Do you go to your County Fair?

By Amelia © Thursday August 8, 2013

The Jefferson County Fair in Port Townsend Washington happens on the second weekend in August each year. For the past few years I've judged the handspinning, which is always a treat. I love to see the youth entries, first skeins, and improvement year-over-year from entrants. This year there were lovely finished items, showing the dedication spinners have to their craft.

I'd love to enter my own skeins as I did in my old county fair, but as judge I felt restricted. The home art department organizers, knowing this is also my county now, said they'd like me to keep judging, but that if I want to enter things myself, they'd be quite willing to find a backup judge to evaluate my entries.

Woohoo! That opens up all sorts of fair-inspired projects. The JeffCo premium book is limited in space for the handspun, so lots and rules are succinct. There are 8 lot numbers, 6 for yarn and 2 for items from handspun. There are also 3 classes: wheel, spindle, and charka. That makes for a grand total of 24 lots. With a limit of 3 entries per lot, you'd still be busy, making 72 different entries to fill the category. 

Perhaps I should share with the organizers the story of the year I had 99 entries in the my County Fair ... granted several were not in the handspun area. Heck, that year I entered three apples from my fruit tree :-) There are so many fun topics in the premium books, it can be a hoot to go through it with your kids and help them make entries too. We've had our fun with it on otherwise unstructured summer days in years past.

So, I am setting myself a challenge. And the best way to keep it is by blogging gems along the way.

My Goal: I will create one entry in each of the 24 handspun lots for the 2014 Fair, and will blog about the making of each one.

Check out your own fair's premium book and spin along with me. I'd love to hear your fair progress as I work through my own entries.

At a steady pace, that's two items a month for fair. They do allow entry of items made in the past two years, so I may add entries in a lot with recent skeins and items as well. Given each lot is different, as I blog about the-making-of, I will pass along the pearls of wisdom I use when making each one.

We may jump around, but here is the overall list for my county fair:

Department 110: Hand spinning
Skeins labeled with fiber content and intended use [okay, use isn't there, yet: I ask for this each year, maybe in 2014 it will make it into the premium book]
Classes: A - Wheel, B - Spindle, C - Charkha
1. Singles
2. 2-ply (I love the appropriate numbering system so far!)
3. Multiple ply - 3 or more
4. Novelty - at least 50% Handspun
5. Processed (carded, combed) by spinner
6. Fiber hand-dyed by spinner before spinning
7. Item made with hand-spun yarn (accompany with yarn sample)
a. Knitted
b. Crochet

You may ask, why aren't different fibers called out? They simply aren't. When designing fair lots, you can slice things various ways. JeffCo chose to go with tools and yarn complexity. Other fairs do it differently. What about handspun handwoven, or other needle arts? For the JeffCo Fair, your handspun items in other needle arts go to those departments directly. We can debate the lot design all we want, or accept it as-is. Most county fairs welcome input, but also have history with their premium book to consider. 

The Clallam County Fair has similar numbered items, but calls out classes by fiber content (Wool, Plant Fibers, Silk/Exotics/Blends) rather than by spinning tool. It has more hand dyed lots, but none for processed by spinner. See it here:

The Island County Fair has the same points for all handspun lots, and says to put your item in the lot you 
want it measured against the most. So a spindle-spun hand-dyed silk 3-ply could be in any of 4 lots...the 
entrant needs to choose the lot for which they are most interested in the judge's response: the spindle-spun, 
hand-dyeing, silk fiber, or 3-ply lot. It's a pretty friendly bunch, with a limit of 6 entries per 
lot and 18 lots...that's 128 possible entries, and you could put handspun items in the other departments too 
(weaving, knitting, etc.). See the details here:

And then there is the Kitsap County Fair...just one lot for yarn, "Handspun skein". They do invite Handspun 
in their knit and crochet classes. 

All-in-all, it's important to go through your fair's premium book to see the rules. Must items be new, or simply clean and like-new? Made in the past two years? Minimum skein size? Even if it's not asked for, you can usually attach a card with info about your handspun. How it was spun, what else you did (card, dye, plan, sample), anything that helps the judge understand the effort involved and your goal. There may also be special prizes for things like the fair theme, recycling/reusing, or conservation: be sure to note any that apply on your entry for consideration.

The NwRSA annual conference has a gallery competition for Handspun each year. Their entry form shows the level of information that judges find useful. Quite a bit! See the sample forms here:

For skeins, it is useful to know:
* Novice spinner (< 1 year)?
* Fiber (% on blends), including breed and even which animal (i.e., my Bolivian llama Garland). If you don't know, say what you do know.
* Dyeing (by spinner): dye type, as fiber or yarn, dye method (kettle, handpaint, ...) (if the spinner 
didn't dye it, you don't need to say anything, but it can be helpful to know what sort of fiber you started from, 
if the dyeing influenced how you spun it, i.e. fractal plying)
* Preparation: commercial, mill, or by spinner? Top, roving, batt, rolag, locks?  fleece washed by spinner?
* Tools/methods used to process?
* Spinning: spindle or wheel type, special accessories or tools used?
* Construction: technique in single or ply (Navajo ply, cable, crepe, boucle...). Maybe you designed 
space-dyed yarn by spinning different colors of solid commercial top. That shows some extra planning, the 
judge can only take that into account if they know.
* Intended Use: knit, weave, crochet or ..? Item to be made: shawl, socks, sweater, ...? Be specific. 
If you don't know what you intend to use it for, then list an appropriate use given the fiber and yarn construction.

If your fair doesn't list a skein size, 50 yards or 2 ounces (whichever you reach first) is typical, as is a 1-3 yard 
butterfly of each yarn used on handspun finished items.

Past fair-helpful blog post: What does it take to win a yarn competition, 

Need some ideas to spark your entries? Use the Spinner's Inventory to find some new-to-you areas to pursue: 


stimps said...

ooh, what little wheel have you got there? :)

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

Stimps, it is a Pocket Wheel. There's a post back in 2008 I wrote about them when they were new on the planet. They are still made, the maker's website is and there is an active Ravelry fan group.

Unknown said...

Best wishes in fulfilling so many entries for next year. I would never mange it. :)