It has been far too long since Luann and I have celebrated a YarnoraMama. Life, work, kids, you name it: It all gets in the way. So when the opportunity arose to take her to her first Rhinebeck, it seemed like the right time to see if the cosmic forces would align to allow YarnoraMama IV to happen.
So I could allow her to experience this. This captures what’s in my mind when I think of Rhinebeck. I’ve been there in pouring rain, wicked wind and bright sun ~ sometimes several of those in one day. But this is the quintessential fall-in-New-England event and it should look just like this.
One cannot justify driving 100 miles to a sheep and wool festival without properly admiring the sheep, of course. The young people, most involved in 4-H, work very hard to raise and show these animals when their friends are off doing teen
and ‘tween things. They know more about these sheep than I ever will. We owe it to them to start with a visit to the Breed barn to see their ribbons and displays. After all, without them, there is no knitting. And fact of the matter, if you were to break down my yarn purchases of the past three years, an astounding percentage come from small farms raising special breeds as I have joined others exploring what makes each special on the needles in the Knitters Book of Wool woolalong inspired by our fearless leader, Clara Parkes.
I suppose in some respects it’s not fair to take a first-timer on a guided tour of this mother-of-all-sheep-festivals (a superlative shared with Maryland Sheep and Wool, of course. I’ll let the experts fight over the true winner there.). There is something to be said for arriving and being immediately lost in a sea of jostling knitters with pointy elbows, all searching for that perfect skein. Maybe it’s not fair to have removed the “overwhelm” from the equation.
However, there is certainly much to be said for attending Rhinebeck on Sunday. The crowds are significantly smaller, and it is a far more pleasant experience. Fewer people dragging rolling suitcases indiscriminately over toes and strollers jamming up the aisles. (I, for one, would never have brought Darling Bebe. Nope.) To be sure, there was still
enough to look at to go into sensory overload. From potters and button-makers to the incomparable Shepherd’s Flock slippers to LYS bringing their wares on the road and independent dyers like Spirit Trail Fiberworks, where we found our peeps with Jennifer’s
This was akin to having dessert before dinner, for we will all be together at the Knitter’s Review Retreat in a mere three weeks. The friends who have showered me with virtual hugs over the past few months were generous with the real thing in person. I have missed them so.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you about one “find” from one of
my favorite luxury yarn sources. I have written before about Still River Mill, which spins for many area farms and also produces small batches of its own fibers. Meet Cashmere Crepe: Fair-trade cashmere. Cashmere Crepe is the result of a program by USAID to help develop the economy of Afghanistan. As such, this NGO trained more than 200,000 goat herders on the value of cashmere from their flocks,
and how to properly harvest the fiber. The result is this fingering-weight 100% cashmere in 25g skeins, with 120 yards. It sells retail for $18. That’s a little more expensive than the other cashmere SRM offers, but considering the goal of the project and the distance it traveled to get to here, it’s not an inordinately large price tag to make a pair of fingerless mitts or a sweet cowl from a single skein. Cashmere Crepe is not on the SRM website yet ~ look for it at their booth at the Fiber Festival of New England (a terrific indoor event!) or drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them I sent you.
At Rhinebeck, I reach a point of fiber saturation. There is a moment where I can’t look at or appreciate another thing. It’s the place Luann and I reach at the same time.
In all, Luann and I spent four glorious hours in the car together (how often do you say that about four hours in the car going anywhere?). I took her to Owl Manor so she could see the world’s largest blue tarp ~ and bear witness that I am not having a bad dream that won’t let me wake up. We saw gorgeous rolling countryside, glorious autumn foliage and bucolic Connecticut villages. We caught up with the things that a couple of busy moms with “balance issues” need to do.
The only downside: facing work on Monday.
Countdown to the Knitter’s Review Retreat has begun!
* Apologies for lousy photography. Leaving the plastic over the new iPhone camera lens and flash didn’t really help.