Members of the Blue Mt. 4-H Livestock Club made a recent trip to Ag Progress Days. They were invited to participate in the 4-H & Youth Building which features many fun and educational activities for the smallest visitors to the show. This year the building theme was Expressive Arts where it highlighted the diverse project areas that included textiles, photography, art, woodworking and more. Clubs were asked to host a short hands-on activity for nearly 1,000 children who come through the building. Demonstrators were encouraged to provide a make and take component to go with their presentation.
The Blue Mt. 4-H Livestock Club answered the call for 4-H clubs to participate in this show at Ag Progress Days. They did this by making contact with PA 4-H Teen Program manager, Jeanette Stackhouse through a series of emails. The club introduced itself as a livestock club with interest in Expressive Arts. Which seems in most people’s minds as being a combination that would not really work. A livestock club making art? But as stated in the emails the club proposed an idea that crosses over from Ag Technology into the Arts with a Project called “Hands-on with Wool.” A little STEM meets up with the Arts to from a “band” between the two as in STEAM where the “A” stands for Art. The original idea for “Hands-on with Wool” came from Agriculture in the Classroom, Utah State University. The club adapted the idea by spinning carded wool into 4-H friendship bracelet or bands to wear around the wrist.
PSU, Janette Stackhouse was excited over the idea of this “crossover” project feeling that it would fit right into the theme of Expressive Arts. So with a little further development of the idea, under the direction of club leaders Kim Morgan and Jill Felty, the club move forward in planning and developing the idea to meet the criteria set forth by the Ag progress Day Committee. The club determined that each participant (Ag progress Day visitor) with the assistance of a 4-H club member would take a piece of carded wool approximately ¼” wide and 10” long. Each piece of carded wool was hooked onto a small metal shepherds crook. The shepherds crook were cut and bent from leftover coat hangers. The hooked wool was twisted and drafted out like when using a drop spindle for spinning wool into yarn. When the length of wool was spun, it was then ready to ply. Plying is the twisting together of two single strands of yarn. A two-ply yarn becomes softer and stays together better. The plying was done by holding the center of the twisted wool while both ends of the twisted wool are brought together. Letting go of the wool strand allows the wool to recoil or to twist together into two ply strand that will not un-spin. The last step was then to tie the plied yarn around the wrist to form a friendship bracelet or band.
The Blue Mt. 4-H Livestock Club members spent from 9 AM Tuesday, August 14 till 5 PM assisting Ag Progress Day visitors with making the 4-H Friendship bands. So each visitor who stop by the demonstration not only learned how to make a friendship bracelet, but was able to take along a snack size bag filled with wool roving and a hook to spin more friendship bands with friends at home. To enhance the demonstration of “Hands-on with Wool” a stationary display of was set up demonstrating how easily wool can dyed. Four gallon size jars were set up with Koolaide, water and vinegar and placed in a sunny location. This was not an easy task as central Pennsylvania was hit with another flooding rain storm. In the sun dye method wool is placed inside the jars for a period of four hours depending on the intensity of the sun. After that period of time the wool comes out the color of the Koolaid. Club members found out that it even works on days without sunshine. If you are wondering what the small amount of vinegar is doing in the dye bath, vinegar serves as a mordant which is a chemical that opens up the fibers so the fibers take to the dye more readily.
Going to an event like Ag Progress Days and staying true to our roots as a livestock club, the club members brought along two ewe lambs for display. The desire of the club membership for those participating in Ag Progress Days as visitors to make the connection between where wool comes from within the sheep industry. The lambs were kept dry under a tent and eventually relaxed for the many hands that wanted to feel the soft wool on their backs. A number of people remarked how the sheep felt like a wool carpet as the lambs were recently slick shorn (clipped close to the hide). The wool for the 4-H Friendship Bracelets or bands was provided by area sheep, washed, carded using a drum card and dyed by our 4-H leader, Kim Morgan.
All in all club members had an experience they will not soon forget by going to Ag Progress Days. Just getting there was a challenge in itself with torrential rain fall causing local flooding, flat tires, rerouting of the trip on detoured roads and lost reservations. The high water for the heavy rain storms, made the Ag Progress Days an adventure in perseverance. As the 4-H motto goes “To Make the Best Better,” this experience that the Blue Mt. 4-H Livestock Club members had made all of them better.
Club members participating in Ag Progress Day
- Collin Felty – Schuylkill Haven
- Cassie Keller – Orwigsburg
- Peyton James – Orwigsburg
- Sami Srouse – Auburn
- Sara Strouse – Auburn
- Stefi Strouse – Auburn
- Allisa Cook – Minersville
- Anna Cook – Minersville
- Emerson Haas – Pine Grove
- Cole Leibold – Pottsville (came for the day and helped out)