Prairie Fibreshed Wool Workshop – written by Cathy Merkley
A Wool Workshop with Dr. Lisa Surber of LM Livestock Services, LLC. was held in Saskatoon at the Albert Community Centre on February 12 and 13. This was the first event organized by the Prairie Fibreshed and was considered a success by organizers and attendees.
There was a full house of 17 attendees from many regions of Saskatchewan which included sheep and wool producers, fibre artists, as well as alpaca and plant fibre producers.
Over the 2-day workshop, Lisa provided excellent information regarding wool production and handling from a commercial production point of view. She was informal in her presentation style and encouraged questions and discussion from the attendees. Topics discussed were sheep breeds owned by the farmers attending, favourite wool garments, where to purchase quality wool clothing, furnishings, carpets and what fleeces are best suited to which end products. On farm management discussions covered breeding selections, feeding methods, shearing methods, and wool handling processes on farm and through the processing chain.
Attendees spent time assessing fleeces in a fleece show setting and had to place the fleeces according to their qualities within the classes. These characteristics include weight, staple length, tensile strength, lock formation, crimp style and lack of contamination and second cuts. Students practiced assessing fineness of various fleeces and samples which led to Lisa setting up her fibre diameter testing equipment and talking the students through the information provided by the test and its application in breeding programs and on shearing day.
Students also examined a typical set of fleeces received at Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd. We looked at good quality, well prepared fleeces as well as fleeces that would be a challenge for Wool Growers to market because of contamination from dung, skin, mud, vegetation, paint, and twine. We looked at fleeces brought by individuals and discussed the various breeds’ qualities, preparation, and end use. Lisa had several roving, yarn and textile samples to tie the discussions all together. There were also examples of huacaya and suri alpaca fleeces during the demos.
It was super fun learning to pick up and toss a whole fleece onto the sorting table. There is definitely a knack to doing that well!
The organizers of the event provided excellent lunches and snacks and did a great job putting together this very worthwhile event. A big thank you goes out to the organizers and sponsors.
The workshop was supported by Fibershed, Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd., and Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board.