The "Sheep to Shawl" competition at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is an event where each team of five, with a designated shearer, three spinners, and a weaver, work together to shear a sheep, card the wool, spin it into yarn, and weave a shawl within a span of three hours. It's described as both "cut-throat competitive" and "warm and fuzzy."
Preparation is the secret to success, says Margie Wright, team captain of The Fidget Spinners. She spent months looking for the perfect sheep for her team. "The hard part is finding a sheep that's not too greasy," she explains.
Because the competitors are spinning wool that hasn't been processed, it still has lanolin in it. This makes the wool greasier and more difficult to spin, so the ideal is finding a sheep with less lanolin to begin with. The teams also spent hours getting their looms ready for weaving. Wright explains this can take as long as seven hours to do.
The competition was not solely judged on the teams' weaving skills. Factors such as their team theme, costumes, and overall quality of the shawl were also considered. This year, each team exhibited an enthusiastic effort to score points, with the "Quaker Bakers," a high school team, baking rainbow cupcakes matching their rainbow-themed shawl, the "Fidget Spinners" adopting an "I Love Ewe" theme, and "Mutton but Trouble" donning crocheted acorn hats for a squirrel theme.