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Knittyspin> Festival survival guide2006 Spin OutCoiled yarnpattern: Booze bag
Stick & Stone Fiberarts

Fiber Festivals
July - November 2006


July 29
Lambtown Festival
Dixon May Fair Grounds
Dixon, CA

July 29-30
Fiber Arts Festival
Castel Farms, Charlevoix, MI


August 15-20
Monterey County Fair Wool Show
Monterey, CA

August 16-20
Michigan Fiber Festival
Allegan, MI

August 16-20
Fiber Arts Festival & Workshops
Gibson's Landing, BC, Canada

August 18-20
Fabulous Fiber Fest
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Santa Monica, CA


September 2-3
Great Basin Fiber Arts Fair
Historic Wheeler Farm
Salt Lake City, Utah

September 3-5
Sheep and Fiber Arts Festival
Bethel, MO

September 8-10
Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival
Jefferson County Fairgrounds, WI

September 9-10
Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival
Champlain Valley Expo, Essex Junction, VT

September 15-17, 2006
9th Annual California Wool & Fiber Festival/Mendocino County Fair
Boonville, CA

September 16-17
Garden State Sheep & Fiber Festival
Hunterdon County Fairgrounds, Ringoes NJ

September 16-17
A Wool Gathering
Young's Jersey Dairy, Yellow Springs, OH

September 16-17
Finger Lakes Fiber Festival
Hemlock NY

September 23-24
Mt Bruce Station Sheep & Wool Festival
Romeo, MI

September 23-24
Michigan International Alpaca Fest
Birch Run Expo Center, Birch Run, MI

September 22-24
Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival
Clackamas County Fairgrounds, Canby, OR

September 29-Oct 31
North Country Spinners' Biennial Fiber Fallout
Johnsonburg Conference Center, Johnsonburg, NJ

September 30-Oct 1
Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival
Ogemaw County Fairgrounds, lower Penninsula, West Branch, MI


October 3-10
The Wool Festival at Taos
Kit Carson Park, downtown Taos
Taos, NM

October 7-8
Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia
Montpelier Estate, VA

October 21
IN Fall Fiber Fest and Market
Harrison County Fairgrounds, Corydon, IN

October 21-22
New York Sheep & Wool Festival
Dutchess County Fairgrounds
Rhinebeck NY

October 27-29
South Eastern Animal Fiber Fair
Western NC Ag Center, Asheville, NC

October 28
Franklin County Fiber Twist
The Old Deerfield Grammar School
behind Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association
10 Memorial Street
Old Deerfield, MA 01342

October 28
Harvest Days and Fiber Festival
Cannonsburgh Village,
312 South Front Street,
Murfreesboro, Tennessee


November 2-4
SOAR Market
Tahoe CA

November 10-12
Kid 'N Ewe and Llamas Too
Kendall County Fairgrounds
Boerne, TX

It happens to all of us sooner or later. Eventually, you're going to get wind of the mysterious wonder known as a "Sheep and Wool" festival and the primitive knitter/spinner center of your brain is going to perk up and take notice. Maybe you decide to go because a friend is a spinner. Maybe you're thinking about being a spinner yourself. Maybe you go because you're a knitter and you hear that there's a lot of yarn there. Whatever lands you at your first fiber Festival, I guarantee it won't be what you expected. One minute you're asking yourself why you're driving to a spinning event when you don't really spin (or don't spin much, certainly not enough to justify a whole Saturday and the gas money) and the next thing you know you're staggering around some field far from your house with a bunch of other fiber types, hundreds of sheep, alpacas that look at you funny, a credit card and the definite feeling that something serious is about to go down.

It's our instincts as knitters and spinners that drives us to the fiber festival, the traditional gathering place of our people, but you've got to be wondering what's going to happen and what you're supposed to do when you get there. Having walked out of one or two of them with a blackout, a badly damaged credit rating and a car full of fiber that I don't really remember buying, I've put together the following tips for Fiber Festival survival.

