About Sheep To Shawl
Taken from the 40th annual commemorative program.
Sheep to Shawl
Today, the Sheep to Shawl contest is an annual attraction at the Colonial Highland Gathering. The first Sheep to Shawl contest was held at the 1980 Games. The program from that year introduces the competition ….
This is the first time we have had a Sheep To Shawl Contest at our Gathering. To think that we are re-enacting a tradition established hundreds of years ago is inspiring to say the least. Biblical references, Genesis 31:19 and I Samuel 25, confirm the antiquity and importance of sheep shearing. Shepherds and shearers would meet each spring at a central location to harvest the annual wool crop.
Although no reference is made to spinning or weaving during sheep festivals, it is not unlikely that such practices did take place. Quite naturally, an assemblage of people from distant valleys was sufficient cause for a celebration and a certain amount of competition was bound to occur.
Festivities associated with shearing, spinning and weaving did not achieve the degree of importance in the American colonies that they held in the old country. Game and furbearing animals were so plentiful that the sheep was not so essential to the economy.
Britain’s early commercial history was based on wool. Even today the seat of the Prime Minister is a wool sack, placed there that the country will be ever mindful of the source of its original wealth. To this day, sheep are a mainstay of Scottish agriculture and are indispensable in the production of plaids, pipes and haggis.
To some extent synthetic fibers have displaced wool in the marketplace. However, it should be remembered that no single man-made fiber possesses all the desirable qualities of pure wool. Wool has superior insulating properties, it is light, elastic and stronger than steel of the same fiber diameter
After shearing of the sheep, each team of three spinners and one weaver will receive two pounds of wool. Looms will have been warped prior to the competition. As soon as sufficient spun yarn is available the weaver will begin the shawl.
Shawls must be at least 20” X 80”. They may be woven in any design the team chooses, except plain weave. Teams may use a finishing technique of their own choice on completed shawls. Judging will be based on speed, design and overall appearance.
Reprinted from Colonial Highland Gathering Program June 1, 1974