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Tuesday evenings, 7 - 9 p.m., September 11 - October 16, 2007, at Esoterica in historic downtown Leesburg, VA.

Finally, we have a convenient location for a group class!

Learn the basics of handspinning wool yarns using hand spindles and spinning wheels. The 6 week series will provide a hands-on introduction to handspinning techniques, fiber characteristics, and the basics of fiber preparation. Students will make a basic hand spindle (yours to keep) and use instructor-provided spinning wheels in class. Spindle materials, fiber for class practice and “homework” are included. Additional fiber and gorgeous hand-turned drop spindles by Bill Hardy will be available for purchase at Esoterica.

Full course registration is $80, or $15 per class for drop-in students.

Register through Esoterica via web or phone.

Class Syllabus:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 – Intro to Handspinning: Basics of yarn and how spinning works, basic spinning terminology, make personal hand spindle, and “give it a whorl.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 –Woolen vs. worsted yarns: fiber preparation methods and drafting techniques. Drafting and controlling twist. More hands-on spinning.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 – Types of hand spindles, selecting hand spindles for specific yarns. Hands-on spinning.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 – Wheel basics. Wheel types, anatomy of a spinning wheel, hands-on introduction to spinning on a wheel. More hands-on spinning with hand spindle.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 – To ply or not to ply, “S” and “Z” twist. Plying. Hands-on spinning with wheel and hand spindles.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 – Fiber selection and preparation. Intro to exotic fibers. More wheel spinning and hand spindle spinning.

It seems like only last week we were bringing lambs home from the Fair and starting breeding season, including acquiring new llamas. Then we went through the holidays in a blaze of frenetic activity, started having lambs, dealing with 2 weeks of ice (and lots of falls on same), more lambs, a couple of veterinary crises, more lambs, keeping up with the farmers market, more lambs, replacing fence lines, and so on. It's been really busy around here. Here's the photographic overview:

 
First, the new llamas (L-R): Rocky, Simon Templar, and Merriweather. Lots of luscious fiber, and wonderful new guardians to protect the sheep when we split the flock into separate breeding groups.
 
And so, here's a close-up of Rocky (who has quite a fan club).
 
And Simon Templar, who is ridiculously popular, because he is such a love-llama and has that exquisite Suri fleece.
 
And no one on earth has been able to resist these lovely eyes....
 
On to lambing season. Remember Anne, our reserve champion wool ewe lamb for 2006? Well, here she is with Rosie, our firstborn lamb for 2007. And Rosie is lovely!
 
Then Titania surprised us with triplets on the coldest night/morning of the year, out in the middle of the open, wind-swept field (it figures). We spent the rest of the morning thawing lamb popsicles to keep them alive and get them going (I was lying on the kitchen floor wrapped in blankets with all 3 lambs hugged to my body, working to get them to where we could give them essential colostrum and milk from mom). In the afternoon, all 3 lambs were peacefully snoozing next to their watchful mom.
 
And, of course, there are more lambs. Eowyn and Galadriel are adorable in their 3-day old newness:
 
 
 

There's always way too much to do in way too little time to get ready for the Loudoun County 4-H Fair, but somehow we all manage to fit everything in (with the help of family). But sometimes it really all pays off in the end: this year Willow Hawk Farm lambs and our 4-H members staked a definite claim: Champion Wool Ram, Reserve Champion Wool Ram, and Reserve Champion Wool Ewe (for non-ownership classes).

Congratulations and our most sincere thanks to all our 4-H members for a fabulous year - the journey was truly the reward for us.

Checkout the photos below and cheer on our 4-H winners and their lambs!

Henry is our 2006 Loudoun County Champion Wool Ram - a really fine dude (in spite of the fact that he insisted on placing his feet incorrectly for this photo). Henry first won his class to become the Champion Yearling Wool Ram, then competed against the Champion Spring Ram Lamb (Zeus) to take the title. Henry is sired by Blake (Delaine Merino) and his dam is Cabbie (Merino x Finn-Lincoln). Henry was shown by one of our senior 4-H members.
 
Meet Anne (the sheep), the 2006 LCF Reserve Champion Wool Ewe. Anne's dam is Lizzie (a Finn-Lincoln cross) and her sire is Winter Warlock (a registered Romney). To climb the championship ladder, Anne placed as Champion in the Fall Wool Ewe Lamb class to qualify to compete against the Champions in all Wool Ewe classes. She came in second to a true winner Spring Wool Ewe Lamb from Mill Creek Farm who went on to take Reserve Champion Ewe Lamb. We're very pleased with Anne's placing, thanks to our dedicated 4-H senior. Way to go, ladies!

And then there is Zeus, the 2006 Reserve Champion Wool Ram, shown by one of our first year 4-H non-ownership members! Zeus had to first compete in the Spring Ram Lamb class; then he was pitted against Henry (our yearling wool ram seen above) to secure his place - rough competition! Go Zeus (and A.S. and Mom)! Interesting lineage note: Zeus is also out of Cabbie (like Henry) and is sired by Winter Warlock (like Anne); Cabbie is out of Lizzie (like Anne) - maybe we're on to something, here.

So, how did they get to the winners' circle? In addition to the gene pool noted above, there were many work sessions at our farm learning basic sheep care and halter training their project lambs, there was an intense final week or so of preparations for the fair where the whole family got involved. Check out the sheep beauty parlor in action:

 
Please, not "high and tight" - I'm a girl! But I want to show that dainty Finn frame and legs, and get down to the white wool. Quite a challenge for our 4-H groomer, who is very adept with the scissors.
 
Some things just require teamwork, like cleaning up and trimming around Poseidon's sensitive (and rather in need of a major cleanup) areas. This task took a couple of days - it's a guy thing.
 
While Henry's 4-H exhibitor assisted in Poseidon's cleanup, "Mom" took a rest break with Henry.
 

And then Fair week began with the transport caravan to haul sheep, hay, grain, grooming equipment, miscellaneous supplies, and, of course, our 4-H-ers. Here we are arriving at the fairgrounds, where the sheep beauty parlor reopens with renewed fervor, after viewing the competition (keep scrolling).

Here, we're waiting for everyone to assemble to unload the sheep:

 
The only time in the whole year we had all our 4-H-ers, their project lambs, and me with a camera in the same place - although a couple of lambs seem a bit camera shy. Next stop, Fairground Suites.
 
After check-in. Yes, the competition is much cleaner and more perfectly coiffed. How many bottles of QuickSilver do we have? It's going to take at least two to fix Henry's backside. And we only have 24 hours to get him dry - and he's in full fleece! Yikes!!!
 
Two hours later, Henry is visibly whiter, but also wetter and in need of some blocking. The clock is ticking! But, as you already know, the payoff was worth the angst. What a makeover! And such calm and deliberation by his 4-H exhibitor!