Wyoming Arts Council

Laramie Fiber Festival celebrates sheep industry contributions to Wyoming

vintage photo of a man holding on to a sheep and showing if off

University of Wyoming research to benefit the state’s wool industry will be celebrated during a fiber festival Sept. 18-20 at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site in Laramie. (American Heritage Center)

From a University of Wyoming press release:

Fiber craft, craftspeople and sheep will be celebrated with workshops and demonstrations during the WyoFiber Live! Festival Friday through Sunday, Sept. 18-20, at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site (WTP), according to Debbie Gorski of the Wyoming Women’s Business Center (WWBC) at the University of Wyoming.

She says all ages and interests are welcome to attend. Festival information is at http://bit.ly/2015wyofiber.

The territorial prison grounds were selected for the festival because of the site’s history with sheep, says Deborah Amend, WTP site superintendent.

Prisoners were transferred in 1902 from the Laramie prison to the new prison in Rawlins, and UW’s College of Agriculture Experiment Station moved onto the grounds in 1903. Its studies included sheep research.

“For almost 86 years, the University of Wyoming conducted numerous scientific research studies on genetics and breeding healthier sheep,” Amend says. “And also a wool laboratory to teach, gather and distribute research findings on how to achieve cleaner, thicker and better quality wool. Sheep were a huge part of this historic site’s history.”

WyoFiber festival participants this year can recreate, reinvent and redesign their old woolen sweaters, jackets, vests and scarves, work with six Wyoming-sourced wool fibers and learn wool types, characteristics, carding and spinning, and work with fibers from a variety of animals.

Other demonstrations and sessions include spinning, felting, sewing, broom making, tatting, dyeing and knitting. UW Extension educators will give presentations on raising fiber animals and niche marketing.

“The event focuses on more than the craft end of fiber,” Gorski says. “We also are focusing on the wool and natural fiber industry, and the importance of the wool industry in Wyoming. Wyoming has a rich history with sheepherding and the wool industry.”

UW will provide the sheep, and the Wyoming Stock Dog Association is providing the dogs for Saturday’s stock dog trial/competition. Author Nancy Weidel will discuss early sheep wagons and sheepherding in Wyoming Sunday, Sept. 20.

Amend says she wanted to partner with the WWBC to organize the festival because of the prison site’s history with wool and because of the popularity of fiber festivals across the country.

“Wyoming doesn’t have a large, educational fiber festival,” Amend says. “We have folk festivals and workshops for fiber artisans, but this festival is focused more on education for the public. There are a lot of people working with fiber these days creating some amazing products, and there is a new generation wanting to learn these skills.”

For more information on the workshops, vendors or schedule of activities, contact Gorski at DebK@uwyo.edu or Amend at Deborah.amend@wyo.gov.

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