Poof. The Fair is over for another year. It's always such a letdown. The Sheep-to-Shawl event was yesterday, and of the five years I've been participating, I think this was the prettiest shawl yet. It was a huck lace pattern on four shafts, alpaca and Border Leicester X blend, and I can't believe I didn't get a close up of the finished product. The pattern came out of Huck Lace: The Best of Weaver's. (I linked to Amazon there, but support your locals if you can....) The spinners did a great job on the yarn this year, very even and fine.
As for the judged exhibition, I did pretty well again. I got a blue ribbon, Best of Class in "Handspinning" and the Mary Fox Award (special award for excellence in handspinning) for my silk laceweight skein. I also got a blue ribbon, Best of Class in "Crochet With Handspun" and the Doris Oliver Award (special award for best use of handspun in a finished project) for the lattice crochet scarf. The judge commented on the lovely colors, so you get some credit, too, Liz! The Urchin Shawl got a blue ribbon and the People's Choice Award TWICE, on Wednesday and Saturday.
So that was fun. The rest of the judging had it's ups and downs. In addition to the silk yarn, the scarf, and Urchin, I had a huck lace stole, four other skeins of handspun (red Romney, blue merino, blue merino/silk, bulky merino/silk) and a crocheted potholder. The yarn all got blue ribbons, but the huck stole and the potholder both got red. Huh?
I have been trying to think of a way to write about this without sounding whiny, because I don't feel whiny about it, I feel mad. The judge was unfair and inconsistent. I was there for the whole judging, and I don't think that's an unreasonable assessment. Other people commented on it as well. Yes, she took a point off the potholder because there was a stain, and a point off the stole because there was a yarn tail I missed trimming (and I felt quite stupid when I saw that I had missed those errors), and I can ACCEPT losing those points because it was my own stupidness. I have no problem with that.
What I do have a problem with is the fact that there is no way that those two errors should have kicked those items down from blue to red ribbons. She had no real criticisms of the pieces other than what I said above. She said things like "wonderful hand," "nice selvedges," "a very elegant piece," and "fit for the opera" about the stole. She remarked that the potholder was good and thick, and liked the effect of Tunisian crochet with the variegated yarn. Then she turned around and scored them for red ribbons. And I just can't figure out how she came up with the numbers, even taking off for the stain and the yarn tail.
I also have a problem with the fact that she judged someone's fulled knitted slippers to be blue ribbon quality, when they were smelly from being worn, with dirt ground into the soles. And the woven rug that was so dirty that it showered the judging table with sand when we picked it up and had wiggles in the selvedges of more than an inch, was also judged to be blue ribbon quality. Neither of those had any points taken off in the "Clean and Neat" category.
I realize that judging is an inherently subjective activity, but she had no call to take 4 points off Urchin because the dyeing was purposely uneven (to emulate the uneven purple mottled swirls on a real urchin shell), and that fact was stated on the accompanying description sheet and photograph. That, in addition to the other odd point or two she took off, put Urchin only one point away from getting a red ribbon as well, despite the otherwise good comments! At some point, the judge's personal preference has to give way to the intent of the creator and how well the objective was achieved.
I think what really stings and makes me feel a bit bruised is that she had two "Honorable Mention" awards to give out at the end for things that deserved recognition. She gave them both in knitting, one for a scarf and one for a sweater. Yes, both were nice, but both were knit from published patterns, at large gauge. I'm sorry (and here's where the whiny part really comes out, though I don't mean it to), but neither of those were remotely as impressive as Urchin. A self-designed, 84" diameter lace shawl, knit on US 2 needles, which took more than 200 hours to knit, and is very well done (because it IS) is simply not comparable to a 10" x 50" worsted weight scarf from a commercial pattern.
Whatever, Ms. Judge. You lost a lot of credibility, not just with me but with a lot of the other entrants as well. I was not the only one to have issues with inconsistent scoring and the way the entries were judged. It's too bad, because I know she does a lot of fiber arts classes (regionally and nationally) and probably knows her stuff. Maybe she just had an off day.
As I said to one of my friends the day after judging, "I know how much I like Urchin, I know the value of the work that went into it, and that's all that really matters." And getting two People's Choice Awards from fairgoers' votes went long way to restoring my confidence in my pattern.
Anyway. Putting that behind me now.
Emma's favorite part of the Fair was the pony ride. This was her first time on a horse, and she was SO excited.
This was the first year that Emma really got into "doing the Fair." She went on a couple rides, had sno-cones, ate fair food (her first corn dog.....blech....though she liked it), and generally had a great time.
We also had a good time looking at the animals again this year. There weren't any lambs or piglets this year, but the pygmy goat kids were painfully cute, as always. We had to go look at them every day.
We saw alpacas (she calls them "puffs"),
And spent a lot of time in the sheep barn. There seemed to be a lot of Suffolk X and Targee X sheep there this year,
and the Icelandics are always sweet, though this one was unshorn until Saturday, when she was part of the sheep-shearing demonstration, and she looked uncomfortably warm.
And really, who could resist a face like a Cotswold's?