Stacey Wilson of Milford and Edith Kershner of Searsport might have never met if their passion for sheep, wool and fiber hadn’t weaved them together. Wilson, a native of Massachusetts and Kershner, a fourth generation sheep shearer born in Montana, have joined forces to create Sheep for a Cure, a nonprofit that raises funds for cancer research through the fiber arts.
“The reason I got started in the fiber arts is when I was 10 years old my grandfather taught me to crochet when he was going through cancer treatment,” Wilson explained. “He taught me to crochet granny squares. Now, I crochet, knit, weave, felt, spin and process. I do it all. He taught me how important it was to have a passion and if you have a passion, to find a way to share it with everyone.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the duo had scheduled The International Back to Back Wool Challenge for May in Hermon, where an eight person team takes the wool from the back of a sheep, spins the fleece and knits that fleece into a sweater all in one day.
“I talked to so many people about the competition and they say, ‘I’m not a fast knitter or fast spinner,’ and I have to remind them of the purpose of what we’re doing and my purpose is to raise money for cancer research and find a cure,” Wilson explained. “Edie is our connection to everyone. In one way or another she shears for them, and to know she’s a fourth generation sheep shearer and to see the craft continue in the family is a lost art. It’s the same with spinning. So to know Edie is so excited about all of this, pushed me even more.”
Kershner remembers enjoying events just like the International Back to Back Wool Challenge when she was young.
“My dad would go to the Maryland sheep and wool festival and compete every year. My family would go, pack a picnic, and cheer him on. It was a lot of fun,” Kershner reminisced. “I have two brothers and three sisters and he taught all of us to shear except for my youngest sister because she was too little. For a period of time, we all sheared but I am the only one who still shears. I can do your average sheep in five minutes. For your professional shearers that’s a little on the slow side. My dad was on a shearing crew and they had to do it in three minutes and 30 seconds. Some sheep will be a little harder and some a little easier to shear. I think the world record is 28 seconds and that’s by a guy in New Zealand who that’s all he does.”
This year’s event had included three teams in the U.S.; one from Maine, New Hampshire and California, and two from Canada before it was canceled due to the coronavirus. What the pandemic didn’t stop was the Maine team’s fundraising efforts.
“Last year we donated $1,700 to the Dempsey Center and this year we are going to be donating to Cancer Care of Maine in Brewer,” Wilson said. “We plan to raffle off this year’s sweater that the team finished during practice. We will have the drawing on May 16.”
All the proceeds from the sweater raffle will be added to the $1,100 Sheep for the Cure has fundraised so far and donated to Cancer Care of Maine. Tickets for the raffle are $5.45 each ($5 from each raffle ticket goes to the cause) and can be purchased at Stacey’s Spinning Haven at staceysspinninghaven.com. A winner will be drawn live online at the Back to Back Wool Challenge Maine Edition Facebook page on May 16 at 3 p.m.
“We lost my grandfather shortly after he was diagnosed,” Wilson said. “He had five children and each one of them has had one form of cancer or another. Luckily they are all survivors right now. So cancer has really touched my life which is why I really want a cure.”
For more information, log onto staceysspinninghaven.com or the Sheep for a Cure Facebook page.