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Fleece to Shawl competition at PA Farm Show

Leah Martin at the Fleece to Shawl competition, PA Farm Show with her team's shawl
Leah Martin at the Fleece to Shawl competition, PA Farm Show with her team's shawl
M. Martin

The East Berlin Bountiful Bobbins were one of five teams participating in the PA Farm Show's Fleece to Shawl Competition this past Wednesday . The team, which is part of the East Berlin Fiber Club of the Adams County 4-H, sent 6 team members to the show to compete.

The girls who participated, Nicole Benkert, Dorothy Marquet, and homeschoolers Leah Martin, Careena Emrich, Rachel Stoner and Daisey Bresnin, have prepared for this event over the past year. Meeting monthy at The Mannings Handweaving School and Supply Center, these girls, ages 10-17, have had the opportunity to learn various handcrafts such as drop spindle spinning, Japanese braiding and tatting, in addition to carding, spinning and weaving wool.

Earlier this year each member chose one project to work on to submit to the South Mountain Fair. They also participated in a variety of demonstrations around the area including the Dillsburg's Farmers Fair, East Berlin Colonial Days, Alpaca Day and more.

Their preparation culminated this week at the Fleece to Shawl competition. They had three hours to convert a raw fleece into a finished shawl. They were judged on the cleanliness, condition, luster and crimp of the fleece; the ability of the spinners to maintain uniformity of the yarn; and eveness and accuracy in the weaving. The design counts for a large portion of the final score: originality of design, difficulty of the weave, color coordination between the warp and weft, softness, "drape-ability", and execution of the fringe. Speed was also a factor.

The East Berlin Bountiful Bobbins had a "Garden" theme in their shawl formed from the brightly colored warp of the loom in bright yellows, blues and greens of nature's flowers interwoven with the earthy tones of the natural colored fleece. Rachel was the carder; Nicole, Leah and Careena were the spinners; Daisy was the weaver and Dorothy was an alternate. The pattern of their shawl was a Fibonacci arrangement, a recurring pattern in nature known as the Golden Ratio.

When asked why this activity is an important one, Sue Martin, Leah's mother said,"the girls are learning skills that could become a lost art--I think that's important. [This program] is valuable because Leah is learning skills I can't teach her at home. They have experts available and speakers come and do demonstrations or talk about different aspects of fiber art."

This was the first time in this competition for Leah, Rachel and Dorothy. How did Leah like it? "Leah really enjoyed competing and the excitement of being televised. She was tired by the end," said Mrs. Martin. The Bountiful Bobbins came in 2nd place and their shawl sold for $400 at auction.

Any homeschooler interested in joining this kind of club is encouraged to contact the 4-H office in their county.


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