All’s Fair in Sheep and Wool

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, In all its insanity and majesty and incredible sensory overload, was this past weekend. I have survived those days – the frantic impulse shopping, getting over the heartburn of self-doubt and fear of buyer’s remorse, having eaten nothing but fried potato products all day until about 7 p.m., sunburn on my center-parted scalp. We saw sheep being herded by an obsessive little border collie, sheep being held down and sheared with scissor-like shears, sheep with their heads in a frame being sheared with motorized shears, sheep of many varieties and sizes and ages and states of shearing, and of course most types of yarn and roving and fleece that you can think of. I saw Gryphon of Sanguine Gryphon (I washed my hands next to her in the bathroom and managed not to say anything idiotic, mostly because I didn’t say anything at all), I met Kate of Dragonfly, Neighborhood Fiber Co. lady, Esther of JazzTurtle Creations, the nice fatherly-type who owns the Yarn Barn of Kansas, and I sat next to the inventor and namesake of the Lendrum and didn’t even know it. And that’s just the people that I know I saw.

If you want to see the full slideshow, go friend me on Facebook; I posted all the pics there.

I love just milling through the ravening hordes of fiberholics. This is where people like me come to feel normal.  There are a shocking amount of people. Justin & Emily brought the boys, and Justin (who is not easy to shock) kept saying things like “I thought it would be well attended, but… whoa.”

My yarn looked very pretty in its little corner of Cloverhill. It did okay, though not as well as last year when I had a prime spot that I didn’t entirely deserve. But this is good for you, readers, as it means most things are still available. As soon as mum gets the inventory back and can count it, I’ll put the store back up.

One of the best parts of working at the Cloverhill booth is that it’s right at the entrance to the Main Barn, where Maggie’s Music is set up for most of the weekend. It’s uber-Celtic and roots-y, an enormous dulcimer alternately accompanied by guitars, harps, and African drums. One of these days I will set aside enough money to buy one of their CDs before I spend all my cash on yarn. Aside from wool there’s a ton of good music, soaps & home stuff, etc. But every booth is required to have a certain percentage of their inventory be WOOL. (So if you’re shopping for summer cottons, tough luck.)

Speaking of cash, I was very organized this year. I helped set up on Friday, made mental notes of everything I wanted from Cloverhill booth (which is the main place to shop, in my utterly unbiased opinion, if you want interesting indie/local MD stuff). I showed up at 8:30 and was one of *those people* who are waiting in line before the show is even technically open, so I didn’t miss what I was eyeing. As a result, I had spent nearly all my cash within 20 minutes of the fair opening. But look: wasn’t I good? My goal was not to buy more spinning fiber than I’d actually spun in the last year, and I sorta succeeded. All the yarn is for the Liturgical year series, which is taking firmer and firmer shape in my little mind.

The skein and garment competition is probably the highest caliber handiwork competition in the country. I mean, some of the state fairs are big, but this is where the crazy people come. I realized this when my Undomiel, in her swansong show, placed fourth in the blanket/shawl/other from commercial yarn category, and I wasn’t disappointed. I just walked around the building for a while, soaking in inspiration from all these… well, there’s no other name for them but “artists.” The blue shawl in this picture really captured my imagination, and I’m not sure if it even placed. Jonica has lent me a book on designing Shetland lace shawls, and some of those gorgeous motifs might have to make it into the liturgical year series. I’m thinkin’ fiery Pentecost thoughts.

The spin-in on Saturday night was a great time. I got to hang out with Miss Rika and her mum and her friends, and I spun blindfolded on my drop spindle. I suffered a drastic bout of camnesia, I fear, but if you can imagine a dining hall filled with over seventy spinners from all over the country yakking it up, you might get the idea.

I keep forgetting to show you my February lady, so here it is. The weather was perfect – it couldn’t make up its mind between sweater weather and a little too warm, so everyone got a chance to show off alternately their shawlettes and sweaters. As I walked through the main barn, most people had some representative knitted object on their person, and it’s always a fun game to recognize patterns on others that you’ve knit yourself. I saw two other February Ladies, and was pleased. Here’s mine:

This is one of those sweaters that will be particularly useful when I actually am pregnant and have some reason to want to look pregnant. But it fits perfectly (my adapted long sleeves went fine), it took a relatively small amount of yarn for a full-size adult cardigan, and is just that throw-on sweater that works anytime. The sort of sweater I will get a lot of use from.

I wore my Lenten scarf around too; when it was hot I wore it with a tank-top, just over my neck and not wrapped at all. I got stopped a few times, and Jonica said she saw someone sitting down somewhere knitting it! I wish I’d run into her. I also got to meet another KAL-er, who test knit Rose of Edgeworth; she’s just as lovely in person, though you can’t see because I forgot to take a picture. Silly me!

The festival is always an amazing experience. Christmas and Birthdays rolled together couldn’t match it. It’s so incredibly huge that it’s almost traumatic! I still haven’t finished processing all of the experiences and inspiration (and purchases – there’s a box that says “ashford” in my mom’s trunk that I’m not quite ready to discuss left). I expect it will just come out in my work over the next year.

2 thoughts on “All’s Fair in Sheep and Wool

  1. It was for me a fabulous Mother’s Day weekend. Lots of quality time with Rebecca and yarn, yarn, yarn! I enjoyed working with the folks at Cloverhill Yarn; I even enjoyed the fair food! I learned a lot more about fiber…..wool is wool is wool…..but before it’s carded and mixed, it’s really cool as just locks. I want to learn all the different types of sheep! I started a small collection of fleece samples, and…..drum roll…..: I’m going to learn to spin on a spinning wheel!!! (Thankfully there are lessons at Cloverhill because I don’t want to tackle this by myself…..I’ve done enough of that on a drop spindle.)
    Love the pictures, Rebecca!


  2. Hey!

    It was a good day to go there! I enjoyed meeting the lady that was knitting on the scarf. Thanks for showing me around.


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