There is an undeniable feeling of celebration every time the Connecticut Sheep, Wool & Fiber Festival rolls around. Think about it: in its 102nd year, we are talking about a truly enduring industry. Yarn shops may come and go, but the shepherds, mills and fiber they produce exist far beyond trends. As the first event of the year in New England, there is an almost-giddiness in the air: winter is over; festival season has started.
April chose its last day to demonstrate why it is “the cruelest month,” with grey skies and blustery wind. That said, the whole event seemed a bit subdued. Several regular vendors were notably absent, and the crowds ~ well, there wasn’t a crowd. The weather may have encouraged early attendees to scurry home rather than linger listening to music and watching sheep-dog trials. Or see the adorable contestants in the “I Made It With Wool competition” ~ like the grand prize winner from Still River Mill. A felted juice box? Genius. Don’t look for this Owl to execute anything half as clever come Halloween.
Our good friend Kris of The Painted Sheep had a standing-room-only crowd craning necks to hear her demo on dyeing yarn. Armed with soda bottles of color, she makes it all look so easy … but ask anyone who’s ever tried at home: coming up with harmonious colorways is not for the faint of heart.
My “find” of the festival this year came again from Still River Mill. This local operation spins for scores of small fiber-producers across New England and beyond. Because of that, they don’t go to a lot of shows, feeling that to do so, they would be “competing” for
business against their own customers. But Still River Mill has its own unique fiber blends ~ and this year, they brought an extraordinary new entrant to the market: Summer Breeze. This fingering-weight boasts 40% linen, 40% cashmere and 20% seacell. It fine yet soft and strong and just begs to becoming that all-summer sweater or shawl to ward off the evening chill.
If I told you that I was somehow seduced yet again by BFL, you regular readers would hardly be surprised. I can’t keep my hands off the stuff. It just knits like butter for me. So when our friends at Dirty Water DyeWorks, who provided us with lovely skeins of their Julia yarn at the KR Retreat, had a bushel of BFL sock yarn in discontinued colors, I was rather ~ ahem ~ powerless to resist. Frankly, I thought I showed admirable restraint in sticking to two projects’ worth. And it was discounted. So there.
Digression: I am noting the absence of a LYS more acutely as the days go by. There is no browsing, squeezing and sniffing of yarn to be done. While positive on the pocket book, it is nonetheless missed.
There were plenty of animal cuties on the grounds, to be sure. This little Nubian goat was the most charming little flirt … and it seems that every year there is more alpaca of both the live and spun varieties.
Most importantly, I picked up my new copy of the Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association directory, an invaluable resource for locally sourcing breeds of wool for our KBOW wool-along.
The skies opened up to bright sunshine later in the day. By then, we had decamped for the massive lunch spread at Rein’s Deli. A wonderful start to a new festival season any way you look at it.