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Wonderful wool at the fair

AT THEIR FIELD Days exhibit last week, Twist O’ Wool guild members Christine Homer, left, and Katherine Knox gather up raw wool that the guild procured through the Vermont Sheep Association. Sorting through it is the hardest part, before they get to move to knitting and spinning into beautiful pieces. Independent photo/Katie Futterman

NEW HAVEN — The Twist O’ Wool Guild, which debuted its first joint project at the Addison County Fair and Field Days in 1979, was back this year to display members’ colorful work, equipment and a handmade afghan to raffle.

Much to the dismay of those who passed by and caught a glimpse of the colorful sweaters, shawls, baskets and more on display, the guild was not there to sell work. Instead, Christine Homer and other members were there to educate people on how wool gets processed.

One thing that was for sale, however, was this year’s afghan, for which they sold raffle tickets at one dollar per ticket, and five dollars for six tickets.

SHELAGH SMITH

“I mean, what a deal!” said Homer. “I can’t imagine how many hundreds of hours are in this. It’s a real work of love.”

The members had divided the work of the afghan into little sections on which they each worked. The money raised from raffle tickets will go toward educational programs.

Homer had previously spun and wove on traditional equipment while working at a living history farm. When she moved to Vermont in 1980 and saw people spinning at the fair, she said, “Oh, this is where I belong!”

The guild had been organized just one year earlier by Eleanor Boutcher of Shoreham, Ellen Leone of Bristol, and Shelagh Smith of Monkton in May of 1979, according to the guild’s website.

This year, the guild honored Smith by asking members to make a knitted piece to display using one of the many patterns she designed. The items were displayed at the fair.

“All the guild members sincerely appreciate her inspiration and mentorship over the years, Homer told the Independent.

Now, the guild has about 40 or 50 members, who range in involvement level, and meet regularly at American Legion in Middlebury as well as connect through a member Facebook page. They also try to hold at least a couple workshops a year.

“It’s a great group of people. Everybody is very friendly and encouraging of each other. We inspire each other to do more,” Homer said.

Homer’s favorite part is spinning.

“I like watching the colors if you get a roving that’s got lots of colors, I love watching it twist together and feed into the spinning wheel,” she said.

At the fair, Homer was also sorting through wool, along with members Kat Cyr and Katherine Knox.

The Vermont Sheep and Wool Association provides information on many of the sheep breeders and raisers in Vermont, and people can look it up and visit farms to get wool or attend spinning conferences. Homer looks forward to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival in Tunbridge in October.

When the Twist O’ Wool Guild first started, the only way to obtain wool was to buy a fleece, hopefully one that was cared for and clean.

Then the craftswomen would wash, dry and card the wool. At that time, they didn’t have the drum carders that they do now, so they had to hand card everything with hand combs to straighten and clean the wheel. As the years went by, the guild offered lots of workshops and members learned new skills.

Homer highlighted the ease of getting involved. The guild has equipment, books and videos. People can borrow equipment, and they don’t have to invest in all of the paraphernalia before they start.

To join the guild, fill out the membership form on its website, twistowoolguild.weebly.com.

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