everything else you purchased! This must have been a very nice small festival. Wish I could come over and play–just touching it all would be great!

  11. September 24, 2007 10:56 pm

    I so agree with you about the small fiber festivals. You found some real treasures in South Dakota!

  12. Beverly permalink
    September 25, 2007 1:13 pm

    Just dropped in to to ogle your fleecy p0rn…lovely. Wish the temps here in E. TN. would drop to a more conducive number (92 F today) for fiber loving.

  13. Sam permalink
    September 26, 2007 11:16 am

    Jan, that’s a feast for the eyes! It looks like you had a wonderful time, and you have some gorgeous fiber and tools! Mmm…fiber envy… 😉

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