One of my favorite parts about the New York Sheep and Wool Festival is the festival portion. While I love showing my sheep, I spend a lot of the weekend wandering barn after barn of crafts. If you've never been, it's a hard thing to explain. Picture your local county fairgrounds, only more beautiful, and picture every single barn filled with yarn, yarn, yarn, more yarn, needles, spinning wheels and things you never even knew existed as part of the fiber arts world! Huge, ancient, colorful maple trees line the walkways of the fairgounds and there are gardens at every corner. Vendor after vendor of gorgeous colors and textures. And it isn't just yarn, but hand woven towels, gorgeous felted purses, and goat soaps and cheeses. If you aren't into fiber arts, you can head up to the main exhibition hall where you can spend time sampling sauces, dips, cheeses, desserts, candies, fudge, wines and vodkas. While in the exhibition hall, you can also see the make it yourself with wool fashion competition or the photography contest. You can also cast your vote for next year's logo.
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing this year was the Tractor Mac display. I know this sounds incredibly silly, but if you have kids, grandkids, or are a kid at heart, you need to read these books! I first discovered them while walking down the book aisle at Wegmans, and because it had a tractor on the front I had to pick it up. After reading the first several pages, I knew I had to buy them for my friends two little boys. They LOVED the book! The stories all revolve around Tractor Mac and his other farm friends and teach great lessons to kids like teamwork, accepting who are, etc. They have great illustrations (including detailed diagrams of tractors on the inside cover!) and have very accurate descriptions of farming. I was excited to discover that Tractor Mac is a real tractor! I picked up several books for a friend, had them autographed, and took a picture of the tractor for her boys. I've been giving these books to friends as gifts and they're always a hit.
The more I've gotten into knitting and fiber arts, the more fun it is for me to browse the booths and decide what type of yarn to buy! I've tried not to develop too much of a "stash", but rather find projects that I'd like to make before the festival, so I can pick out yarn for specific projects. I have rather large goals for knitting this winter and have several projects in my knitting wish-list.
As some of you know, I love the podcast Woolful and was featured last year. Through that podcast I have learned so much about fiber arts and I love listening to people's stories about how they began their companies. I've also begun to develop great friendships and relationships with people I've connected with through the podcast! A few of those people were at the festival, so I knew exactly where to go to purchase some of my supplies.
O-wool is a small yarn company out of PA. Jocelyn, the owner, took it over in 2010 and has done a wonderful job of sourcing USA wool. I just love her colors and the affordability of her yarns, as well as the patterns that have been designed to go along with them. I purchased enough yarn to make the Om Shawl this winter- that's going to be a big project!
I discovered Jill Draper Makes Stuff also through Woolful. We have met several times at festivals. I am intrigued with her company because she uses wool from the Hudson Valley, has it spun in VT at Green Mountain Spinnery and dyes it herself. All her lines of yarn have Hudson Valley-themed names. I currently have some of her yarn on my needles right now, but purchased enough to make O-Wool's Goldfinch shawl. I've never made a shawl, but the patterns have been intriguing me!
Jill didn't have a booth at the fest because her studio is just over the river, so after I finished fitting sheep Saturday night, we headed across the river to her studio party. The room was packed with people! Steven West, a quirky knitting designer known for his shawls, was there signing books. I got a photo with him and Jill as "Woolful alumni", we all three of us have been featured on the podcast. It's very obvious from the photo who the farmer, the yarn creator and the knitting designer all are! I mean, just check out those knitted pants! Jill also just released her first ever knitted collection and had all the finished pieces for sale. She was also recently featured as part of Etsy's "Quit Your Day Job", so be sure to check that out!
While walking through the festival, I was attracted to Sweitzer's Fiber Mill's Harvest Yarns. This fiber mill is located in PA and processes fibers in addition to creating their own. What caught my attention were the yarns called "Milk", "Corn" and "Soybean". Apparently all the yarns are created with bio-synthetic products, which I had never heard of! The milk yarn has milk protein, and the corn and soybean yarns have sugars that are byproducts of processing. These products are all blended with wool. In addition to be intrigued with milk, corn and soybean in my yarn (I'm an agronomist, what can I say??), they were beautiful colors, and were appropriately named like "silage", "dirt", and "clover fields". This was the only yarn I purchased that I don't have a planned project for. The colors are difficult to see in this photo, but they are purplish in hue.
Fiber festivals are not only a lot of fun, but very inspiring! I'm looking forward to lots of knitting projects this winter.
Emmaline Long, main owner of Orchard View Farm, has a passion for Lincoln sheep and loves educating others about her breed and farm, She currently serves as the Vice President of the National Lincoln Breeders Association.
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