SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- During Sheep-to-Shawl at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, visitors will get a firsthand look at how the manor’s 18th-century residents would have created textiles from wool gathered during spring sheep shearing.
Interpreters dressed in period costume demonstrate the process, from shearing using hand shears to preparing the wool for spinning and weaving. Sheep-to-Shawl takes place this year from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17.
Here are the steps to sheep shearing that the interpreters will go over:
- Shearing: Cutting the wool off the sheep with hand shears that look like a big pair of scissors. The goal is to remove the wool in one piece. The process does not hurt the sheep.
- Skirting and sorting: Choosing the usable wool and discarding the unwanted pieces.
- Washing (the only step not demonstrated at Sheep-to-Shawl): Soaking/scouring in hot soapy water and rinsing three or four times to remove lanolin oil and heavy dirt.
- Picking: Pulling apart the fibers, which releases small debris such as grass, straw, twigs and even bugs. Picking is one of the first jobs a child can do -- as young as 3 or 4 years old.
- Carding: Brushing the fibers to remove the tangles and align the wool in a uniform direction. Carding produces what’s called a rolag, or small roll, that is ready for spinning.
- Spinning: Twisting the wool fibers so that they form a single strand of yarn. Interpreters will demonstrate two methods: drop spindle and spinning wheel. Drop spindles can be traced back 10,000 years and are small, light and portable. The spinning wheel probably arrived in Western Europe during the 13th century. It requires the spinner to sit and is not portable; however, it produces more yarn in less time than a drop spindle.
- Dyeing: The natural dye solution is placed in heated water and the wool skeins are submerged in the dye until the desired color is achieved. Dye colors are derived mostly from plants: leaves, nuts, flowers, roots and bark. For instance, onion skins produce a yellow or gold color.