  1. It's normal to go even though you don't spin, don't spin much or don't spin yet. (If you're not a spinner when you get there, you will be when you leave.)
  2. Within moments of your arrival, you may experience, dizziness, nausea, the general sense that your stash sucks and the urge to buy a sheep even though you don't spin and live in an apartment. This is normal. (You might want to resist the sheep one though, and limit yourself to their fleece unless you have a really great plan for your balcony.)
  3. Fiber Festivals are going to have yarn, fleece, spinning and knitting tools and anything related to the wool family of activities. You can get wheels, cards, drum carders and combs, and better than that, you can take advantage of the chance to try out a lot of this stuff standing right beside the people who made it. This is a very good opportunity to try seven different kinds of wheels, buy sixteen drop spindles and learn that you think goat fiber smells funny and that the average mini-van full of spinners can hold seven fleeces, four wheels and a case of Yellow Tail Shiraz. (That last one may just be me.)
  4. Unless you are experienced and have considerable fiber taste and immunity, consider going with someone experienced, or look for someone who knows what they are doing when you get there, then start following them around. If you don't know how to tell who qualifies, listen for someone who says any of these phrases:

" This is nice; I really like the qualities of
a good romney fleece"


" That spindle is going to be wonderful for silk"


"This fleece is too full of s**t to be worth it."


"The last nineteen merinos I bought weren't
as nice as this"

or my favourite:

"Margaret, you guard this while I get the wheelbarrow."

Once you identify this person, you can either befriend them or follow them at a distance. (Hint: Spinners aren't usually offended by this variation on stalking, but you will learn more if you go talk to them. They really do want to discuss their favourite fiber with you and they would be nothing short of thrilled to corrupt you into your first spinning wheel or fleece.) There exists at every fiber festival a contingent of spinners who have only come so that they can show you the good stuff, teach you what to do with the spindle you just bought and help you buy more. Colloquially referred to as "enablers" these experienced spinners can be identified when you hear them use the phrase "Here, touch this..." 15 times in as many minutes. Trust these spinners. The force is strong with them.

  1. If you are an animal lover looking forward to meeting all of your favourite fiber-bearing animals, you are in for a treat. These festivals are a neat chance to find out how big angora bunnies are, how cute alpacas can be, how many wrinkles there are on a merino and how devastatingly clever sheep dogs are as they go about their work. There is also the festival tradition of cooking lamb-burgers (in plain view of the lambs) so if you're a vegetarian (or you just think that it's odd to watch the barbeque smoke drift over the barns full of sheep) you might want to avert your eyes and pack a sandwich from home.
  2. Buy the best that you can afford. Don't fall for the newbie idea of not buying something wonderful because you aren't good enough to manage it, or the even worse idea of using crap because you'll only wreck it anyway. Learning a new skill is challenging enough without being further challenged by lousy tools and fiber. One of the first things I ever spun was 100% angora, and it was fine. It was months before someone told me that beginners can't spin that fiber and that it was impossible for me to start there. (By then I'd turned it into bootees. Everyone is different.) If you buy nothing else, get one really good drop spindle (there will be a hundred people to show you how to use it) and a fiber that you really, really love. Having beautiful things is inspiring. It'll give you something to live up to.
  3. If you're just learning, try getting small amounts of a lot of different fibers. Goodie bags with tastes of rare fibers, a single silk hankie, a handful of bump of merino, 20g of mohair. Take them all on a test drive sitting under a tree and go back and get more of what you like.
  4. If you feel overwhelmed and find that you're buying...well, everything, try my festival rule. Before I can buy something, I need to want it for 20 minutes. 20 consecutive minutes. 20 minutes where I don't get distracted by something else, don't decide I'd rather get a coffee or wonder if there's something better in the next barn. 20 minutes. You'd be surprised how much that takes the edge off of the impulse buying.
  5. Try something new. Spin on a great wheel. Comb angora from a rabbit. Ask a vendor if you can try a top whorl and a bottom whorl spindle. Ask them why they have both. Ask for locks (samples) of fleeces that you think are interesting, and put them in envelopes to examine at home. (Make a note about what they are. You won't remember later.) Talk to people. Watch a shearing. Find out about more about the world of spinning -- there's a lot of information in one place at these things. Fiber festivals are like a good yarn shop. It's about the people.
  6. Finally, a word about safety. These things can get competitive. Remember that for some of these fiber enthusiasts, this is an opportunity to get a year's worth of the stuff they crave all at once. They are hopped up on wool fumes (you might be too) and when the roving goes on sale for 50% off...things can get ugly. If you find yourself in the middle of a yarn run...stand tall, don't lose your ground and don't let go of the sale sock yarn in your left hand. Stay with a buddy, and if the going gets really rough in there, drop the fiber and hit the ground running. There's no wool worth an injury to your knitting hand.

Good luck, and if you see me by the fleece judging, stop and say hi. Just don't get between me and the fiber. I'm looking for a nice Montadale.


Stephanie Pearl-McPhee lives, knits, spins and writes in Toronto, Canada, where she avoids housework and dreams of fiber festivals.

She is the author of "At Knit's End", "Yarn Harlot", "Knitting Rules" and her pet blog.