State fair entries, 2002
It is a Sunday evening, after a very long weekend, doing the state fair. I am not really done with the fair yet, next week I will go again, to play on the midway, and maybe hear a free concert. But that is all for fun, now that the hard working part is done.
Last Sunday was the deadline for any entries for the fair. I dread deadlines, but use them to get some things done. And this deadline got me to complete skeins of yarn, as well as a knitted project.
There are an amazing number of categories for any thing you can imagine handmade in the fair. The book of all the categories is at least 2 inches thick. This state fair is not just your young farmer pulling a calf around a show ring, although that still happens too. Categories now include all the hand and machine made needle crafts, doll houses, homemade wine and beer, hand made baskets, flower arrangements, completely decorated Christmas trees, photos, artwork, jams and jellys, single cut roses, and bunches of exotic flowers, plates of any fruit or vegetable you can imagine, tobacco plants dried, tobacco plants growing in a pot, bales of hay, and last but not least, the ugly lamp contest. Hey, don't knock it, the winner of that gets breakfast free for a year at a local resturant, decorated with, as you may anticipate, many of previous years winning lamps.
So early in the spring, I start thumbing through the categories, using that to get my creative juices going on things to make. By July 1st, the mailing deadline for what one is really entering, reality kicks in, and I have to set 3/4 of the ideas aside for next year. And between July 1st, and mid August, I start working on a deadline mode of mind. Finally the last day to submit entries rolls around, and I pack everything up, all properly tagged and head for the fair grounds. And then wait....until the day the fair opens, so that I can head into the big textile hall, to see what ribbons I have won.
Ah ribbons...a little bit of blue satin, that gives one bragging rights for the next year. One year, it was peach jam, I could say for that year, here, have some peach jam, you know it won first place at the state fair :)
But I digress, for this is after all a fiber blog. And all the entries to the fair this year were in the fiber category, since that is what is my passion these days.
The first group of entries were in the spinning category. There were four sub groups to that. First was a novelty yarn. This was actually the hardest one for me to come up with an idea. I tried out a skein of what I called thrums yarn. This skein was spun from what I cleaned off of my drum carder. It had several types of fiber, and everything went into a bag, and I pulled out handfuls of thrum to spin. I did two bobbins full of that, and plied it. The yarn was really interesting visually. But alas, it weighed in at just 2 oz. That was fine for the skein, but the entry required a swatch also, and a skein between 2 and 4 oz. So there was not enough to swatch, and have an acceptable weight on the skein.
Then I decided I would submit my super bulky 2 ply that I had done with Colonial top. It is a beautiful yarn, and there certainly wasn't any problem with the weight of the skein, even making a 6 by 6 inch swatch. So that was my entry for that category. Result? No placement at all. I suspect the judge did not think, just making a bulky yarn, was truly a novelty, and in all truth I would agree with that. I just had no better ideas at the time.
Second category was to be from the fiber Lincoln Longwool. For this I used the natural grey that I combed and spun and wrote about on this blog on Aug 4th. I said at the time I thought the yarn was average. So I was very surprised to find it had won a first place.
Third category was to be any natural colored wool. I submitted a 2 ply yarn that I had spun from Bluefaced Leichester roving. It was a nice sock weight yarn, and it was given a third place award.
The last spinning category was to be from merino. I figured everyone would do the standard spin it as fine as they could, in white, so I used some natural brown merino roving I had gotten from New Zealand. It was trashy roving, I was stopping and picking out bits of straw all the time, if I could see them. And the yarn was incredibly bouncy! Not really overspun, just lots of bounce. I loved the color, and made the yarn just a little thicker than sport weight. It will be a lovely vest someday, when I spin more. And to my surprise, it got a blue ribbon first also.
In the knitting categories, (all from hand spun yarn) I entered a hat made from kool aid dyed romney, that got a third place. I entered a scarf, that didn't place, and that was no surprise, this was a knit it while practically asleep scarf, and I bet the judge fell asleep from boredom looking at it too.
The only disappointment was a knitted stuff animal bunny that I did out of hand spun angora. Everyone that saw it, responded with a resounding 'ahhh' However it did not place at all. So the cute factor, does not play a part in judging, that's for sure.
That part over and done with last Sunday, I then had to get my fiber on the hoof ready for the fair, in my case, the angora bunnies. This meant grooming, and then on Wed AM taking them into the fair grounds, and getting them settled in their fair cages. Thursday was the big judging day. It is a long day, of long waiting, while keeping bunnies in tip top groom, and then an hour of frantic, shuffling bunnies to the judging table and back to cages, all the while keeping one ear on what the judge is saying about your bunnies.
I took five rabbits, each one in a different category. If it seems there are a mulitude of categories for the other fair entries, so it is true of the animal entries too. There are four breeds of angora rabbits, and in each breed, four categories, like French Sr doe, or French Jr buck, or English Sr buck and so on. The judge wants them in a specific order, and as he/she judges sorts out the ones he wants for higher categores, like best of breed. And all the while we who are doing the bunny shuffling, are trying to keep up with the judge.
Finally it is all over, and amazingly only 25 minutes have passed, and half of the angora categories have been judged, and the judge has decided to break for lunch. We sit, drink lots of cola (it is very hot) and gossip about just why one rabbit was judged the way it was. Suddenly lunch is over, the judge is back behind the table, and we are doing the bunny shuffle again.
I raise two of the four angora breeds. I had five rabbits, in the categories: French, White, Sr buck (took first place) French Sr Colored doe (took first place, and also best of breed) Satin Sr Colored buck (took first place) Satin Jr Colored buck (took 2 place) and Satin Jr Colored doe (took first place)
Oh do I have bragging to do over the next year!
As a final note on the one winning rabbit, the French Sr doe, is a little doe that was born last Feb. She was just over a week old when my husband and I made a trip away from home to visit my parents. While I was there, I got a frantic call from my daughter that was taking care of the rabbits, to say one of the rabbits had come out of the nest, and was very cold, but that she had it in her hands, and it was starting to wiggle again, and just what should she do???? So after making sure she had it good and warm, I told her to put it back in the nest. If the mother doe rejected it, I was no less the loss for trying. But the bunny stayed in the nest and grew, and yes, last Thur not only got a first place, but best of breed. When I called my daughter to tell her, she was so excited, as she said, she had saved a winner.
On Saturday, I spent the day in the bunny barn, often with a rabbit on the lap, spinning the angora yarn from the bunny. The visitors are always amazed, and since I have done this several years now, I am starting to hear repeat visitors, that say, oh look, here's that lady I was telling you about last year, that spins rabbit fur. One day a year, preaching over and over again, that: no, it doesn't hurt the bunny to do that, and yes, the rabbit will just sit there like that for a long time, and no I am not weaving, I am spinning, and it is yarn, not thread, and yes this is what angora sweaters are made from, and no, I won't be making one for anyone very soon. Still I love it when a child touches the rabbit in my lap and their smile gets so big, or when a boy of 8 watches me spin until he has the mechanics of the wheel all figured out, or when a lady comes up to me, and says she has been looking and looking for someone to help her learn to spin. That is what makes me smile as I drive home, tired, and covered with bunny fur (inventory)