Sheep and Woolcraft Fair Connects Visitors with Local History, Animal Husbandry, and Fiber Art

Annual Sheep and Woolcraft Fair Connects Visitors with Local History, Animal Husbandry, and Fiber Art

Want to learn how to dye wool with Kool-Aid or make a needle-felted fairy? Perhaps you’ve never seen sheep dogs in action or can’t tell a Cotswold from a Corriedale? Indulge your curiosities by attending the annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair this Memorial Day weekend!

You may sing your children songs about them and count them when you’re falling asleep, but did you know about sheep’s important role in our history and everyday lives? The first viable flock of domesticated sheep arrived in the colonies in 1609, and shortly thereafter a small but strong wool industry was up and running. Landowners built stone walls to corral their flocks (you probably have come across these in your wanderings!) and colonists even cleared the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket so they could be used for sheep storage. The colonies were so successful in their maintenance of flocks and production of wool that the British government eventually banned colonial wool exports to lessen competition with their own wool markets. This act was one of several that incensed colonists and led to the Revolutionary War. Sheep playing a role in our fight for independence? Absolutely! Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Celebrating Local Culture Through Sheep & Wool

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: April Segment
Celebrating New England Culture Through Sheep & Wool

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal host, Ashley Kohl, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Thursday, April 23, 2015, highlighting community-based resources and events that use sheep and wool as a lens for learning about our local culture and history.  Sienna and Ashley talk about events and activities families can access to support learning this time of year as it relates to our cultural heritage and learning connections with sheep and wool:

In the early spring, New England history and culture come alive with the arrival of newborn lambs and the shearing of sheep for the production of wool. The wool industry has strong ties to western Massachusetts, with annual events that celebrate our historical past and other events which showcase modern day shepherds and their flocks.  Discover local events and resources that make connects and support learning in our post, New England Culture & Learning Through the Lens of Sheep & Wool.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be Thursday, May 28!

New England Culture & Learning Through the Lens of Sheep & Wool

Sheep & Wool: Catalysts for Community-Based Education in Western MA

In the early spring, New England history and culture come alive with the arrival of newborn lambs and the shearing of sheep for the production of wool. The wool industry has strong ties to western Massachusetts, with annual events that celebrate our historical past and other events which showcase modern day shepherds and their flocks.

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Four community events take place this spring that are rich in learning opportunities! Baby animals, history, animal husbandry, and even fiber arts, are all great catalysts for learning through community engagement at these annual events: Read the rest of this entry »

Land of Lanolin: 5 Ways to Learn About Sheep & Wool this Spring

Honor Your Woolies

It is quite possible that you have on a wool sweater, right now! You might even buy sweaters from consignment shops to make cute little wool pants for your toddler. Thank goodness for sheep, farmers, and wool. We would all be colder without them.

In the next few months, you might be able to put your woolies away until next winter. What better way to commemorate the event than to spend time with sheep? Farmers around Western MA will free their sheep from the hairy locks that bind them and allow their skin to feel the glorious sun shine.

Here’s a sheep shearing demo from a previous season at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA:

Sheep shearing is a great opportunity to learn about animals and textiles. It is also a great excuse to visit a local farm! To follow is a rundown of what is happening in the land of lanolin this spring (and late winter) in Western MA:

  • Shearing Day at Winterberry Farm, in Leverett will be on Saturday March 10, from 9:30-4:30: With only a couple of weeks left of winter, the sheep will be shorn! Actual shearing is from 10:30am-12noon. They will shear 30 sheep this year, as there were no losses to coyotes! There will be great food, lots of music and gorgeous wool in many forms. There will also be fiber and herding demos, sheep and angora rabbits, goats, poultry and a llama named Sam. There is no charge- but contributions to the farm scholarship fund cheerfully accepted. If you just want to buy fiber, come by on Sunday March 11 from 2-4pm. Winterberry farm is located at 21 Teawaddle Hill Road in Leverett, MA. For more information, visit www.winterberryfarm.org. (DONATION)
  • The 39th Annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair, at the Cummington Fair Grounds, will take place on Saturday, May 25th and Sunday, May 26th from 9am-4pm: This event has it all! There will be fiber and woolcraft vendors, sheep shearing demonstrations, sheep dog trials, fiber and woolcraft workshops for adults and children, sheep shows, a fleece show and sale, a fleece to shawl competition and food booths. It is sponsored by The Pioneer Valley Sheep Breeders Association, the Massachusetts Federation of Sheep Associations and the Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources.  For more information and map, go to www.masheepwool.org. ($)
  • Sheep Shearing Weekend at Hancock Shaker Village, in Pittsfield MA is on April 27th and 28th from 10am-4pm: In addition to the regular farm activities, the Village’s Merino sheep will be shorn and there will be special hands-on textile demonstration and activities conducted by volunteers from local spinning and weaving guilds. For more information on the event, call 1-800.817.1137 or visit www.hancockshakervillage.org. ($$)
  • Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village will be on Memorial Day weekend, May 25th -27th: The Museum is open from 9:30am-5pm. In addition to all of the learning experiences that are usually at OSV, there will be a full schedule of events, including herding, carding, dying with natural sources, exploring wool from different kinds of animals, knitting, crocheting, and much more.  The schedule of events is at www.osv.org. ($$$)

  • The 10th Annual Sheep to Shawl Festival at Sheep Hill, in Williamstown will be on May 4th and 5th from 11am to 3pm, rain or shine: The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation (WRLF) hosts this great event. It occurs on a beautiful hill, which allows participants a wonderful view of the sheep and the dogs as they move around. There will be food to purchase, activities for children and fiber arts and herding demos. WRLF is located at 671 Cold Spring Road, Williamstown, MA. www.wrlf.org ($)

Don’t settle with wearing a sweater. Learn how to make one!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair this Weekend in the Hilltowns

MA Sheep & Woolcraft Fair 2012

Families can see sheep dog trials, meet sheep and other animal friends, and take part in workshops on everything from wool felting for kids to knitting fair isle patterns, dyeing wool with Kool-Aid to traditional Navajo uses for animal fibers.

