Master Spinner and Weaving classes at Olds College have been fun and invaluable! However, my understanding of wool was forever changed when I took the Wool Judging Certification. Learning to evaluate a fleece by “the degree of fault” in each category of specific fibre characteristics has increased my love of the everyday lives of sheep. I recently took level 1 Wool Grading. There are so many uses for wool, and every grade of it has value and a use. As a wool grower, more knowledge helps me focus on things that will affect my sheeps’ quality of life and their wool like genetics, health, physical environment and weather, feeding methods, food quality, stressors, contaminants, etc.
Introducing Val Fiddler, in her own words:
In the fall of 2004, a little flock of 20 Corriedale ewes and 2 rams came to us at Newland Ranch near Webb Saskatchewan. Life as we knew it would never be the same! The following spring after the first shearing, I wanted to keep the wool rather than send it to the Canadian Cooperative Wool Co-operative. Sending it away would mean that after it was graded, it would be put on the world market to be exported in a big, homogenized boatload. However as a fibre artist, I had always dreamed of limitless amounts of wool! This was it. I took the leap into wool and have never looked back.
Nothing stays the same, and our first little flock have evolved and become two groups. A flock of tiny Black Welsh Mountain sheep help me with yard work (they are wonderful lawn mowers and tree pruners). And a spinners flock – the original Corriedales have retired but their daughters’ daughters are here, along with their offspring from crossbreeding programs with Romney, Rambouillet, Shetland, Columbia, Dorset, Clun Forest,North Country Cheviot, Blue Faced Leicester, Cotswold, and Lincoln. I usually have about 150 fleeces of my own to skirt and evaluate after shearing. Friends sometimes bring fleeces over to be skirted too. There’s never a dull moment. Every fleece has merit and is dear to my heart when its on the skirting table!
Thanks to Val for sharing this story. Look for her and her fleeces in the vendor market and be sure to welcome her to the Manitoba Fibre Festival!