Janis Thompson attended the Black Sheep Gathering for the first time in 1989 in conjunction with the World Congress of Colored Sheep. It was the first year for BSG at the Lane County Fairgrounds and the Congress was held at the Eugene Hilton......That’s right The Hilton Hotel.
Many conversations and photos later, myself and a couple of friends ventured over to the Lane County Fairgrounds where I found my true love......WOOL! Whatever that rich smell was, I had to investigate......Fleece, okay (dung), Lanolin and the scent of my newfound passion.
It was a mesmerizing experience. Barn to Yarn Vendors everywhere, actual live sheep & goats in the barns, herding demonstrations, beautiful handmade garments in the Fiber Arts Show as well as hourly demonstrations. It was free admission, I remember thinking....when was the last time anything this wonderful was FREE? Most of the available products were natural colors like champagne, silver, dark greys, soft browns, chocolate & yes....BLACK! There were color descriptions like Emsket, Shaela, Mioget & Moorit.....I had no idea what this meant. The mystery would soon unfold.
My skill set was knitting and sewing, I knew nothing about raising fiber animals or how to spin fleece into useable yarn for weaving or other needle crafts. I found out there were also Workshops and made a note to be sure to sign up for the following year. In the meantime, I bought Spin Off magazine and a couple of breed books, plus “Hands On Spinning” by Lee Raven.
Wool was not alone, it came with many friends, Mohair, Silk, Bunny Fluff, Alpaca & Cashmere.
Thus began my very intimate relationship with all things fiber related.... It wasn’t long before I had a Spinning Wheel, Drop spindle, a bevy of tools & lots of spinning fiber! Since I’m an avid reader, the books started to populate my shelves with as much as I could find on Hand Spinning, Weaving, Felting, Dyeing and anything that even remotely related to fiber arts. I discovered that in addition to the Protein fibers there were PLANT fibers, Flax, Cotton, Soy, Ramie, Hemp.
The history of all fibers used to produce Ship Sails, Clothing & all Household goods is a constant source of inspiration for me. I continue to read and research this amazing journey of how the human race has used and often abused these beautiful natural resources. Primitive cultures and early humans were quite resourceful indeed and laid the groundwork for the burgeoning market for yarns that we enjoy today. We say that we are standing on the shoulders of giants.....indeed!
To continue my journey with the Black Sheep Gathering, I immediately volunteered for the organization and started as the Demonstration Coordinator for many years, then moved on to Marketplace & Vendor Chair. At present I am the Facilities Coordinator. This is exciting because we have moved our event to LINN County as of June 2018. Although the move is bittersweet, we are looking forward to a new, upgraded & more modern facility for the future BSG event.
The Black Sheep Gathering has evolved over time into the Premiere Fiber Arts Festival in the
Pacific Northwest. The Marketplace features an explosion of natural and brightly dyed fibers in every conceivable colorway. 165 Vendors with a huge variety of preparations, from clean bagged fleeces to finished hand spun yarns and finished goods now populate the booths.
The Wool show and sale has completely outgrown its former space with hundreds of fleeces being judged and sold annually. It is like a shark feeding frenzy when those doors open. Fleece judging is witnessed by hundreds of attendees each year and is a huge draw for BSG. The animal barns showcase many popular and some endangered and primitive breeds, you must visit the animals to get the full experience. Our talented Education team offers a wide variety of great workshops. Early registration is advisable as these fill up fast! It is an incredible joint effort of the all Volunteer staff to put this event together and so very Rewarding!!!
A big THANK YOU to all who contribute to making the Black Sheep Gathering possible.
Footnote: Janis Thompson teaches a variety of fiber related subjects, she can be found at
Eugene Textile Center in Eugene, Oregon & at various Festivals and Guild events.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
ETC: 541- 688-1565
Written by: Janis Thompson 11/29/2017