Demo at Last Chance Stampede and Fair exhibits how wool is transformed into items; Wolf Creek woman does wool work
Helena, Mont. (June 26, 2019) – If you visit the Last Chance Stampede and Fair in Helena on the Saturday, July 27, you’ll see a group of women spinning and weaving in the southeast corner of the exhibit hall.
They are part of the “Sheep to Shawl” demonstration, with six or eight women, all members of the Helena Spinners and Weavers Guild, who are gathered to spin wool yarn, and weave it into a project.
Trudy Moffett and her daughters Desiree and Hadassah, of Wolf Creek, Mont., take part in the Sheep to Shawl demonstration and work with wool themselves, from the origin of the wool to its finished product.
Moffett, with her husband Anson and their eight children, of whom five still live at home, “grows” her own wool, processes it all herself, and turns it into beautiful items, some of which she shows at the fair.
She has a herd of sheep that her daughter Desiree shears. After shearing, the fleece is skirted (the removal of seconds and other matter from the fleece), then it is washed. After washing, Moffett either combs it, with combs similar to ones used by people, except with sharp-pointed tines that are six to eight inches long, or cards it (with two brushes that look like dog brushes).
Then, if she desires, she dyes it, and then it is spun.
Spinning is the longest part of the process, Moffett said. She estimates she could spin for six months and the wool she gets could be woven in one to two months.
Moffett, who learned how to spin while living in Texas, prefers to process her own wool, from sheep to finished product. She is allergic to either the dye or the processing chemicals in store-bought wool, and she finds great satisfaction in making something herself.
She and Anson have lived in Montana for seventeen years, and she has had sheep for the past fifteen years. She’s entered items in the Last Chance Fair for the past decade. Last year, she entered a wool blanket measuring eight feet by four feet, and she estimates it took eighty hours to spin the wool and another twenty to weave the blanket.
The Sheep to Shawl demonstration, held this year on Saturday, July 27, isn’t the entire process, Moffett points out, as the wool the ladies use has already been shorn, skirted, washed, carded and dyed. But it’s a great way for people to see the process. “We have lots of families come by,” Moffett said, “especially children. They want to feel the wool, and some of them want to try to spin. If they want to, I let them.”
She also points out that people forget their clothing is made by weaving fiber, even if it’s made of cotton, polyester or acrylic. “When you look at the clothes you wear,” she said, “even if it’s jeans or a t-shirt, everything you wear has been made from a spun piece of fiber.”
Desiree’s interest has gone beyond spinning and weaving. The 28-year-old shears sheep, and her work is in high demand among spinners, because she is careful to get all the fleece on the first pass, making for longer strands of wool. Commercial shearers will make more than one pass as they shear, making the second pass short strands. Desiree also has border collies and has done well at herding trials.
Moffett has made a variety of wool items from her own wool: blankets, scarves, shawls ,and skirts. She enjoys knowing she is able to make something from her own hands, from start to finish, and she enjoys the sheep and seeing what color their wool will be.
At the end of the day, the item the Helena Spinners and Weavers Guild makes is given away in a drawing to the public. Last year, the ladies made a scarf.
The Last Chance Stampede and Fair runs July 24-27 at the Lewis and Clark Co. Fairgrounds in Helena. The Sheep to Shawl demonstration starts at 11 am on Saturday, July 27.
The night show, featuring LOCASH and Clint Black, kicks off the week’s events on July 24. Three nights of rodeo follow, July 25-27. Daytime activities include parades, indoor fair exhibits, free stage entertainment, 4-H exhibits and livestock shows, and more.
For a complete schedule of events and to purchase tickets for the night show and the rodeo, visit http://www.lastchancestampede.com. More information can be found at the Lewis and Clark Co. Fairgrounds (98 West Custer Ave., Helena, 406.457.8516.
– Last Chance Stampede & Fair