Fiber Festival in review

OK, don’t ask how I got so sidetracked yesterday. I underestimated how long it takes to add pictures and links to a blog entry. Let’s get back to my experiences at the Fiber Festival of New England. As much as I enjoyed the NY Sheep and Wool festival last month, I wanted to spend more time among creative people.  I assure you I didn’t need any more batts to spin, but I wanted some. I have fallen in love with the spontaneous fibery goodness from Steph Gorin of Loop. Remember those Baby Cakes that I bought at Rhinebeck?  I’m nearly done spinning them and I still wanted more Loop-iness.

So, plans were made and I awakened in the pre-dawn hours to converge upon the festival with two friends.  There are only two things that will get me out of bed before dawn: a good hike or a fiber festival. We misplaced one friend for a few hours due to problems with Amtrak’s ticket machines on her end. I can’t believe that she had to miss the train because their ticket machines wouldn’t work.

This is the Mallery Complex at the Eastern States Exposition grounds.  It’s a spiffy fairgrounds, but it’s located in a very industrial part of Springfield, MA.  I suppose the town grew up around the fairgrounds, whose oldest parts date to 1916.

The taxi dropped us off right here, but there was parking right nearby for those who drove to the festival.

Once inside, we were greeted by sheep and alpacas in tidy pens, and lots of booths featuring alpaca yarn and fiber. Alpaca are soft but hairy beasts. It’s not my favorite fiber to spin and weave. Getting all the hair out seems impossible.

There was a small fleece sale in the same room, but I resisted the urge to buy a whole, unprocessed fleece.  As one of my friends remarked, “It has poo in it!” Some of the fleece did have manure tags in them. I don’t have the facility to process a fleece in my studio, and I am reluctant to send it out for commercial processing, which seems to make even the softest wool harsh. With some regret, I had to leave the fleeces for others to enjoy.

There was also a demonstration of shearing. I am always in awe of the skill of shearers, who can hold the sheep still and take off the coat in one unbroken fleece.

These sheep are waiting their turn at shearing. Baa!

On to the main vendor room. It was good to be indoors on a cool day, but it was also good to have a view of the sky through the skylights of the building. It was bright and enough of a modern barn that it didn’t feel isolated from nature. I do prefer the picturesque and rustic setting of the NY Sheep and wool festival buildings, but this was acceptable.  At least it wasn’t urban, stuffy and unpleasant like the Stitches East marketplace.

I had to laugh at the sign that read, “No livestock in the main aisle.”

There were plenty of festival goers in the main aisle and in all the side aisles. It wasn’t insanely crowded, but there were lots of people enjoying the festival.

I didn’t see many people wearing handwoven and hand knit garments. I guess there were a lot of first-timers who didn’t know that wearing and commenting on beautiful handcrafted clothing is a huge part of the fun. I wore the Misted Hills scarf, and answered a few questions about hand-weaving. I’m very comfortable wearing my own designs. Over the years, I have developed a personal style that moves in it’s own direction, regardless of the fashion industry. Scarves area a big part of my style, all year round.

There was yarn, there was fiber, there were supplies for making felt. There were bobbin lace demos, rug hooking demos, rug twining demos, a few weavers, and a few spinners. Hats, beads, knitting needles and dyes. It was a good selection of New England’s best.

This is what I bought:

  • Spontaneous Spinning Clouds from Loop, in Eggplant, Three Ring Circus, and The Devil Made Me Do It. I love her color names. These clouds are well named, because they are feather light blends of several breeds of wool, mohair, angelina, and noils.
  • An Ed Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle, in Tulipwood. That’s the star-fishy looking item below the red fiber.
  • A wooden bowl for my supported spindle. Both the spindle and the bowl were from Spunky Eclectic.
  • Three sets of glove needles. Those are hard to find. They are short double-pointed needles. I don’t recall where I got the Addi needles. (Hello, vendors! Be sure to have your name on your receipts or include a business card.) The bamboo set was from Nightingale Fibers.
  • An unnamed Spontaneous Spinning Batt from Loop, in shades of green and yellow.

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