With the trees denuded and the blustery conditions that tell us it’s November, the fiber festival season winds down. In this part of New England, the regional calendar has been full ~ Rhinebeck (New York Sheep and Wool Festival), Stitches East and the like. However, 2010 brought the addition of a new event to the calendar: The inaugural* Fiber Festival of New England at the Mallary Complex at the Eastern States Exposition (aka Big E) fairgrounds outside Springfield, Mass.
* The formal title for this event was the “First Annual FFofNE.” Any journalism student
will tell youshould know that there is no such thing as a first annual event. An event only becomes “annual” in its second year. Thus, my personal title. Harrumph. Digression complete.
Neither KnittingKittens nor I had any need to attend, especially the week after Stitches East and the weekend before the Knitter’s Review Retreat. Curiosity, proximity and the thrill of the hunt propelled us. Hunt, as in, the hunt for some breed-specific fiber as part of the Knitter’s Book of Wool woolalong. It was there, so we went. QED?
The structure of the Mallary Complex allowed this to be an indoor event, complete with with animals from whom we obtain all of that delicious fiber. Shearing and sheepdog demos, fashion shows and workshops in the entry area complemented the commerce in the main building.
What was really different about this event, is that it was all about the breed of the fiber. While LYS and vendors with decorative home objects had a presence, booth after booth featured baskets of locks for fingering. The most common fibers: alpaca and Romney ~ labeled Romney, not the generic “wool.”
This was the place to play finders, keepers and to try to anticipate just what Clara will spring on us in the woolalong months ahead.
Even without the monthly assignments, I’ve learned so much about how different wools feel and behave that I want to try new things and have a different relationship with the raw materials I use for my craft.
I cried out. Yes, dagnabbit, we found our Wensleydale for this month, wrapped up with a polka-dotted ribbon, sourced from right down the road at Goose Down Farm in East Haddam, Conn. You’d have thought we won a game-show. Yikes. Fortunately, the folks from neighboring Dragon’s Lair Farm who were selling it were full of good humor and didn’t think us utterly mad. While we were at it, we found Teeswater, too.
Giving credit where it’s due, the fine folks from West Elm Farm were the first to mention this event, way back at the Mass. Sheep and Wool Festival over Memorial Day Weekend. There, I found some wonderfully spongy Corriedale that I believe translates to what my dear Luann calls, “doughy.”
Finns were also well-represented in a few places. This scrumptiously bumpy worsted-weight skein is blended with angora and will make a wonderfully cozy cowl. The kind you just snuggle your chin into on a damp, chilly day.
On the other side of the sensory spectrum, IRL, the luster in this Leicester Longwool from The Rosefield shines with a depth that looks an awful lot like pearls. There was nothing else I saw like this 2-ply.
There was also some very
affordable, smooth and cushy Montadale from Maryland that will make some nice colorwork mittens and hats for little fingers and ears. Now, if I can just summon the fortitude to actually execute colorwork mittens and hats …
Saving the best for last, this was a nice opportunity to see Nancy and Faith from Long Ridge Farm. Nancy raises CVM/Romeldales and we’ve gotten to know each other through email as I worked on my Prairie Rose Shawl from KBOW. It’s been a treat for me, and I’m glad she’s gotten involved with the KBOW group on ravelry, which is the richer each time a shepherdess or shepherd joins the mix. This lonely skein was a one-off that begged to leave with me – the same 80% CVM/20% bombyx silk as I used before, but in a semi-solid she dubbed, “Rooster Comb.”
Nancy called it a mistake ~ I think NOT. (Lest I fail to mention it, Nancy dyes using low-impact processes and Earthues, so when she achieves such beautiful depth of color, it’s a victory twice over.) Nancy is also now selling 100% CVM in this natural brown
colorway that owing to its spinning, feels much like an aran-weight BFL.
Every first-time event has its glitches. If there was one here, it might be the limited options/ jacked-up prices for the food, or maybe some will carp at the separate charges for parking and admission. That said, the indoor setting was well-organized, the aisles wide enough, and some room to grow. Which is good since the obvious intention is to make this an annual event. Although our New England states are small and not far from one another, I appreciate having a show where fiber operations otherwise too far away to visit can come together to bring the festival season to a close.
That said, I need to requisition a larger bin marked “Breed-Specific.”