First Sheep To Shawl Competition Brings Students, Community Together

UCA’s environmental history class teamed up with the Faulkner County Museum and a few sheep to coordinate the museum’s first “Sheep to Shawl” competition.

The event was the brainchild of Lynita Langley-Ware of the Faulkner County Museum. After participating in Sheep to Shawl competitions at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Langley-Ware decided to host one in Faulkner County.

Langley-Ware had worked before with Kim Little, professor of history at UCA, on service learning projects for history students and brought the idea to her as a possible project.

“We found a facet of this project that appealed to what she was teaching and that she could fit in with a service learning project,” Langley-Ware said.

Little said that her service learning work with the Faulkner County Museum stems from the museum’s need of manpower and the programs ability to meet that need in a constructive way.

“One of the most important things about service learning is that it should be service and completely volunteering- this is very different than an internship where the students are learning on the job and kind of paying for the association with whatever group they are working with,” Little said. “With service learning they provide that service but they also have to have a strong connection to class, and for that reason the museum has been such a good partner for us.”

The students involved in the service learning project have learned skills such as knitting, weaving and spinning in workshops on campus with Langley-Ware. Students were given options on what skill to focus on for the event and were expected to learn it well.

“Everyone learns how to do something and is prepared to demonstrate it when visitors come and want to talk,” Langley-Ware said.

Katelyn Trammel, a junior double-majoring in history and anthropology and Faulkner County Museum employee, was the student leader of the project. She said that working with the museum and the service learning program has given her an outlet to explore skills she didn’t expect to learn.

“I started working at the museum and I learned spinning and carding, and for this event I learned how to weave, and it’s definitely my favorite thing that I’ve learned so far,” Trammel said.

Sheep to Shawl competitions generally include several teams of three to five people, according to Langley-Ware. The competition starts with a sheep, which is sheared to provide the wool for the competition. The wool is then carded, which entails pulling the wool strands straight between two wire brushes in order to work with the wool. Next, the wool is spun, usually by hand using a spindle, into yarn. This yarn is then woven into a garment, usually a shawl, hence the name. The team to finish the garment first wins the competition.

This event, which centered around the competition, also featured tables where students and volunteers demonstrated skills such as basket weaving, knitting, crocheting and loom weaving. An adult sheep and two lambs were provided for the afternoon. The sheep was shorn for the wool necessary for the competitions, while the lambs added atmosphere and contributed to public enjoyment.

This project was one of three service learning projects provided for the course this year. Another environmental history class worked with the National Park Service this past summer on the Buffalo River to remove a fallen tree by hand, and a different group of students is working with Conway Locally Grown to learn how agriculture trends have changed over time.

Little said that these projects are designed to engage students in hands-on projects that demonstrate how people lived and worked historically. Often, the process of making cloth took up much of women’s time.

“We have changed the way that we clothe ourselves, we’ve changed the way that we do agriculture and animal husbandry and the truth of the matter is that in the United States, if it was the colonial period, in all likelihood you’d be wearing wool almost all of the time,” Little said. “So this gives students the chance to see what somebody would have gone through.”

In addition, senior seminar students provided the event with informational posters culminating their research into the different methods of garment making. Members of the UCA Anthropology Club also attended and helped out at the event.

“That’s one of the great things about service learning—you get a history class doing this and the next thing you know, someone from the Anthropology Club shows up, and so that’s really cool,” Little said.

Langley-Ware echoed Little’s optimism with a simple statement: “It just grows.”

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