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Arts & Culture
Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Fiber Artists Prepare for 21st Annual Woolgathering

Yarn spun and died by Laura Krugh
Renee Wilde
/
WYSO
Yarn spun and died by Laura Krugh

In the 16th century, if a person said you were woolgathering, it meant you were daydreaming. This came from the act of peasants ambling along sheep paths and gathering up the tufts of wool where it had snagged on fences and thorny bushes. This weekend woolgathering is being proudly used to describe one of the largest gatherings of fiber artists with over 100 vendors from across the country. They’ll converge on Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio for the 21st Annual Woolgathering.

Debra Gaskill hand dying wool skeins
Credit Renee Wilde / WYSO
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WYSO
Debra Gaskill hand dying wool skeins

It’s a beautiful summer afternoon and Debra Gaskill of Checkered Flag Fibers is in her backyard hand dying wool skeins. The fiber comes from the herd of 20 Alpaca’s and Llama’s that she keeps on her rural five acre property outside of Enon.

"We are looking at 4 skeins of Alpaca/Merino blend," says Debtra.  "Each skein is 400 yards, and I am dying it navy blue. It looks purple there, but once we take it out, and get it out of the really deep, deep color, we will set it in the cold water to set the color and close the fiber back up and then hang it to dry."

While the wool is sitting the dye bath Debra takes me back to meet her herd, "We’ve been in alpacas and llamas since 1999.  Learning to make yarn and learning to deal with the fiber has been probably one of the most fun things I’ve done. But there’s four, five types of fleece on a llama and two on an alpaca.You can get a lot of variation on your yarn. I’ll end up with 50 pounds of fleece out of 20 animals. You gotta do something with it."

The annual woolgathering event is one of those things.

"We’ve been with the Woolgathering for a long time, " says Debra.  "We started with a single booth, back when the woolgathering was one or two tents. You know, in a mass market world is just really nice to have something that you have taken from the pasture to the market place and you’ve touched it all along the way."

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Credit courtesy of Debra Gaskill
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courtesy of Debra Gaskill

On the other side of Dayton, another fiber artist, Laura Krugh, will be exhibiting for the first time at the annual Woolgathering.  Laura lives on a 25 acre produce farm with her boyfriend and uses a different approach to hand-dying her fiber. 

Laura Krugh uses native plants for her wool dye
Credit Renee Wilde / WYSO
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WYSO
Laura Krugh uses native plants for her wool dye

"I spin yarn from wool mostly that I get from a friend of ours that raises sheep and then I dye the wool with natural materials many of which I find on the farm," she says as she takes me around the farm and shows me some of the plants she works with.

"So looking in the hedgerows I found a number of plants that make beautiful dyes, for example Goldenrod which is just starting to get its blossoms now makes a really beautiful bright yellow. And with all the natural dyes, what’s so cool is they can be a whole range of colors depending on lots of different things.

With natural dyes you use something that’s called a mordant and it helps the dye bind to the fiber, but it can also depending on the kind of mordant you use can affect the shade of the color pretty drastically. So goldenrod you can get bright yellows, you can get tan- yellow colors you can get something that leaning more towards green. And it grows everywhere!"

You can check out Debra and Laura’s unique, small batch, hand dyed fibers, and more this weekend at Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs during the 21st Annual Woolgathering.

The 21st Annual Woolgathering takes place September 17th and 18th at Young’s Jersey Dairy on route 68 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This is a free, family-friendly event. For more information visit http://youngsdairy.com/