The highlight of the Black Sheep Gathering is, of course, the incomparable shopping! Nearly 100 vendors from all over the West Coast gather in three of the barns at the fairgrounds to set up one of the best fiber marketplaces around. Add to this Oregon's lack of sales tax (the price you see is what you pay), and nearly every Californian at BSG went a little crazy, buying nearly everything in sight.
After all, how can you resist sights like entire display walls filled with nothing but hanks of Chasing Rainbows silk roving? I didn't even try. While I didn't take home everything on the wall, I did manage one skein dyed beautiful shades of purple (the colorway is named "Purple Haze"). Classes are conveniently scheduled with 2-hour lunch breaks and wrap up before the "Trade Show" closes, so a lot of shopping can be accomplished, if one is determined and can manage not to suffer from fiber overload. It's possible, but it's tough. After all, you walk in with a shopping list, and find all that other stuff that isn't on the list, but is stuff you really need (a convenient euphemism for "want"). And how are you supposed to pick just one drop spindle (it was on the list, I swear), when you can choose from Jonathon Bosworth's lovely spindles, or Steve Paulson's beautiful and unusual Spindlewood square drop spindles? In the end, I didn't even try. I "settled" for a birch and purpleheart Bosworth, and a cocobolo and ebony Spindlewood.
In the midst of all this shopping, the Wool Show and Sale is going on. The judging takes place all day on Friday and in the morning on Saturday, and is well worth attending. The judge(s) wear microphones, and the good judges explain what they're looking for, and the good points and bad points of each fleece, so it's a great free lesson on selecting good fleece. Once all the judging is finished, all the fleeces to be sold are set out on tables and everybody has about an hour to closely examine them and decide which fleeces they're going to try to purchase. Then the doors close, everybody lines up, and makes a mad dash for the fleece(s) they want to buy. This year's fleeces were beautiful, and as BSG is the colored sheep show and sale, this is where one buys colored fleeces. I ran through the sale room during my lunch break on Saturday, found a magnificent black Corriedale, and made arrangements with the daughter of one of my guild members to stand in line and grab the fleece for me when the sale began, as I would be back in class. I wasn't sure I was going to get it, so I cruised through the "non-show" fleeces, just to see if there might be something nice. I stumbled across a big (7 pounds), gorgeous, silver variegated Border Leicester that just cried out to be combed and spun, so I bought it as a "consolation" fleece in case I didn't get the Corriedale. Much to my delight, I did get the Corriedale, so I sent both fleeces directly to the wool mill to be scoured.
Since I didn't have classes on Sunday, I was able to finish looking at everything in the Trade Show, and finish my shopping. Rule #5 (right after "always bring a list," and "leave the credit cards at home"): Don't send purchases back to the tent so you don't have to carry them around. Having to lug around purchases slows down how much you spend, because you're conscious of how much you've already spent. Having an obliging husband carry bundles back to the tent for you frees up your hands to touch, consider, and buy, including helping a friend pick out dyes for her next project, a large silk flag (we're looking for Scarlet Red among all the boxes of Cushing's Perfection Dyes).
So, all in all, it was a great show. After BSG closed at 4:00 p.m., we helped people get their stuff packed up, and then hit the road ourselves, pointing out and chuckling over the cars heading down the road toward California, bags of fleece strapped to the top or filling up the back. We traveled as far as Grant's Pass, then finished the drive back to the Bay Area the following day. Next year's trip is already in the planning stages, and I'm frantically combing, carding, spinning, and weaving to clear out space for all my new tools and fibers.