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Behind the Knit: A Blanket for Scholarship Funds

Behind the Knit: A Blanket for Scholarship Funds

Each year the American Southdown Breeders Association receives a one
of a kind hand knitted Southdown wool blanket that is donated to help
raise funds for their scholarship program. Yet many association members
do not know the story behind these truly unique blankets that have helped
raise thousands of dollars which in return are given directly back to junior
members. Sue Ann Carpenter, from Michigan, is the knitter behind these
beautiful blankets. Wanting to find a way to give back to the Association,
while promoting the versatility of breed, Sue generously donates her time
and talent to construct a blanket each year made out of pure Southdown
wool from her own flock. “Southdown wool is a very viable product that
should not just be thrown away.”
Sue’s involvement in the Southdown breed began in 1989 when her son,
Dan, decided he wanted to show sheep in 4-H. She remembers sitting
down with him going through the breeds listed on the Livestock
Conservancy and discovering the many attributes the Southdown
breed had which they admired. Even though Sue had established a
flock of Karakuls, the original spark for her passion in working with
fiber, the Southdown breed was a good fit for Dan to be able to exhibit
at area shows in Michigan. She quickly realized Southdown wool was
a soft fiber to work with that resisted felting and was ideal for spinning.
Since then, the “Sassy Ewe” spinner has been utilizing the wool from
her Southdown flock of 18 ewes to make yarn which she sells at local
farmers markets in the area.
The design inspiration for the blanket each year is themed around stars
which seem fitting since the NAILE is home to the Stars of Louisville Sale
and the greatest stars of all, the youth who exhibit there. Each blanket
also has the year knitted into the design and is 100% natural, no dyes.
Sue strives to demonstrate the original beauty of Southdown fiber. The
number of hours she spends on a single blanket is hard to comprehend. It
all starts with the shearing of the sheep, skirting the fleece, washing the
wool, picking and carding, roving, and finally spinning the wool fibers into
yarn. On average it takes 2 ½ pounds of yarn to make the blanket. Sue
recommends shearing ewes prior to lambing and leaving one year growth
to have enough staple length, approximately three inches, for the
spinning process.
Many Southdown breeders look at the wool from their sheep as an after
thought and have a “where can I get rid of it” mindset. Sue wants to dispel
the negative connotation people have for Southdown wool by getting
them to use it. She actively promotes using the fiber and encourages
other to pick up the skill of knitting by helping to teach others and attends
fiber events across the Midwest. “Working with wool fiber allows me to
use my creative process and I find it very relaxing.” A word of advice for
those just getting started, do not over think things. “All you want to do is
twist fibers to hold them together. Practice for 20 minutes at a time.” Sue

also encourages those interested in working with fiber to find a local
spinners gild to help get connected with others who can help.
Thank you to Sue for your countless hours of dedication to the
Southdown breed and Association. We are grateful to have members like
you who help to promote all facets the breed has to offer people. This
year’s blanket will be auctioned off during the Southdown Social held on
November 11 th . Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to own a one of a
kind Southdown treasure.

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One Comment

  1. SUE ANN CARPENTER
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the article.

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