The 140th Australian Sheep and Wool show is a really big event for Bendigo. The carparks were almost full and people were still queueing to get in when I arrived early on Saturday afternoon.
Exhibitor numbers were up, apparently things have been good down on the farm. There was a big focus on technology and careers with an emphasis on the younger generations both in primary production and textiles and food.
Beanies and coffee were essential, it was lovely and sunny but also quite cold.
Pavilions were full of all sorts of uses of wool; finished garments, threads and fibres and repurposed creations. Sackville and Lane, formerly of Wangaratta had cute tea cosies to knit. The soft wool garments by Jemima of Tumat are bush dyed in a process she has developed over the past ten years.
Claudine McPherson, originally from Canada is an avid collector of wool blankets and the sheets that are often found in the same cupboard. She had seen nothing like them until she moved to Australia. Using the name Robeology, she transforms them into very, very warm dressing gowns. I was surprised that she had not heard of the Wagga, so gave her a very brief introduction to this very utilitarian bedding.
But my favourite display was that of all the Ashford spinning wheels and looms. They are beautifully made from New Zealand Silver Beech and just want to be touched.
Outside, the skies remained clear and the sheep were being shorn, judged, mustered and drafted. I found out that sheep will run better in a curved race, and that now there are electronic ear tags, automatic drafting gates are selling like hot cakes. A lot of cooking was going on too, and not only of lamb.
I got the impression the judge was looking at a lot of Sunday roasts. The one second from the left was the best ewe in this class. The sheep with the strange fleece is a self shearing variety, the wool just falls off. The proud breeder said – within the sheep’s hearing – that this is a great advantage as the Ultra White breed is for meat.
Right round the back of the grounds the Bendigo Steam and Oil Engine Preservation Group had their engines fired up. Even some cattle breeds were on display as farming sheep does not preclude running cattle as well. These two Hereford’s were very happy just chewing their cud. I was very distracted watching the Australian Yard Dog Championships in the late afternoon sun and only just had enough time to view the Woolcraft section.
This is spread over a number of small sheds and is full of all sorts of wool enthusiasts. The competition work is beautifully displayed.
Lots of specialist suppliers had everything for dying, spinning, felting, knitting, garment making and every other textile art. I resisted them all as I had to dash back to pick up my purchase made earlier in the day.
Something I had been contemplating for quite a while. It is an Ashford SampleIt Rigid Heddle loom and floor stand. You may think I have been very quick to have it warped and a first piece well under way. After all I did learn to weave on a four shaft loom when I was at school. But no. I bought one of the display looms, already varnished and threaded up. So I will be remembering how to take off a piece before I do any setting up.