Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival 2016

Last weekend I went to Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. The last time I blogged about SVFF was in 2011, the last year that I helped with the juried fleece sale. The two friends I did that with both moved out of the area (one to the Virginia’s tidal region for a job as a history professor and the other to Texas to be with the love of her life) and I’m not brave enough to get involved on my own. I could help with the festival itself; I’m friends with one of the organizers and I know they need and welcome help, I just haven’t been able to commit to that. Maybe next year.

Anyway, my friend Becky and I decided on Friday that we would go Sunday morning. I picked up Starbucks, then Becky, and over the mountain we went to Berryville, which is always a lovely drive. Last week I was trying a ketogenic diet for the first time, which is a very low carbohydrate diet akin to Atkins. Sunday was the 6th day I was on the diet and I was determined to stick with it, so I brought my own snack (2 cheese sticks and a hard boiled egg) with me so I wouldn’t be tempted by festival goodies. More on that in a bit.

I hadn’t planned to get anything, but first I saw a cloth knitting basket and knew I’d keep thinking about it if I didn’t get it. We walked around more and I found the ultimate fuzzy slippers, but they were expensive ($99) and I didn’t want to spend that much. I got a mug – the perfect shape and color for me – but I couldn’t stop thinking about those slippers so I went back and got them.

SVFF 2016

As we were walking around looking at the vendors in tents or the open air, I stumbled across a vendor from the town neighboring the one my mother lives in in rural New Hampshire. Of course we stopped to talk and I got all sorts of information from her, including info about their open studio night, which is much like a knitting group but welcomes all the fiber arts. I was thrilled and passed all the info on to Mom, who will hopefully make it out to one of the open studio nights.

By the time we made our way to most of the booths, it was almost lunch time. I could smell the festival foods cooking. And I couldn’t stop thinking about eating apple cobbler. I envisioned some gourmet apple cobbler and I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so after Becky tried to be strong for me so I wouldn’t break my diet, we got in line and I got my cobbler. We grabbed a picnic table to eat it at and ran into our friend Alise who had twin boys late last winter. I put off eating the cobbler so I could hold one them, who was fussy while Alise was feeding the other. I love babies and miss snuggling with my 3 baby boys – if I could time travel back to an afternoon with each of them as a baby, I would. Holding Sam and smelling his head is as close as I’m going to get, though.

Best Worst Apple Cobbler Ever
The best worst apple cobbler.

Once Sam calmed down some, I popped him back in the stroller and got busy with my apple cobbler. Though it had been sitting out for a good 10 minutes, the ice cream block held its shape, which bodes ill for ice cream; it only does that if there’s a lot of air and stabilizers in it. And the cobbler part of the apple cobbler was not the delicate pastry I envisioned, nor were the apples. The Boy Scouts were selling it, so I don’t know why I thought it would be more gourmet than it was: canned apple pie filling with cake mix crumble and a brick of cheap ice cream. But it was glorious to eat sugar after 6 days of keeping my carbs below 20g each day.

On our way out, we realized that we missed an entire barn and went in to check it out. Our friends The Fiberists had their booth in that barn and it was so nice to see Reggie & Spencer and catch up with them a little bit. They used to come to the Sunday knitting group when it was still active, so it was really nice to see them both, like old times. I had to get something, but the problem was choosing what to get because they have so many great yarns on really nice yarn bases. I ended up with Audubon Unum Fingering, which is a single ply yarn, in Azurite and Pigeon’s Blood Ruby. I’m not sure what they will become, but I love the colors, especially together. Perhaps something stripey?

There you have it, SVFF 2016. 🙂

MDS&W 2016

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is this weekend in West Friendship, MD, which is within easy driving distance. This is my 8th time going; I’ve gone every year since 2009. My friend Becky & I left my house at 7am, stopped for coffee at Starbucks, and arrived at the Howard County Fairgrounds just after 8.

We set up our camp chairs in the Pavillion area (between the Dining Hall & Barn 1) so we would have a spot staked out where we could rest and get away from the inevitable crowds and then high-tailed it to the Main Exhibition Hall. Becky wanted to check out the Miss Babs booth, but the line was already out the door at the back of the building, at least 20 people deep. We looked at the yarn and fiber from afar and moved on to the maple booth (Justamere Tree Farm? Checkmate Farm? I wish I had snagged a business card). I grew up in Vermont, so maple sugar candy is one of my favorites. This farm sells a limited amount of the candy and it’s the better, darker kind with more maple flavor. I got my 5 pieces and am wishing now I had bought some syrup or maple sugar as well.

