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Wool Days puts OSV's sheep in the spotlight

Wool Days puts OSV's sheep in the spotlight
Reminder Publications submitted photo
STURBRIDGE — The sheep at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will get their annual "haircuts" during Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, as the village celebrates "Wool Days."
Farmers will shear the sheep, and OSV historians in costume will demonstrate the entire wool textile process, from scouring and carding the wool to spinning, dyeing, knitting and weaving the handspun wool yarn. New events have been added to the program this year, including sheepherding demon-strations and knitting for Ameri-can soldiers.
Sheepherding Demonstrations
Among the new events added to the Wool Days program this year are sheepherding demonstrations on May 28. Sheepherder David Kennard and his border collie team from Wellscroft Farm in Chesham, N.H., will demonstrate the dogs' ability to herd sheep, cattle, pigs, ducks, and goats.
Their sheepherding dogs are used for demonstrations around New England and to help wrangle animals on local movie shoots, but their primary responsibilities are on the working Wellscroft Farm, one of New Hampshire's largest sheep operations. Some herding dogs "drive" animals, pushing them away, but border collies work differently and can retrieve animals. They do this by circling around the animal and staring with a predatory eye.
Angora Rabbit and Antique Sock Knitting Machine
While costumed village historians will be demonstrating 19th-century methods of pro-cessing sheep's wool, new events will explore other ways of processing wool. On May 29 and 30, visitors can meet an Angora Rabbit and learn about this alternate wool fiber.
During the afternoon on May 30, special guest Seth Blackwell will be demonstrating the use of a 1917 Tuttle hand-crank circular sock knitter and his wife Cathy will be spinning with a modern wheel.
Knitting for Soldiers and Hands-on Wool Dyeing
Visitors looking to put their knitting or crocheting ability to good use, can join OSV staff in the Parsonage on Saturday, Sunday or Monday to help knit scarves for American soldiers. Visitors can add their own rows to this ongoing project in partnership with the Scarves for Afghanistan Project. Knitting needles, crochet hooks, patterns, and hand-dyed OSV wool will be provided.
Costumed historians will be on hand to explain how charity work has evolved since the 19th century.
Throughout the weekend, visitors can also use a non-traditional process to dye wool at the Hands-on Craft Center (fee applies). After using child-friendly Kool Aid as a dye and a microwave to set the dye, visitors will be able to take home their own small skein of OSV sheep wool. Patterns will also be available to make a small knitted or crocheted bag using this hand-made yarn.
19th-Century Wool Dyeing and Processing
The natural dyes used in the 1830s produced vibrant and rich colors and can be seen in all of the wool hats, scarves, and mittens worn by village staff. Costumed historians will be demonstrating the wool dyeing process during Wool Days and discussing how these natural dyes were used. Local products such as goldenrod, onion skins, and sage were used as well as dyes from more exotic locations.
Dried cochineal beetles from Mexico created red and pink dyes, Brazilwood from South America produced an orange color, and indigo from India or South Carolina resulted in deep bluish-purple wool.
Visitors can try their hands at picking and carding wool, practice weaving and see demonstrations of the village's own historic water-powered carding mill. Costumed histor-ians will also demonstrate spinning, knitting, and weaving with wool.
OSV Heritage Breed Sheep
When sheared, the OSV sheep each produce about five pounds of wool. They are a heritage breed descended from sheep brought by Spaniards to the U.S. Gulf coast in the 1500s and closely resemble the 19th-century sheep breed commonly found on New England farms in the 1830s. Their fleece is soft, and the lanolin in the wool is great for the hands. In fact, shearing is one of the few tasks in the farmer's year which will actually improve the condition of his hands.
OSV celebrates life in early New England from 1790 to 1840. The village is located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge. OSV is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Currently, the village is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $7 for children ages 3 to 17; children younger than 3 are admitted free. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days.
For details, visit OSV's Web site located at www.osv.org or call the village directly at 1-800-SEE-1830.
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