We think of New York City as the "real" world, but then there's that other real world: the one where our food is grown and our clothes are made. We can be fairly isolated from these everyday realities. But even in New York, there are ample opportunities to learn about where things come from.
This weekend is Sheep Shearing Weekend with a couple of events to learn about how wool is turned from a sheep's winter coat into the fabric that makes our clothes and other things. Find a sheep shearing event in the city or drive out for one in the 'burbs. For extra credit check out an art exhibit about felt that takes it to the next step to show how wool is made into felt and many beautiful objects made from felt.
Sheep Shearing Weekend at the Queens Zoo is May 2-3, 11am-4pm. Watch sheep shearing demos, then see how the wool is spun and dyed and make sheep crafts. Free with zoo admission.
The Prospect Park Zoo is also having a Fleece Festival this weekend. Watch sheep get shorn plus meet local artists who will demonstrate weaving, knitting, and spinning techniques. May 2-3, 11am-4pm. Free with zoo admission.
After visiting the Prospect Park Zoo, head to Lefferts Historic House to learn how fleece becomes yarn. Kids can help wash, hang, card, and spin wool. Plus plant flax for the next harvest or join a weaving workshop. May 2-3, 1-4pm. Free.
(If you're still up for more after all this, head over to Brookyn Museum's Free First Saturday Event with lots of cool stuff going on.)
If you're up for a day trip out of the city, head to Huntington, Long Island where the Huntington Historical Society is throwing its annual Sheep to Shawl Festival. On May 3, 12-4pm, people in colonial garb will demonstrate all the steps that take wool "from sheep to shawl." There will also be traditional games, face painting, storytelling and old fashioned crafts. Crafters will be demonstrating spinning, embroidery, lace making, basket weaving, knitting and crocheting as well. Music and refreshments round out the day. Admission is free and there is also a free shuttle to the Huntington Tulip Festival.
Want to see what happens to wool after all this? Check out a wonderful exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, Fashioning Felt. The exhibits has fascinating videos showing the methods Mongolians have been using to make felt for thousands of years as well as modern industrial methods. Kids will love the giant felt installations, seeing all the unusual ways felt is used and a giant modern yurt made from translucent felt that they can enter. See a preview of the exhibit on the Martha Stewart Show. Fashioning Felt runs through Labor Day. Mark your calendars, there's a family program related to this exhibit on June 6th.