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Extreme Crafts: Sheep To Shawl
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Extreme Crafts: Sheep To Shawl

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Extreme Crafts: Sheep To Shawl

Extreme Crafts: Sheep To Shawl
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At a "Sheep to Shawl" competition teams shear a sheep, spin the fleece and weave it into a shawl...all in just a couple hours. The fastest team wins.

ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with Day to Day. You've heard of extreme sports, but how about extreme crafts? One of the more unusual events at today's farm shows is the sheep-to-shawl competition. Teams of people shear sheep, spin the wool and weave it into long, cozy garments in a matter of hours. Jennifer Szweda Jordan attended a recent event at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

(Soundbite of farm show)

Unidentified Announcer: We're, uh, ready to go, so belly up.

JENNIFER JORDAN: This is how sheep-to-shawl begins. Several men brace fluffy sheep between their legs and shave them, bellies first. Viewers are told to stay in the stands, but they huddle around the railing to get a closer look. Abby Appleman is the 26-year-old leader of one team, called Locks to Loom. She likes the - here comes the pun - shear excitement building around the ancient craft.

(Soundbite of electric razor)

Ms. ABBY APPLEMAN (Team Leader, Locks to Loom): This is the NASCAR of sheep shearing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JORDAN: NASCAR, perhaps, without sponsorships or threat of harm. Even the sheep doesn't eke out a baa. But speed is of the essence. Three spinners quickly pedal little wheels that twist the wool into yarn, which then heads to a loom. The weaver tosses a shuttlecock back and forth, pedaling the loom with her feet.

(Soundbite of shuttlecock)

JORDAN: They keep the pace for nearly two hours, but one contestant's husband worries that he doesn't see knots coming out of the loom that would mean the shawl is almost done.

Mr. DAVID SMITH: Last time they practiced, I don't know what the deal was, but they were done in, like, an hour and a half. And they're almost two hours into it now, and I don't see any knots...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMITH: So, I'm getting nervous.

JORDAN: David Smith's worries are unfounded. This team is the first of eight to trim their shawl's fringe and run it over to the judges' table. But Appleman says everything hasn't gone smoothly.

Ms. APPLEMAN: Joanna broke her tension bands.

Mr. SMITH: Yeah, I did see Joanna's wheel malfunctioning.

Ms. APPLEMAN: Yes. Without that band, the wheel doesn't work. So, she got another string out, and she was able to tie a new one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. APPLEMAN: It was tense.

JORDAN: All eyes are on the stage as the eighth, seventh, sixth, then fifth place winners are announced, and then...

Unidentified Woman: Our 4th place team went to Locks to Loom from Northumberland County.

(Soundbite of applause)

JORDAN: Appleman's pleased. She's a middle school teacher, and she wants the contest to be a lesson.

Ms. APPLEMAN: We need to get out here and show people where clothing comes from, where wool clothing comes from.

JORDAN: The team is already preparing for more sheep-to-shawl competitions this summer. And if you want a shawl yourself, save your pennies. At the end of the competitions, they can go for a few thousand dollars at auction. Not bad for a couple hours' work.

For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Szweda Jordan.

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