During the 1980’s, my mother, Betty LaFara, participated in a competitive, team sport called Sheep to Shawl. As the name suggests, the competition begins with a sheep and ends with a shawl. A sheep is sheared, the fleece is carded and spun into yarn, the yarn is then woven into fabric, and finally, the fabric is fashioned as a shawl. It is a timed event, typically set at 2 to 4 hours depending on the amount of preparation allowed. An event is made up of 4 to 10 competing teams. Team size is set by the event organizers but will include at least one shearer, three spinners, and one weaver. My mother was the weaver on her team and also did the finishing work on the shawls. The photos I am sharing below are from a couple of events in the summer of 1985, including the Indiana State Fair.
Spinning the Fleece
The spinners, and sometimes other team members, will card the fleece before it is spun. Carding is a process to de-tangle the fleece and make it soft and fluffy for spinning. The cards are paddles, about 8”x5”, with wire barbs and the action is drawing the fleece between two cards a little at a time to create fluffy wads of wool suitable for spinning. I have links in the Sources section that further describes and demonstrates carding and spinning. 
Weaving the Fabric
Weaver is the position my mother played on the team. My mother took up weaving in the mid-1960’s and was very accomplished at the craft. The looms are warped prior to the competition, only wool is used, and the required width is typically 18 to 22 inches, depending on the competition. The warps need to be long enough for a completed piece of fabric to measure, usually, at least 78 inches.
My mother says her strongest memory from participating in the Sheep to Shawl competitions is the time they took to prepare for the events. She says the team would meet several times to choose the fleece for both the warp and weft, then work out the design which needed to take in to account the need for quick treadling, and finally they made samples and settled on a final plan for the day of competition. My mother says her team was never the first team done but they usually took first place based on points!
Sheep to Shawl competitions are often included as part of farm festivals, country fairs and textile shows. The one held at the Indiana State Fair in 1985 is the largest I ever attended, there may have been 200 people in the stands. Many events now do not shear the sheep as part of the competition, but do it ahead of time and simply start from a fleece. Which makes the overall competition shorter and are called Fleece to Shawl. Either way, they may not be your usual sports event, but Sheep to Shawl competitions are fun family events and I encourage you to attend one if the opportunity presents itself.
Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.
My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.
My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.
While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.
Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.
A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one, in particular, I found very informative.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.
I have many favorite photos among my collection of family artifacts. Currently, my favorite photo is of two little children from 1916 who were a complete mystery to me until last spring.