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10 Reasons To Go To A Wool Festival

Oct 22, 2010

It has come to my attention that some of you have not been to a wool festival. Having just come back from the mystical, magical event that is Rhinbeck Sheep & Wool, I feel it is my duty to Spread The Woolly Love and try to convince each and every one of you to run, not walk, to the nearest and soonest festival. (There are a few left this season, and it is never too soon to be planning for the spring season!)

Thus, I present to you my Top Ten Reasons To Attend Your Local Sheep & Wool Gathering:

10. More yarn than you have ever seen in your life. Even a small festival has the equivalent of several shops' worth of yarn, offered by both local shops with a booth and vendors from parts of the country you may never get to visit. The selection, colours, and literal WALLS O' YARN are incredible.

9. Goodies not sold in stores. Some yarnmakers and toolmakers sell their wares exclusively at seasonal shows, which means the only place you are going to be able to see (and touch!) their amazing stuff is at a festival. Those vendors who do sell through shops may have colours and one-of-a-kind items exclusive to fests. (And if you are a shop owner, extra bonus: The opportunity to discover in person more wonderful things to offer to your customers!)

8. Endless parades of inspiration. You don't even really have to walk around a wool show–if you want to see dozens of gorgeous knitted sweaters, shawls, hats, and mittens, have a seat on a bench and watch the crowd, and their knitwear, go by!

7. Learn something new. Many shows have classes you can attend; but if money is tight, you can check the schedule for the free demos offered. Not to mention that everywhere around you will be knitters knitting, spinners spinning, and weavers weaving. I learned a new spinning trick just by standing and watching a group of spinners in the next booth.

6. Buy direct, literally. If it says "sheep & wool festival," then...there will be sheep there! Also: Llamas, alpacas, goats, bunnies, sheep dogs, and their assorted shepherds. Watch a sheep being sheared, then buy a fleece from the shepherd; pet a cria (baby alpaca), then purchase some yarn made from the babymama's fleece. I bought bunny fibre from a bunny owner, and wool yarn from the sheep farmer. (I also bought a fleece from a sheep named Nancy. I feel quite affectionate towards Nancy right now, as I dream of the sweater her fluff will become.)

5. Did I mention more yarn than you have ever seen in your life?

4. All The Knitters. You just never know who you will bump into at a wool gathering. I managed to hug Ravelry's Casey three times this past weekend. (Never saw Jess, though, nor Mary-Heather. Where were you folks hiding at?) I also met dozens of my Ravelry friends in person for the first time, and there were hugs and laughter all 'round. (Plus: You might even bump into me someday. Just sayin'.)

3. Show Your Stuff. It's become a tradition for many knitters to create a special "Rhinebeck Sweater." (It's also traditional to finish your Rhinebeck sweater the morning before you leave for the show.) Whether you make a new shawl/sweater/hat, or wear a past favourite, there's no better place to show off your work than a wool festival...because most of the folks there will truly appreciate every stitch. Be prepared to have complete strangers yell "Beautiful shawl!" at you from across the aisle.

2. Food, food, food. From legendary chicken pot pies to delicious ice cream treats, from spun maple cotton candy to deep-fried artichokes, each fair has its specialties, and long lines are a small price to pay for these once-a-season delights. This year, I ate fresh apples and apple pie from local orchards, and swooned at the rich sweetness of spun maple sugar.

1. Beauty, love, yarn, laughter, fun, play, yarn, fresh air, friends, family, yarn, sheep, colours, fibre, no tv, yarn, being silly, and more yarn. 'Nuff said.

Here's a list of 2010 shows, courtesy of the ever-fabulous Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review. The list includes festivals through the end of the year! Many events happen on the same weekend each year, so check the links to see when the spring shows are. Rhinebeck's 2011 dates are already posted!

See you where the yarn is!

– Sandi

P.S. Yes, I wore my new Rhinebeck Hat. Yes, I wore my lovely Farmer's Market Cardigan. And because the weather was warm, I even had a chance to wear my Bolero. No, I did not get a photo of me, at Rhinebeck, wearing any of this knitted finery. What was I thinking? (Bad blogger, no donut.)

Sandi Wiseheart
is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday.
Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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LindaW@41 wrote
on Nov 2, 2010 5:48 AM

How great to hear from you again.  Knitting Daily hasn't been the same since you left! WE MISS YOU!!

thea wrote
on Oct 31, 2010 10:17 PM

Nice to see you in my email again Sandi. Still miss your smiling face on Knitting Daily.

Verconia wrote
on Oct 31, 2010 11:43 AM

Some friends drove to Howard County Maryland Fairgrounds , there were so many cars backed up we were not able to get in.  Hope it is better next time.  They

need at least 3 days   Elsie Houston

LesleyP@4 wrote
on Oct 30, 2010 8:05 AM

I drove up from Virginia, and spent Saturday at Rhinebeck this year.  Last year I  discovered the wonders of Dorset wool yarn from Amondale Farms, so this year went back for a whole bunch more!  I also came prepared with a cooler and rolling cart, and loaded up with a variety of cuts of frozen, vacuum-sealed lamb meat from a local farm.  The handwoven African market baskets were too wonderful to bypass.  I stood in line for artichokes, a roast lamb sandwich, and fresh apple cider and apple cider donuts (yum - got a dozen to share with the aunt I was visiting).  We had roast lamb for Sunday dinner.  Rhinebeck is my favorite wool & sheep festival.  The Hudson River Valley is beautiful in Autumn, and the whole fair experience is fabulous.  Truly something for everyone, and lots of friendly people to chat with!

susanhageman wrote
on Oct 30, 2010 8:02 AM

Eugene, OR has a wonderful Black Sheep Gathering every June and it also is a feast for the eyes, touch, and smell.  You won't be sorry if you make the effort to attend.  There is everything from sheep to finished products.

on Oct 30, 2010 7:18 AM

I love the wool festivals.  I'm in southern WI and I attend a Sheep and Wool Fest every year which is in Jefferson.  Anyone who loves fibers should try and go at least once, just to see where all these wonderful fibers come from and look like.  Not to mention the fun of see the many kinds of sheep goats, rabbits, llamas, alpacas, and even sheep dogs working their flocks. Can't wait until next year again!  There is always more to see.


Ruth@7 wrote
on Oct 30, 2010 6:24 AM

I'm so jealous.  My ride to Rhinebeck fell through at the last minute, so I wasn't able to go.

sallysega wrote
on Oct 30, 2010 6:19 AM

Sandi, I was there on Sunday and it is truly the highlight of my year, every year, we drive up from CT and arrive at 10:00 am and by 4:00 pm my brain is almost overloaded with yarn.  Of course by then I have done my part for the economy and seen all the sights and am happy and satisfied for another year.

My friend Jody said the first year my chin was on my chest for the first hour.  It was such a shock to see so much yarn, roving, etc....Sally

CristiB wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 3:19 PM

It was so great to see you again!  I wish I had run into you when you weren't busy working, I'd have loved to give you a hug again!  Maybe someday you'll make it down to SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival) instead.  It's happening this weekend for anyone within driving distance of Asheville, NC.  Heck, there's an airport right down the street from it.  Go!

TraceyB wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 12:19 PM

I am jealous, my sister-in-law attended and it sounded delightful!