Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fiber Festivals

Why, hello there! Long time no see! I actually finally recorded an episode last week, but something was up with camera, and my mouth and the sound just would not line up! I'll try again this week, at some point. In the meantime, so the show isn't just a huge line of stuff I've bought recently, I thought I'd blog about the various fiber festivals that have been going on the past month. Columbus Day weekend was the NH Wool Arts Tour. I thought this looked fun, so I piled the kids into the car and off we went! I had thought that there would be some interesting demonstrations and that the kids would be able to spend some time with animals. This was not necessarily the case. They did get to pet some sheep and goats, but they didn't really get up close and personal with the animals. The weather was chilly and wet, so most of the demonstrations were cancelled. It was okay though - the kids chatted so amicably in the car on the way up to NH and seemed to enjoy running around the farms. When I asked if they would go next year, they pretty much answered with "maybe." I decided it wasn't really worth the trip for me.
I did a tiny bit of shopping that day. I bought 2 oz. of Cotswold roving to sample at one of the farms. Friends in Fiber was vending and I bought my first rolags from her! I also picked 2 mini batts - one of llama and one of mohair, also new fibers to me. There was a vendor with large bags of white roving. I wish I had asked about price - I wouldn't mind having a sweater's worth of fiber to spin!

The next weekend was the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival. I didn't go this year, but I sent in an entry to the handmade competition. The featured item this year was cowls. I knitted the Scalloped Ruff by Pam Powers out of a merino/alpaca/cashmere blend. A week after the festival, I received it back in the mail, along with a third place ribbon!! I'm pretty excited to have won a ribbon for the second year in a row!

(I'm sorry that I don't have a decent picture of it. I'll try to get on that today!)

Finally, this past weekend was the New England Fiber Festival. This is my first time attending this event, and I went with a local knitting friend. We left early and arrived just before the doors opened. We had a lot of fun and bought a lot!!! I totally stuck to my list, except for one skein of sock yarn (and we all know that sock yarn doesn't count as stash!)

Here's the stash: A sweater's worth of yarn, Shetland fiber and sock yarn, all from Tucker Woods. A sock spinning kit from Bitsy Knits (who is AWESOME with the customer service!), 2 oz. of merino/silk/camel to spin, and a braid of Rambouillet from Gnomespun.

All the Tucker Woods Goodness!

 I wanted to take a moment to compare/contrast Rhinebeck and the New England Festival, because there's been a lot of that going on on some of the Rav boards. New England was great for shopping. The Festival takes place in a HUGE building and booths are set up in a grid system with plenty of aisle room. It actually feels like shopping in a giant yarn mall. I think there were almost 200 vendors there, so plenty of shopping options! There was plenty of yarn and fiber, a number of rug hooking vendors, and, I think, a decent number of weaving vendors. There were opportunities to learn to spin and a few demonstrations throughout the day. Food choices were limited, but tasty and reasonably priced. The vendors, although they seemed to be tired at the end of festival season, had the time to really talk to customers, and we had several really nice conversations! This is an easy day trip for me, so I could definitely see it becoming a regular event for me.

Where the New England festival fails is the atmosphere. First of all, its inside. There's just something about shopping for yarn in the fresh air that makes me happy! Because its indoors, there's a lot less wooly fashion to admire. No one is wearing hats, scarves, or fingerless mitts inside. And although there were a few animals present, there were no animal shows - no sheep dog trials, or llama limbo, or sheep shows. Sure, there are no crazy crowds, but there's also was very little stopping strangers to admire their knitwear, or bonding while standing in line.

Rhinebeck has all the things that New England lacks. Plus, it has some of the bigger vendors that I would love to see in person again - Loop!, Fiber Optic, and Into the Whirled to name a few. It also has way better food vendors - lamb burgers are totally the appropriate fiber festival food! And, as another podcaster put it, Rhinebeck is yarn prom! The big kicker for me and Rhinebeck though, is the surrounding area. I LOVED the weekend I spent in the Hudson Valley last year. I loved dining at the CIA and touring the historical houses. I hope to go next year with my husband and hike the Walkway over the Hudson.
Some of the Festival Atmosphere at Rhinebeck
So, final analysis - for pure shopping, go to the New England Fiber Festival. It's much easier to browse, it's no problem to think about your purchases and go back to vendors, and there's plenty of room to breathe and move. For Festival atmosphere and a whole weekend of Autumnal beauty, site-seeing opportunities and the chance to make new friends, head to Rhinebeck. (Plus, Tucker Woods will only be vending at Rhinebeck from now on!) Wow, this turned into a really long post!!!! I'm glad to share my purchases with you here though! I hope the next time I record I'll be able to share the knitting and the spinning!