MDSW 2016 Haul
My MDS&W 2016 Haul (arranged clockwise in the order I got it starting with the maple sugar candy)

Then we went to the Claymonster Pottery booth. Last year Becky got mugs and (maybe?) a yarn bowl there and both of us love the pottery; it’s very quirky. Claymonster was still setting up, so we formed a line behind a lovely woman named Ashley and her family. More people joined the line behind us. When it came time to open, Cat (I think that’s the name of the potter behind the monsters) teared up because there was a line of people waiting to swoop in & buy her stuff, a first for her. I absolutely love her stuff, but still haven’t found just the right piece for me. Becky got a Yarn Yeti mug. A yarn yeti, IMO, looks a whole lot like Cthulhu.

Marigoldjen sparkle sock
A Close-up of the Sparkle (Marigoldjen Yarns Merino/Nylon/Stellina Sock yarn)

Next we wandered down into the field where the Lower Corral Vendors were set up. All the rain we’ve had (9 or 10 days with rain every day) made for a very muddy field. We stopped into the Dragonfly Fibers booth and I fell in love with her MDS&W exclusive colorway, Salt Marsh. It really is the color of happiness (her motto/tagline). I got some fingering weight sock yarn and some fiber to spin. I had to. A few booths down in Hobbledehoy, I found the Marigoldjen fingering weight/sock yarn. The skeins look very similar in the picture; they’re both in the Kaleidoscope colorway, but one skein has some subtle sparkle in it that’s hard to capture in a picture.

Then we made our way through the rest of the barns, stopped by our chairs briefly, and went back to the car to drop off our purchases. Becky didn’t want to lug around her Claymonster purchase or risk breaking it (that would be my luck). I also really needed to get my dirty chai from the car (chai with a shot of espresso). When we re-entered the fairgrounds, we walked through the Outside East & Outside North Vendors. The mud was really bad through these fields. So bad that they were putting down loose hay to help with traction. And I realized that the suede sneakers I had chosen to wear were a bad choice; cleaning mud off of suede is going to be interesting. But I’ve had the sneakers for (probably) 10 years, so it’s also not a big deal if they’re ruined.

We walked through the (I think) Bingo Hall, which is where all of the contest entries are – my favorite part of MDS&W. I wish I had taken pictures of some of the yarns & finished objects. There was a commercial felt bag with a square panel of hand-knotted wool sewn onto it, with a galaxy shape in the wool. There were a few shawls that were cleverly done, one that used art/novelty yarn mixed with regular joe yarn, another that had a really neat lace pattern & a deep blue color. There were other neat things that I can’t remember now. Next year: pictures of my favorites.

We stopped by the Bee Folks booth and after 3 years of saying I’d get honey from them because they’re local and I’m on their email list and buying in person would be way better than buying online from someone local, I finally got honey. There was a lull in the crowd and the crowd around the booth was light instead of the 4-5 people deep ring that’s usually around it. I can’t wait to tell my husband “Honey, I got honey!”

Then Becky & I got lunch and sat in our chairs while watching a hand-sewn fashion show on the stage in the Pavilion. I had an entirely unsatisfactory lamb sausage – $9 for lots of gristle – and a cup of sugar water + half a lemon (“hand-shaken homemade lemonade”). Yes, I’m bitter. Also, I did not walk through one of the lamb barns while eating lamb like I have in the past. And yes, I have a weird sense of humor – I do indeed think that’s funny.

We started talking about leaving. The crowd was getting thicker, Becky was chilly, I was running out of patience and, as an introvert, was coming close to my people limit for the day. We decided to pop back down to the Main Exhibition Hall and take a better look around since not all of the booths had been open on our first trip through there. I ran into my knitting & spinning & roller derby friend Karen, who I haven’t seen for a few months. I explored the Spunky Eclectic booth and almost got fiber, but then decided not to. I said to Amy (Spunky Eclectic proprieter) on the way out “I love your stuff! I follow you on Instagram!” which was made even more retrospectively awkward by my realization that I follow her on Twitter – she’s not even *on* Instagram. I went back later, just before we left, and got those 2 braids and had I nice chat with Amy & her husband when I checked out and was 100% less weird and awkward.

Becky wanted to pop into the Jennie the Potter booth and so I followed. I picked up one of the tumblers and immediately knew I had to have it. There are raised lines in the blue bottom part of it, so I got immediate sensory feedback I wasn’t expecting. There are also raised white dots that arc over the blue dots. Jennie actually ran my checkout and I told her how much I loved the tumbler – she was very appreciative because it takes a lot of process to make them.

