Susan Rex, weaver from the team Loyalhannon Spinners, is credited with asking me back in November about whether I was planning on live-blogging the Sheep To Shawl contest again this year, and single-handedly got me moving toward that goal. She has now graciously provided me with an interview… here it is.
yarnyMarni: How long has your team been together?
Susan Rex: Loyalhannon Spinners has been together for about six or seven years.
yM: How do you train for S2S contests? How many contests do you enter each year?
SR: We have been competing in sheep to shawl contents for three and one half years. This will be our third time competing at the State Farm Show. We also compete at the Waynesburg Sheep and Fiber Fest held in Greene County in mid May. Both contests are fun in different ways. The Waynesburg contest is more relaxed with a longer time period for completing the shawl and it is more of a festival atmosphere with spectators talking to the contestants. Waynesburg only has two groups competing, Butler County Peddlers and Loyalhannon Spinners, although both groups have entered two teams each.
yM: When you’re not shearing/carding/spinning/weaving, what do you all do for a living?
SR: Our team consists of Sandy who owns and operates Twin Springs Farm. She and her husband raise heritage breeds, Shetland sheep and highland cattle. Our other spinners include Cathy Torres who teaches music at Seton Hill College in Greensburg, and Nancy Solinger, an award winning taxidermist who along with her husband operate Solinger Taxidermy. Deborah Hart who is a nurse in the GI lab at Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh is our carder. Chuck Penich is our shearer. He is a machinist and along with his wife and children also have a small farm and raise sheep and cattle. I compete as the weaver and I have a business as a seamstress doing bridal alterations and production work for Zeto Clothing.
yM: What kind of sheep are you shearing for the contest?
SR: We are using a Shetland wether named Gandolf for the State Farm Show. A wether is a neutered male (poor Gandolf). Gandolf is owned by one of our spinners, Sandy Truckner.
yM: How do you decide on the shawl pattern you’re going to weave?
SR: Normally we will get together about six times before the State Farm Show to practice. We discuss our designs and plan the shawl on and off during the year. Our design ideas come from many places and much discussion. We have developed ideas from nature: fall colors, clouds and spring flowers. The last two of our designs have come from the lives of out members. Our shawl last year celebrated the birth of a daughter to one of our team members. The Brahm’s Lullaby design was suggested by our musician, Cathy Torres. The notes of the lullaby were represented by colors of the warp. The value was represented by the number of threads of color. This years design is a tribute to another founding member who died of breast cancer last year.
yM: Please finish the following sentence: “If I wasn’t shearing/ carding/spinning/weaving, I would…”
SR: We all have so many other interests it is hard for me to answer the “what if” question. I bet I could come close if I said that what each of us would be doing would involve animals (dogs, cats, sheep, goats…), fiber, family or friends.