a fiber festival, distilled to pure joy

This year, my friend Jo and I spent just one day at the NY Sheep and Wool festival. The past two years, I chose to make a long weekend of it, arriving on Friday night and staying through Sunday. This year, concern for my fragile and beloved cat Amber kept me closer to home. aWe still had a long weekend of fun. Friday night, Jo and I dined with Nina and regaled her with stories of past years Sheep and Wool festivals.

Saturday morning, we left at the crack of 8AM, grabbed breakfast to go at Starbucks,  and arrived in Rhinebeck around 10AM. It was a cold, crisp morning, but we were warm in our handwoven finery. I wore the Misted Hills scarf, and Jo wore her gypsy poncho, made from bright squares of alpaca, alternating plain weave and Bronson lace.

I had a short shopping list this year.  Remember all the fiber I bought to spin last year?  Most of it is still unspun. It’s beautiful, but it’s still sitting there. How could I buy more? I don’t believe in having a knitter’s or spinner’s stash. I buy things when I need them.  Last year, I guess I needed too much.

I’m not sure why I put yarn for weaving and dyed locks on this year’s list.  I didn’t have a specific project in mind. I guess I was hoping for that sudden ray of inspiration that comes when I see yarn that catches my interest.  I have conceived and designed many a project in my head while standing in front of a shelf filled with cones of beautiful yarn.

I love the NY Sheep and Wool festival. It is so energizing to be surrounded by creative people. This is one place that we can be who we really are. People dress in their personal styles and wear unique and expressive clothing. It is the perfect antidote to the soulless and colorless muddle of blacks and neutrals that I see the rest of the year..

The festival is a homecoming, a gathering of the tribe. I saw many fiber festival friends–Yukiko, Nancy, Donna, Amy, Dawn, and Kathy. We had lunch (Artichokes French, naturellement,) with two charming ladies from the Utica region. We had our pictures taken by many, many people. We promoted weaving at every possible opportunity.

At one point, I almost bought a rigid heddle loom. It would be nice to have a way to work on a second project when my floor loom is occupied by a long warp. I just couldn’t do it.  All the rigid heddle looms had plastic parts. As Jo said, it was a question of which part would break first. For me, looms have to be solid and well-crafted. Like the trees from which they were made, their lives should be measured in generations, not years.

So, this is what I bought.

  • A Schacht cherry wood shuttle, snub-nosed and small, from Hillcreek Fiber Studio. Paper quills from another vendor in the same building.
  • An ebony wood nostepinne from The Rouge Lucette. I was really looking for a compact, all-wood ball winder, but there weren’t any. There never are.
  • Five Loop baby cakes to spin.  Where’s the fifth?  Already spun.  I know I didn’t need any more fiber, but this was my first chance to see Loop’s beautiful art batts, and besides, they are so adorable and tiny that I will have them all spun within a week or so…
  • Citric Acid, Alum, Logwood and Lac for the dye pot.  Oops, I already had plenty of logwood, and my alum supply isn’t as low as I thought. It was really Spectralite that I needed. I need to organize my dye stuff better.
  • An African market basket from a vendor in Building E.
  • A loom…

Yes, I did buy a loom. This is a double frame loom from Ed Haag of Haag Maple Farm. There are no plastic parts. It’s all cherry wood from his own land. How magical is that?

We left the festival grounds at 6PM, sat in traffic for a very long time, and we were back at my studio by 8:30 for a light supper of bread, cheese and wine. Yum.

Sunday, Nina came over and we shared our stories while we spun, knit and petted my Amber cat. Stephanie phoned us a couple of times from the festival. She had misplaced her map and just knew that we could help her find the various merchants that she wanted to visit. Of course, we knew exactly where they were!

The day they locked up all the color

Continuing in the Colorless vein of my last post, I want to tell you about my trip to the Marketplace at Stitches East last Saturday.

Stitches East, if you aren’t familiar with it, is one of several regional knitters gatherings. You might compare it to NEWS in the weaving world, but with some critical differences.

It’s run by some knitting magazine, rather than by a knitter’s organization, and that created a cold atmosphere in my opinion.  Every little thing has a fee. I heard that the booth fees for vendors are outrageous. Even the demos were billed as Marketplace classes, with an attendant fee to be paid. There was one very generous weaver who gave free demos of the Ashford Knitter’s loom and invited people to give it a try. That was the spirit.

I don’t even have pictures to share with you.  Yep. That was forbidden. In all the years of attending fiber festivals like Rhinebeck, picture taking is at the discretion of the booth holder. You ask if you can take a picture for your blog, and they say yes or no.  End of story. I was too cold and stiff to take pictures at Rhinebeck, and was so looking forward to making up for it in the relative comfort of this indoor venue.

So, imagine if you will a convention center with nine rows of booths. There are black curtains dividing the booths, so the yarn displays are set in sharp contrast to the backdrops.  Most booths are clever displays of ordinary commercial yarn, but here and there, there is some of the most beautiful artisan yarn that you ever saw. Or handmade buttons and shawl pins.

Gita Maria had the most beautiful scarves to knit, yarn sold with a coordinating enamel on silver shawl pin. They are a narrow crescent knitted from ribbon yarn, with long ribbon and glitz fringes.  You’ll have to wait until I knit mine to see how pretty they are, because their web site only shows the larger shawls.

