National Craft Month: Fiber Artist Madeline Rosenberg
At Ballyhoo Farm & Fiber Emporium, Shetland and Gotland, Finnsheep and Icelandic sheep roam the green hillsides of fiber artist Madeline Rosenberg’s farm. For years she raised sheep and sold wool without any connection to the fiber arts community.
Then she learned to knit, dye and process fleece. While attending a fiber festival, she overheard conversation after conversation about her neighboring booth’s spinning wheel. By the time the festival ended Madeline knew she wanted to learn to spin.
Her booth-neighbor suggested starting with a drop spindle but it only took 10 days for Madeline to decide that wasn’t for her. She needed a spinning wheel. Madeline bought her first wheel from Nancy at The Woolery (link) and immediately dived into learning.
“When I bought my first wheel, Nancy gave me the most valuable piece of advice for life as well as spinning. It’s three words: Prepare to suck. I’m a perfectionist, and that advice freed me to the learning experience. I’d add to her mantra by saying there is no bad yarn. There’s no color too ugly, there’s no art yarn too irregular – someone will love it, and you’ll learn so much through creating it!” said Madeline.
Farmer to Fiber Artist
Now she follows the entire journey of the wool, from field to fiber.
Her flock yields around 300 lbs. of raw wool annually, so it’s rare for Madeline to buy other fibers. Ballyhoo farms shears for other local shepherds, who often give her wool and when she buys wool, she likes to support other farms.
Madeline is known for how finely she spins her yarn. A few years ago she won an award for a finished 3-ply yarn the same width as dental floss. Oftentimes handspun is disparaged as bulky and irregular, but Madeline’s goal is to spin so finely that it proves homespun can be just as useful and consistent as store-bought yarn.
Agvocating at the Fair
Being both a fiber artist and shepherd offers Madeline a unique opportunity to teach about agriculture at the Kentucky State Fair.
“The State Fair provides an enormous opportunity to directly connect the general public with traditional crafts and agricultural products, and we are proud to help educate! I’m a unique exhibitor in that I can direct guests through the process of our Ag sector. I’m the only shepherd that walks around the grounds with my sheep on a leash, allowing the public to interact with them.” said Madeline.
The 2023 Kentucky State Fair is August 17-27 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, KY. Kentucky State Fair entries will open in early May and information will be available on https://kystatefair.org/participate/compete/.
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