Photography: Fiber Festival

The Fiber Festival takes place every year in Bristol, RI, in May. The farm has horses and a donkey. Coggeshall Farm, that hosts the Festival, is also a museum. It stands as a reconstruction of a farm from the turn of the 18th century.

One of the real draws of the Fiber Festival for me has always been the sheep shearing. They pull the sheep out of the pen, then the farmer, wearing special leather shoes to keep from injuring the sheep, wrestles the sheep onto its back. The sheep won’t try and right itself, or even struggle, if it is on its back, because it knows it can’t. So part of the skill that a sheep shearer develops is the ability to keep the sheep in a state of willful immobility will you manipulate it to take off its wool. The shears are like big scissors, and the wool comes off in a big mass in the rough shape of a sheep.

This year, the festival included a challenge, where spinners had to card and spin the wool coming off the sheep, and then the wool was being woven into a shawl which was being raffled off.

The nice thing about the fiber festival is the way it opens up all the different aspects of the process of taking wool and making something warm and fluffy and wearable out of it. The entire process opens up––how the fibers come off the sheep, how they are turned into yarn, and then how you can manipulate that yarn into something else.

More photos of the farm on Flickr.

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