Fibers galore!  The annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair takes place this weekend, May 26th & 27th, 2012 at the Cummington Fairgrounds!  This annual event features sheep, of course, as well as other fiber-producing animals, like rabbits and alpacas.  Each day of the event includes exhibits, demonstrations, and workshops for kids, and families can explore and learn about the many different aspects of sheep farming, fiber arts, etc.

Families can learn about local farming and the purpose of non-food producing farms and learn about the cultural significance (and usefulness!) of fiber arts, giving a glimpse into local farm culture!  For more information, visit the fair’s website and schedule at www.masheepwool.org.

Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village During Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village

May 29th-31st, 2010

During Wool Days Celebration at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend, families can meet the new baby animals, watch historical demos, be hands-on, take a boat ride, get crafty and much more.

The sheep at Old Sturbridge Village will get their annual “haircuts” during Memorial Day Weekend May 29th-31st, 2010 as the Village celebrates “Wool Days.” Farmers will shear the sheep, and OSV historians in costume will demonstrate the entire wool textile process, from scouring and carding the wool to spinning, knitting and weaving the handspun wool yarn. Visitors can try hand carding (brushing and de-tangling) the wool, and then learn how the Village’s historic water-powered carding mill does the same job much faster.

When sheared, the OSV sheep each produce about five pounds of wool. They are a heritage breed descended from sheep brought by Spaniards to the U.S. Gulf coast in the 1500s and closely resemble the 19th century sheep breed commonly found on New England farms in the 1830s. Their fleece is soft, and the lanolin in the wool is great for the hands. In fact, shearing is one of the few tasks in the farmer’s year which will actually improve the condition of his hands.

Sometimes sheep farmers in the early 1800s had to deal with the care of lambs rejected by their mothers. The alternative was to feed milk to the lamb by hand unless a foster mother could be found. A lamb raised by hand is called a “cosset lamb,” and probably Mary’s little lamb from the famous poem “whose fleece was white a snow…” was tame because it was being raised by hand.

In keeping with the Wool Days theme, visitors can make a “Wooly Sheep” ornament using wool from the OSV sheep. Also highlighting the weekend is the return of the Old Sturbridge Village stagecoach and boat ride on the Quinebaug River, and old-fashioned Base-Ball games.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. For for information call 1-800-SEE-1830 or visit online at www.osv.org.

Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair This Weekend in the Hilltowns

Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair
Memorial Day Weekend in the Hilltowns

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair on May 29th & 30th, 2010, at the Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington, MA. One of the oldest of all the New England sheep fairs, the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair is a fun and affordable way to spend a day with family and friends discovering one of the oldest industries in the world.

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(Photos credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Shepherds, spinners, weavers, and other fiber artists come from all over the Northeast to demonstrate their skills and sell their handmade fiber products. But the sheep are the real stars of it all, and there will be hundreds of them attending, both meat and wool breeds. They will be joined by a host of other fiber animals, including angora rabbits and goats, llamas, and maybe even a yak or two!

Other festival highlights include sheep dog trials, spinning and weaving contests, a fleece sale, fiber workshops, a shearing service, live music, and workshops for kids (see below). Breakfast and lunch items will be available at the food booth, including the popular lamb bits. Admission is free, however you must pay for parking.

Activity Highlights for Families:

  • Sheep Dog Trials
  • Make Knitting Needles for Kids
  • Learn to Spin for Kids
  • Kool-Aid Dyeing for Kids
  • Needle Felting For Young People
  • Felting Treasure Bags for Kids
  • Tree Branch Loom Weaving for Kids
  • Felted Flowers and Animals for Kids
  • Click here for a full schedule

Sheep to Shawl Festival on May Day to Celebrate New England Heritage

Celebration of New England in the Spring

Sheep to Shawl Festival in Wlliamstown this weekend will focus on historic fleece & fiber. Demos of shearing with traditional tools, carding, pinning and weaving. Sheep herding with boarder collies. Old-time toys and games for the kids. And much more! (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation (WRLF) will host its annual Sheep to Shawl Festival at its Sheep Hill headquarters in Williamstown Saturday, May 1st from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

The festival is a celebration of spring and our New England heritage, with time-honored crafts and artisans, farm animals, and a focus on the region’s historic fleece and fiber industry. For the 7th year, sheep return to Sheep Hill, and the legendary Fred DePaul will spin stories while shearing with traditional tools. Denise Leonard and Kristen Whittle will demonstrate sheep herding with border collies. These amazing dogs will delight visitors as they herd not only sheep but Indian Runner Ducks up the steep meadows of Sheep Hill. Area farms will bring llamas, alpacas and other livestock for viewing and petting, and local farm products for sale. Barnwright Shaun Garvey will demonstrate the traditional building techniques he used to restore the barns at Sheep Hill.

The Green Mountain Weavers & Spinners Guild will demonstrate carding, spinning, and weaving throughout the day. Fiber artists and other local artisans will show and sell their wares. Local artists will be painting En Plein Air and demonstrating their skills at capturing the Sheep Hill landscape.

Volunteers are busy installing a wood floor in the newly renovated Horse Barn in time to open the traditional Soup Kitchen. Children’s activities sponsored by the Williamstown House of Local History will include period costumes for children to try on, and old-time toys and games. There will be fiber-arts crafts and other activities for children and enthusiastic adults.

Read the rest of this entry »

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