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Spinning Workshop at Shady Grove Farm in North Carolina

by Sally Bernstein

Eight Romney sheep and one Angora goat named Cindy graze peacefully on a small farm in Apex, North Carolina, about 45 minutes from Raleigh, the state capital. Spinner Judy Tysmans teaches spinning workshops at her farm to those interested in learning the old art form of turning soft fleece into warm clothing. Class members also design their own yarn in order to prepare gifts for others or use themselves.

Most interesting to me is the spectacle of the sheep wearing their bells and brightly colored coats (to keep the fleece clean) grazing in the lush pasture. We examine the loose fleece, sheared once a year (twice for the angora goat), then very carefully cleaned ("skirted") to improve its quality. Observing the entire process--from sheep shearing, to skirting the fleece, to spinning the wool, and then to creating warm clothing--is very educational and a good time.

The weekend workshops have Saturday sessions from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. These include five meals, some with home-made breads (we were treated to homemade gingerbread and fudge, both with nuts). You can spend the night for an additional fee. Beds are available but it is best to bring towels, boots, or old shoes for outside (to assist with the sheep), and slippers for inside. Bedrolls are optional.

Topics covered in the two-day weekend workshop are: history of the craft, preparation of fleece, skirting, scouring, drying, storing, carding, combing and blending of fibers. Learning to use the spinning wheel includes an explanation of parts, terms and actually spinning exotic fibers on several different styles of spinning wheels.

Judy also teaches knitting classes on the farm and offers a Saturday and a weeknight spinning class for $70, plus $10 for the kit.

Prices are $172 for the two-day weekend workshop for those who spend the night, $122 for those who do not. Weeknight classes are $122 for six two-hour classes. Judy is glad to send directions.

Throughout history sheep have performed the double duty of feeding and clothing mankind. Wool is the premier clothing fiber of all time (www.sheepusa.org), and to see how its been gathered and used for centuries is awesome.

And remember "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina . . ."
Judy and Dirk Tymans
12505 Holly Springs Road
Apex, North Carolina 27502

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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