Fairbanks farmers and spinners demonstrated the craft of yarn spinning at the Tanana Valley State Fair on Sunday afternoon. 

During “Sheep to Rug — Handspinning the Fiber into Yarn,” a group of local fiber artists took members of the public through the entire spinning process.

Just the day before, the group sheared two Columbia Hampshire sheep from Rosa Creek Farm in Delta Junction. The next step was to wash the wool and proceed through the spinning process to eventually turn the fiber into yarn. By the end of the fair, the yarn will become a rug.

Devta Khalsa, a small farmer and spinner, was in the process of carding her wool; a process that involves pulling the wool into fine fibers between two tools that resemble wire brushes. 

“I am raking the raw wool and basically combing it, and also I’m combining colors so that it comes out with combined white and blue, and then I’ll spin it,” Khalsa said. 

The first step was to wash the wool and dye parts of it for artists who prefer fewer natural colors in their fiber. The fiber Khalsa was carding mixed blue and white. 

Khalsa farms chickens, ducks and rabbits in Ester, just north of Fairbanks. Not all spinners choose to card their wool, but Khalsa said she prefers it. 

“Not everybody is doing that, some people are just taking the wool straight out and spinning it without carding it first,” Khalsa said. “I’m mainly carding it because I like to have it smooth and have nicely blended colors.”

Another artist and owner of White Fireweed Farm, Becky Hammond, was spinning her yarn without carding it. 

“Some of us are picking it up and just going with it. This is still what we call ‘in the grease,” she said, gesturing to her raw wool.

“This came right off the sheep and has the lanolin still in it.”

Each spinner had their own preference. Some yarns turned out smooth and thin, others a thicker strand wrought with unique textures along the way.

“It depends on preference but it also depends what type of yarn you want,” Hammond said.

After the yarn is spun, it will be washed, Hammond said. This is in order set the twist and make sure the yarn does not unravel. 

At the end of the fair, the rug will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. 

The Tanana Valley State Fair opens daily at noon and continues until Aug. 11, closing at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at midnight Friday and Saturday.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.

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