Kipuka Trading had sari silk ribbon, gorgeous bright strips sewn together to make yarn. I may cut it into narrower strips to weave, unless I use it as an accent in an otherwise light weight cloth. At the full width, beat firmly  it would create an interesting fabric for placemats or tote bags.

One booth was called the Incredible Stash Wall. The big corporate  sponsors of the event, yarn manufacturers,  each showcased five of their yarns. There were piles of short snippets below, to take home, and a large sheet of paper printed with descriptions, to stick the samples onto.  My snippets will go into my treasure basket, to be incorporated into some future weaving. Or not.

As pretty and glittery as it was, I felt lost without being able to use my camera.  I have scribbled notes on the back of receipts, and some of the vendors didn’t have their names on the receipts, much to my chagrin when I got home and tried to put things together.

I also felt out of place in the crowd. A lot of the knitters have very different interests than mine. Urban colors. Methodical work, not very spirited though well executed. Smooth, tame textures. Frump city. It was an older crowd, even the young people, and that’s a funny thing for this fifty-something to be saying.

People just didn’t interact much with strangers like they do at Rhinebeck. It was just plain cold.

Was there anything there for weavers?  Yes, if you like to incorporate knitting yarn into your work.

Will I go again next year?  Probably not. I’d rather freeze my fingers at Rhinebeck, than freeze my spirit in this colorless crowd.

After weaving the threads of community, the shopping was grand.


There’s nothing more delightful than spending a day wandering through the vendor barns at Rhinebeck, taking in the intense colors, meeting friends, and of course, shopping.

I had given up on having a Moosie spindle from Journey Wheel. The waiting list was long, and the ordering process so arcane that one can wait for months and end up with nothing that one wanted in the first place. That’s what happened to me earlier this year.

What a surprise to find that I had my choice of five Moosie spindles on Saturday morning.  What a curiosity that this one looks nearly like the one that I wanted in the first place. What a joy that this sweet little spindle is mine and all the difficulties of obtaining one are behind me.

The wonderfully colorful fiber behind the spindle is a Party in a Bag from Puckerbrush Farm. It’s a pound of colorful fiber, locks, sparkly angelina and pure fun!

There are so many ways this beautiful fiber can be spun.

A thick, soft single

A slubby thick and thin single

A slubby medium twist yarn, to be spiral spun over a solid core yarn.

A bulky two ply.

Have a look at all the fiber that I bought. Do you think this will keep me spinning until NYS&W 2010?


Click the thumbnails for some serious fibery goodness.

1. 16oz Starry Night from Tintagel Farms. 50% mohair, 50% wool and a dusting of angelina. I fell in love with this last year, but they had run out by the time I went back to buy it.

2. 18 oz. Party in a Bag from Puckerbrush Farms, in luscious autumn shades with hints of aqua, purple and angelina. Don’t you  just love the name?

3. 16 oz. Another Party in a Bag from Puckerbrush Farms, in blues, aqua and purple.

4. 32oz. Ocean roving from Creatively Dyed. Wool and Seacell. I’ve always wanted to spin enough yarn to knit a sweater. This should be it.

4. 7 oz. Dyed locks from Liberty Ridge Farm.

The threads of community converge


We are the weavers, we are the web. We are an extraordinary clan of spinners, knitters, dyers and weavers. We converged in Rhinebeck, NY for the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, and wove a community that was spectacular but fleeting.

Friday was a beautiful day to drive up the Bronx River and Taconic Parkways. These are old roads, built for leisurely drives through the countryside. The autumn foliage was spectacular.

I traveled with my friend Jo. This was her first NYS&W. It was my eleventh. Honestly, I lost count years ago. I started going in ’88 or ’89, and missed a few along the way. Last year, I jokingly declared it my 10th visit, so I’m counting from there.

The threads of community are spun from the moment we decide to make the trip to the festival. Some become manifest in the clothing that we spin, knit and weave. We converge on Rhinebeck like so many spiders weaving our giant web. Anchor strands extend out to Finland, the UK, Canada, and across the US. (Other places as well. I’m thinking of the people that I met.)

Who are fiber folk? I like to think that as a whole, we are gentler and more creative than the norm. We value the Earth and her bountiful gifts. We are unconventional. We are warm. We are colorful.

Friday night at our hotel, we joined a circle of spinners and knitters. We shared wine and cheese. Fate seated me next to a woman who walks a similar spiritual path to mine, and we explored the idea of co-leading a spiritual journey that centers on spinning and weaving.

Old friends met again. New friends made. Welcome to our web.

Weaving connections

The New York Sheep and Wool Festival begins on Saturday and I am feeling that wonderful buzz of anticipation. Officially,  this is my eleventh year going to the festival, but I suspect I lost count years ago. I think the first year I attended was 1989, a few months before buying my first loom.

What really matters to me are the changes over the past few years. 2006 was my mother’s last visit to Rhinebeck, a special time together. In 2007, I was fragile and numb, seeing no color, buying only white wool. I think my psyche was wrapped in a thick layer of white wool, protecting me while I healed.  Last year, the color came back, and I reached out into the fiber community, meeting new friends Nancy and Donna, and reconnecting with people from the place I lived some eight years ago.

This year’s festival promises to be filled with people.  The weather threatens to be cold and wet, but there will be hugs under umbrellas, and the warmth of community.

When I tell people about the festival, I hear myself talking more about the people than the shopping. NYS&W  is so much more than barns filled with vendors. It’s a temporary community, a place where everyone shares a passion for yarn.  But a little shopping is a good thing, too.