And then Becky and I went back to the Pavillion, packed up our chairs, navigated our way through the now substantial crowd, and left just as the sun was coming out. Aside from the mud, I think this was my best shopping year at MDS&W. I usually don’t fall in love with so many things, I get yarn blindness where everything looks the same. But the things that I got all jumped out at me and all needed to come home with me. I’m grateful that I can afford these things and grateful that they popped out at me. Now to plan some projects and drink some tea out of my new tumbler while eating maple sugar candy (yum!).

 

Catching Up: Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest

For once I have too much to write about: SVFF, natural dye projects, the sweater I’m knitting out of my own handspun yarn, roller derby, and probably some other things I’m forgetting about. I’m planning on posting more about all of this stuff, particularly the natural dying (madder, mushrooms, pokeberry & bittersweet), but I’ve been remiss in blogging (or blah-ging, as the case may be) and feel like I have to catch up first.

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival (SVFF) happens the last weekend in September just over The Mountains (the Blue Ridge Mountains, that is) at the Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville, VA. This was my second year helping out with the juried fleece sale and the Loudoun Needleworkers (LNW) booth, which were happily in the same building this year thanks to Alana, who did so much organizing I’m surprised she didn’t keel over in exhaustion before SVFF even started. I love driving out to Berryville for this festival; I would love to live farther out, in the country proper instead of suburban Leesburg. The 3 days I spent at SVFF were worth it for the drive alone, but it is a bonus that I carpooled with Steph and Alana.

Friday we got to the fairgrounds around 10 in the morning to set up the LNW booth, which we use to let the community know we exist and welcome new members, and to get ready to skirt and comment on sheep & alpaca fleece brought in for the juried fleece sale. We were a little bit too early; booth set-up went by in a flash so we sat knitting and chatting for most of the morning. From 1pm, when the fleece sale started, until about 4:30 we were in constant motion dealing with over 100 fleece. Although this year we were supposed to be on our own, we had help from some of the jurists from last year and without it, we would’ve been sunk. This is what the fleece sale table looked like when we left Friday evening:

Fleece Sale Table, SVFF, Friday PM

Saturday morning we got there by 9, if I remember correctly, and were off and running with fleece sales. We did the bulk of the selling on Saturday, with several on Sunday. Many people stopped to watch us spin, ask us about spindles and Alana’s Ladybug. An older gentleman from Texas stopped by looking for the woman who’d brought in cashmere from her goats; he had judged the goat competition earlier in the day and explained that there’s more cashmere out there than sheep fleece, but it’s expensive because it has to be de-haired by hand.

As she did last year, Alana got delicious wine from Fabbioli to share with all of the volunteers and we stayed after SVFF closed Saturday & took our time cleaning up on Sunday. Sunday we also made our annual group trip to Sonic in Winchester. Cherry Limeade! Cheese fries! Cherry Limeade! Thankfully, the weekend of SVFF Alise moved to Winchester and though we missed her at SVFF, we’re all very glad that she lives so close to Sonic; we’re half-joking that she needs to take our orders before coming to Sunday meet-ups. I’m sure we’d all chip in for some insulated bags to keep hot Sonic hot and Cherry Limeades cold.

I came away from SVFF with 4 fleeces and some other stuff:

SVFF stuff. Clockwise from top left: rambouillet x, alpaca, merino, cormo. Packets of alkanet, safflower, red sandalwood, sumac. 
Clockwise from top left: 
  • 4.5 lbs coated Romney X (3/8 Romney, 1/4 Tunis, 1/16 Leicester, 1/4 mixed, 1/16 Corriedale) from Hickory Hill Farm in Gore, VA 
  • 2.5lbs of multicolored alpaca (white with dark brown) from a farm that didn’t include a business card or info sheet with the fleece
  • 10.5lbs coated Merino from Black Sheep Farm in Leesburg, VA (you can see the crimp in that fiber even in this picture taken with my phone!)
  •  7.5lbs of coated Cormo from Lavender Hills Farm in Lineboro, MD 
  • Packets of alkanet, safflower, red sandalwood, sumac from … ah … uhm, a vendor who’s receipt I should’ve saved. 

I also got Rock Creek Yarn‘s knitting poetry magnets, which now live on a magnetic white board in The Yarn Office (formerly known as the formal living room).

The whole weekend made me miss Vermont and wonder why I left, why I never got interested in farming/horticulture (I’m guessing that like religion, it was forced on my parents & they wanted to give my brother and I the choice), and how old one has to be to do 4-H. Maybe I just need a farm and a mentor.