Important dates for the Fleece Show:
Exhibit Intake: Tuesday, 9/12 between 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Fleece Shows Judging: Wednesday, 9/13 at 9:00 a.m.
and Thursday, 9/14 at 9:00 a.m.
Spinning Contest: Thursday, 9/14 at 7:00 p.m.
Fleece Sale: Thursday, 9/14 at 8:00 p.m.
Exhibit Release: Saturday, 9/16 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The Fleece Show is the bridge between shepherds who raise animals and people who turn fleeces into useable goods. The TSF Fleece Shows are included in the Livestock Department while finished fiber work is in Creative Arts. A fleece sale, spinning contest, ready-to-spin fiber, and finished yarn are all part of the Fleece Show.
A fine garment, such as a hand knit shawl or quality suit, begins with a knowledgeable shepherd taking good care of a well bred animal. A break (weak spot) in the fleece can be caused by bad feed, a scare from a pack of dogs, or even a thunderstorm, and can ruin an otherwise excellent fleece.
In two minutes a bad shearing, like a bad haircut, can mess up a fleece that took a year to grow. Unlike a haircut, we care about what is coming off rather than what is staying on. But a hack job is still a hack job, leaving second cuts (short bits caused by cutting a lock twice) and contaminating the fleece with VM (vegetable matter), dirt, and tags (dingleberries, dung) from shearing on open ground, especially in a barn.
Skirting (removing unwanted bits) is another part of the shearing process. The intact fleece is inspected and anything that shouldn’t be there is removed, especially at the neck, legs, belly, and britch. On a properly sheared and laid out fleece, this is mostly at the outer edge and can be done in just a few minutes. A badly skirted fleece has less value and is a serious enough fault that an otherwise excellent fleece may be rejected from judging if not properly skirted.
The raw (not washed) fleece is then rolled and tied correctly so that it can be unrolled in the same order it came off the sheep. A fleece may be unrolled for inspection during judging and again when it is scoured (cleaned for spinning).
Through its competitions the Tennessee State Fair offers invaluable education and feedback on this entire process, from Sheep Shows to Fleece Shows and on to Creative Arts. Each step from animal to garment builds a foundation for the next step. The finished result depends on the knowledge and care of each individual along the way.