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In 1974 a group of wool-loving folks, shepherds, spinners, knitters and other crafters put on a one-day show to showcase Maryland wool. The event focused on selling fleeces with demonstrations, crafts sales, contests and food. It’s estimated that 1,500 people came that day. 

That one-day show became Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, an event of international renown put on by the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association with the help of thousands of volunteers.

This year Maryland Sheep and Wool turned 50! Quite a few things have changed over the years. It’s longer, there are three days of workshops before the two-day festival. 

The numbers have grown, those 1,500 wool lovers of the first year grew into 20,000 this year. In 1979 there were 25 craft booths, this year there were 275, and I believe I visited them all.

Maryland Sheep and Wool has become the show that is the unofficial opening of the festival season, with New York Sheep and Wool in October bringing festival season to a close.

All of the wonderful things about this festival just keep getting better, more great yarn and fiber to buy, more activities, and more sheep.

Yarn and fiber

It’s impossible to stick to a budget here, I know I spent much more than I intended to. The vendors bring all of their beautiful yarns and fibers, things you’re unlikely to find at your LYS.

Fiber Optics always brings her love of color. She had an event colorway and so many samples knit from her yarn.

Hey we know her! Jill Draper showcased her new Dorset sock yarn, Barstow, and her handwoven blankets made from the same yarn.

Spinners who aren’t interested in fleece were not left out. Look at this tempting array of hand-dyed roving from Loop. I might have bought two. 

Things to do

If you aren’t into shopping or need a break from shopping, there are lots of activities, classes, music, an equipment auction, educational talks, and contests to entertain you.

The Sheep-to-Shawl contest is fun to watch: a group of five fiber artists shear, prep, spin and weave a shawl all in one sitting. This year they had their youngest group ever, The Quaker Bakers, a group from a local high school. They were even profiled on NPR!

The Skein and Garment Contest had some outstanding entries this year. Spinning, knitting, weaving, needle felting, crochet, and embroidery were all well represented, and the talent was breathtaking.

This hooked rug, celebrating the 50 years of Maryland Sheep and Wool is made from handspun and quite literally buried in blue ribbons. Each sheep was spun and hooked from fiber of the breed represented!


It wouldn’t be a fiber event without visiting the cuties in the sheep barns. Even after a couple of decades of spinning I’m still surprised by the number of breeds represented and the quality of the sheep. If you have the time watching the breed judging or the Parade of Breeds is fascinating. 

The winning shepherds signal their victories by tucking their ribbons into their back pockets.


Selling fleeces for hardworking shepherds was the reason that the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival started, and it remains a huge draw. The line for the fleece barn on the first days was hundreds of people long.

There was a report from the first Maryland Sheep and Wool that ‘mobs of handspinners’ from six states came to buy all the fleeces. This year 152 shepherds entered 860 fleeces that were purchased by spinners from 30 states and Canada.

600 fleeces were sold the first day, and the Grand Champion fleece sold at auction for $700.

The wool fumes in the fleece barn cause you to have an overpowering need for fleece, even if you aren’t a spinner. Cecelia Campochiaro bought a prize-winning Merino fleece with the help of a fleece concierge and is having it spun into yarn.

If you are a spinner and a fleece fancier, just assume you’ll go home with more than you thought. I happily left with six fleeces.

Happy Birthday, Maryland Sheep and Wool—here’s to another 50!

More fibery goodness from Jillian




Jillian Moreno is obsessed with yarn; she can’t stop writing and teaching about spinning, knitting, weaving and stitching. Jillian wrote the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want. External Link. Opens in new window. and is co-author of Big Girl Knits and More Big Girl Knits

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Thanks for your report and pix, Jillian. Makes me want to go next year.

  • It looks wonderful, and very exciting! I wish we had something as huge and encompassing here over the pond. I could overspend on yarn and then lose weight because I couldn’t afford food. Win, win.

  • Maryland was SO fun this year! Perfect weather, happy people. We go for the whole weekend and, and yes, Sunday lunch is always spent watching the Parade of Breeds. And a shout-out to the Viking camp reenactment, nothing I like better than to get to geek out over warp weighted looms…

    • Oh yes! It was great, and the Vikings were my first stop! Love that history!

      • This sounds like such a great event! How does one find the locations of other fiber festivals across the country? I know Rhinebeck is in October but there must be many more elsewhere.

  • I live locally and always attend. It’s fantastic to see all of the sheep breeds and other animals. And this year the weather was amazing! Already looking forward to next year!

  • When we lived in Bethesda,Md I would attend this event and it is unbelievable! The colors and yarn available can’t be beat.

  • I could just smell the fleece from that photo, lol!

  • Deanna is a fabulous fleece concierge! The volunteer team at the fleece sale are amazing.

    • I wonder if MDK could get Deanna to write an article about the auction? What exactly is it about the winning fleece that sold for $700 compared to an ordinary fabulous fleece? What is the price range for the different breeds and where do they all come from? Can you tell that I’m not a spinner, LOL, but I love to knit and do a ton of needle felting. Lovely article, thank you, it’s my ambition to visit the show one year, hopefully soon!

      • Agree 100% – I would love to read about the auction and the experience that Deanna had being a concierge!

      • Data? We’ve got data. Here’s the summary of what fleeces sold for what prices in 2022:
        As for that auction fleece – it was one of Geoff Ruppert’s Corriedale fleeces, just spectacular! (starry eye emoji).

  • And a good time was had by all!!

    • Love it!

  • Thank you Jillian, for the vivid descriptions of it all! I confess my favorite part is hearing “with the help of a fleece concierge”. How does one become a fleece concierge?!

  • Pro tip for those who don’t want to blow their budget at a Yarn Event, as offered by a canny fiber-loving friend: when you go there, bring cash up to your spending limit (don’t forget food, etc) and leave the credit cards and checkbook at home. Voilà!

  • Wonderful article, I got to travel there vicariously 🙂

  • How is it that so many fleeces were sold at this event, and one for $700! when in other regions the fleece is near worthless and farmers are burning it to get rid of it? Can anyone shed some light on this paradox?

  • How I miss MS&W (we moved). Back in the day it was free, not so crowded and I would stay from 9 to 3 and wonder where the time went. Still have loads of MS&W-acquired yarn in my stash from the early days and am finally being inspired to knit up some of it. Including some of that Euroflax for a possible Shakerag (no promises!). The only upside – home early enough now to see those spectacular Kentucky Derby hats before post time. Those two “National Holidays” always seem to coincide.

  • I was one of those 20,000 in attendance on my first time at MD Sheep and Wool. What a wonderful color and yarn “overload.” Kiddos to all who made it possible!

  • Thank you for covering this. I had been a little disappointed that MDK had not covered MSW, which is a wonderful event. My son calls it Maryland Sheep & Wolf. There was even an event a few days before in Frederick, MD, Yarncentrick, for those who didn’t think they would have enough shopping over the weekend.

  • Great post, love her booth. Thanks for posting.

  • “A fleece concierge?” Sign me up!

  • Oh Jillian you had so much fun sticking your hands into shorn fleeces! Thanks for writing the review. I missed this year because I spent 3 weeks in Shetland hiking and enjoying the fiber arts

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