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Ashley Lowery, Deseret News
Volunteers practice waulking wool at the annual Lamb and Wool Festival at Thanksgiving Point's Farm Country in Lehi Saturday.

LEHI — Waulking has Scottish roots, just like American Fork resident Lois Ann Garlitz, but last Saturday was the first time she'd ever participated in the ancient method for softening wool and taking out the scratchiness.

It was one of many activities at the third annual Lamb and Wool Festival, a signature event at Farm Country at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi. And it will be one of the activities at the upcoming Scottish Festival and Highland Games on June 13-14.

Under the direction of textile designer Anne Gilmore of Salt Lake City, several participants sat along both sides of a long, shaded table where they kneaded, rubbed, thumped and passed along a continuous piece of wool cloth, while she taught them the ancient songs the Scottish women sang to keep up the rhythm of their task.

Participants moved the wool along in a clockwise rotation only. To move it counterclockwise would put bad luck into the garment eventually made from it, said volunteer Val Pahl, citing an ancient Scottish belief.

First the wool is carded to straighten out the threads, then spun into thread on a spinning wheel. The threads are put on a loom to weave it into cloth. Then the ends are sewn together, and it is soaked in hot water to shrink it. Finally the long piece of woolen cloth goes through the waulking process, which softens and finishes it.

"It's fun," Garlitz said. "She's teaching us Gaelic songs, at least the choruses."

While Garlitz's ancestors may have waulked the wool in centuries past, Garlitz said she never imagined she would have that same experience.

As unusual as it may seem to the casual attendee at the festival, the most interest was shown in shearing the sheep, said festival manager Rena Prestwich. A crowd-pleaser, in one demonstration Bob King held the head of a four-horned Jacob sheep between his knees while using his legs and feet to steady the animal. He then clipped off its pelt. He demonstrated both the modern method using power shears and the old method using hand clippers.

The pelts of the spotted Jacob sheep aren't worth much because they can't be dyed any color but black. More valuable is the wool coming from the white- or black-faced Suffolk sheep, which can be dyed any color, said festival staffer Matthew Lamb.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com