In April, the Littleton Museum’s very special Navajo-Churro sheep are sheared, and it’s the occasion for an annual Fiber Festival. The hardy historic breed is the kind of sheep Littleton’s early residents would have raised on their farms — with thick coats of black and caramel-colored wool.
In addition, the museum’s interpreters at the April 12 festival had a group of weathered-looking dye pots heating over open fires as they demonstrated dyeing techniques, hanks of variously colored yarn hung to dry, while the costumed women introduced new ones into the natural dye baths and answered questions from curious parents and children. At intervals, the electric sheep shears were turned on as an assistant delivered a rotund ewe to the shearer.
Explaining that if she couldn’t get both front feet on the ground, she wouldn’t think she could get away, he set her on her bottom and began to skillfully take off a year’s growth of wool — all in one thick piece. After about 10 minutes, the ewe looked much cooler and was carried back to her pen. Visitors could place a guess on how much a fleece weighed.
Wide-eyed toddlers were as fascinated as the grown-ups over this bit of old-fashioned agricultural technique.
There were also demonstrations of skirting, washing, carding, knitting and spinning spread around the 1860s farm under sheds topped with brush.
And there were a few woolly visitors: from Gentle Spirit Alpaca Farm in Wiggins, Nancy Simmons Holloway brought an alpaca and a paco-vicuna. Both were gentle and interested in the little people who bounced around the area. Holloway maintains a traveling “shop” and does about eight shows a year, she said. She is part of a group of alpaca raisers who exhibit together — as many as 20 booths at the National Western Stock Show. “There are a lot of fiber enthusiasts out there,” she said.
From LaZy B Acres in Bennett, Larry Zierer brought four white angora goats and two angora rabbits — holding a soft, wriggly baby goat up to the fence so kids could pet it.
Over in the meadow, there was a demonstration by a sheepherding dog to show another facet of a business that still goes on in Colorado.
Families who enjoyed this sunny afternoon will no doubt be back next year for another time trip to the 19th century.