Crochet, knitting, astronomy & life in general.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Pilgrimage to Yarn Mecca

Folks, I have been to the place all fibre enthusiasts hope to someday visit: The Duchess County Sheep & Wool Festival, more colloquially known as Rhinebeck. I'll admit that it was everything I could have hoped for… Hundreds of yarn and yarncraft-related vendors, lots of adorable fibre animals, a ton of delicious foods to sample, not to mention the thousands of knitters to chat with and whose knitwear I could admire.

For my first trip to Rhinebeck, I went the easy route and joined a busload of Toronto-region knitters, including my good buds Joanna (see her blog post here), Erin (who also wrote a blog post about the trip), and Kate. It was a long bus ride, but I got a lot of sleeping, reading, knitting, and drop-spindling done. Here's an action shot of the bus drop-spindling action:

After a long bus ride from Toronto, we arrived at our hotel just outside of the town of Rhinebeck in the early evening. I felt I had to take a picture of my knitted outfit, which included knitwear from three generations of knitters: the socks were made by my grandmother, the sweater by my mom, and I knit the Lanesplitter skirt back in 2012.

The next morning, we arrived 30 minutes before the opening of the festival only to find the mother of all lineups (and some beautiful fall colours).

Fortunately, it didn't take long for everyone to get in once the gates were opened, and we were soon greeted by some cute furry friends! In fact, the whole festival was full of adorable fibre animals, and I more than once considered taking one home with me… Here are a few of them:

For me, the main draw of the festival was the demonstrations. I figured, since I'd come all this way, I should learn something more about my craft or about fibre-related things in general. Seeing all the different types of fibre animals helped with that goal, certainly, but there were also a ton of other interesting things to watch. I just missed the sheep-shearing demo I'd hoped to see, but I got to watch a canine frisbee demo (adorable!):

The Fleece-to-Shawl competition took place on Sunday morning, and there were more spinning wheels and looms in operation than I'd ever seen in one spot. The idea is, in three or four hours, to prepare the fibre from a fleece, spin it into yarn, and then weave it into a shawl:

The ultimate high point for me was the Leaping Llama competition! I would have loved to watch the whole thing, but our tour bus would have left without us… The place was so packed that I didn't get any good photos, but here's a proud-looking fellow about to show us all what a good leaper he is:

After all is said and done, one of the highlights for most visitors to Rhinebeck is the shear (if you'll excuse the pun) volume of vendors at the festival. There were at least 10 huge buildings devoted to shopping, with some vendors spilling out onto the pathways between buildings. I showed amazing restraint, and somehow managed to spend less than $100 (USD) on goodies. There was so much I could have brought home with me! First, here's Joanna enjoying the view of some award-winning handspun:

A whole room devoted to fleece:

The best-tasting apple cider donut you'll ever have:

Some expensive spinning fibre (Qiviut, $60 for 1 oz):

And some very pretty spinning fibre and tools:

Last but not least, here's the obligatory loot shot. Surprisingly, I didn't buy any yarn! Clockwise from the bottom left: Official Rhinebeck project bag and zipper dangle, Goat's Milk soap from Cat's View Farm, Forbidden Fruit apple wine from Pazdar Winery, Maple Syrup from a New York sugarbush, Shetland roving from Autumn House Farm, cotton roving from The Wool Room, a "Susan" lightweight drop spindle by David Reed Smith, and "Second Quality" (which I had to card to make spinnable) angora fibre from Cozy Rabbit Farm.

I was so inspired by the whole trip that I'd love to make another pilgrimage next year! (And we're already looking at nearby B&B's!)