Last weekend my 6 year old and I took a spontaneous field trip out to Lake County to visit the FarmPark. Only 30 minutes east of Cleveland, the FarmPark is a gem for city-slickers like myself! It’s a place where you can see a working farm in action, and learn about the almost-lost arts of bee-keeping, maple syrup sugaring, and this weekend, all things wool.
I was excited to see the spinning, weaving, and knitting demos, and little girl was excited to see and touch the wool of alpacas, sheep, silk, and even n0n-conventional fibers like bamboo. Little did we know that there would be so many great things to see and do for both of us!
We started off in the visitor’s center, where we got lost for a good hour taking in the hooked rugs. Since I’ve only done the kind of rug-hooking that involves pre-cut yarn pieces and printed mesh, it was wonderful to learn about how artists dye their own wool from the bolt (or buy it commercially), cut strips, draw patterns onto linen (or again, buy commercially printed pieces) and then carefully pull loops of wool through the linen to create patter and texture. My breath was taken away by some of the lovely rugs we saw!
As part of the program, they even let my B try her hand at rug hooking! (She certainly takes after momma in that she loves to try every craft she comes across.)
In this same area, we found some wonderful vendors and my eye was caught immediately by gorgeous wool felt flowers that were fastened to headbands, brooches, and hats. Lucky for me, the artist & author Nan was there and was happy to tell me that she has a new book coming out at the end of July 2011- and even asked me to review it! (Look forward to that in early fall.)
We headed down to the field early in the day to watch Maddie the Border Collie herd her flock- and then we ducked into the arena barn to see the carding, spinning, and weaving demos. Oh….and wool roving, yarn, and finished goods that made me absolutely drool.
There was a children’s activity area here, too- and B had her choice of weaving a pot holder or learning to spool knit on….wait for it…. a toilet paper tube, craft sticks, and tape! (By the way, I found a great tutorial online by Denise of Knitting Without Needles if you want to try this at home with your kids.) In no time, she had knitted about 6 inches of cord and fashioned it into a bracelet. What a great experience!
After more walking, gawking, and drooling, we migrated to the sheep-shearing area for a demonstration of how they use electric clippers and the Australian method to calm the sheep and shear it. I was surprised when they asked if anyone wanted to try shearing….and more surprised when B raised her hand.
And that is how my daughter sheared her first sheep!
In this same area, they were carding, spinning, and weaving wool from the “rainbow sheep”- a sheep, that YES, was dyed into a rainbow. Come to find out they use Kool-Aid to spray on the wool, which they then follow with vinegar to act as a mordant and make the color set. That must have been a fragrant day….grape Kool-Aid and vinegar? Meh.
Anyway, a lovely day was had by all, and I couldn’t help come home with some dyed wool and alpaca roving and curls. I don’t know what it’s going to be just yet….but for now I’m just happy with a great field trip and a crafty souvenier.
If you are anywhere near North East Ohio for next summers’ event, you MUST come…and drop me a line, I’ll meet you there!