One Sheep, one Shearer, 7 people who spin & knit, and 8 hours. This is the annual Back to Back Challenge. The goal is to shear a sheep, spin a knittable DK/8ply equivalent yarn, and knit a jumper that is big enough to fit the shearer. The pattern itself is not a hard one. It’s a basic shapeless dropped shoulder, boat neck pullover. Getting it done in 8 hours with greasy, off the sheep yarn is the challenge.
But before I get into all of that, my day actually started just before 5am. I was up and driving up to the Turpentine Tree. It was pitch black like it was midnight, and COOOOOOOLD. I started west on the M4, and as I was turning onto the M7 the dawn was starting to break. One thing I love about more rural areas, is that just as dawn breaks, it makes for the most breathtaking scenes of mist and sillhouettes.
There’s something about driving early morning that is just invigorating, because by the time I got to Kurrajong Heights, despite my very early start, I was feeling full of energy. I got my stuff set up and went for a walk around to see what was going on.
I love cows. Really. I do.
All the stall holders were starting to set up. I didn’t really get to see anything that wasn’t in the main tent. But from what passers by were showing us, there was ceramics, fresh fruit, jewellery, bric a brac and all types of wonderful food.
In the tent we were in, there was beautiful hand knit, woven and spun goods. As well as the lovely rovings, slivers and dyes that we all love. I didn’t really get to see as much as I would have liked, but I wasn’t there to browse.
For anyone who doesn’t know, or hasn’t been to the Turpentine Tree, it is simply beautiful. The gardens, when in full bloom, are stunning and the gazebo is so pretty. I’m told that pretty much every weekend there is a wedding held there, but the Back to Back weekend is always held aside.
So once the rest of the team arrived, we got set up and prepared ourselves for the long haul.
Here are the sheep, post shearing. they were rather small sheep, so there wasn’t a LOT of fleece, that we could be so fussy as to which parts we were going to spin. Unfortunately the weather leading up to the Challenge had been a bit wet, so there were icky hard tips, which we tried to have cut off, but there are rules, so once our shearer left (he had to head to another charity event), we had to try and manage as best we could.
I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of the whole day, but I will say that while time tends to disappear when you’re trying to get something accomplished within a timeframe, your body still knows just HOW long it’s been sitting in one spot for.
Between spinning and knitting (although I did stand up for a fair part of my knitting time), it’s a LONG time to sit down in one spot. We had a lot of laughs though. Between ribbing the other team, telling stories and generally keeping ourselves entertained, you couldn’t say the day was dull.
In the end, however, we didn’t quite make the deadline. We got to almost 2/3 the way done, but we had a major yarn shortage which slowed us down.
And here is the whole team. From left to right, Margaret, me, Rhonda, Pam (our adjudicator), Judy, Warren (husband of Vicki, team masseur and helpful food/beverage retriever), Linda, Vicki, Ros. We are the Rhodes Runners.
I had a blast and was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day! The family came and saw me later in the day, and they were certainly a lovely sight by that time.
After the day was done, and DH & I got home, we were greeted by a sick son. He had developed croup, and we ended up in hospital later that night. He’s doing much better now, thankfully. But after the high of the day, it was rather eclipsed by the events of the night that followed. But it’s all going well now, and that’s the important thing.