I’m not going to lie. My favorite part of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival every year is the presents. Sort of like your favorite part of Christmas when you’re 10 is the presents. I am unashamed of this. I save up my birthday money every year for just this occasion, so I can just let my imagination run amok, and wild beautiful fibers can leap into my arms and come home with me.
A big thank you goes out to my fabulous in-laws, and my grandmother, for the birthday money that made this wanton spree possible. It’s one of the most fun things I get to do all year.
My category of desire this year: fiber. Colorful fiber, in small batches, for little spurts of spinning in the tiny slots of spinning time I have. At Sheep & Wool, this is not a narrow category.
[Again, I apologize for the poor photos. My good camera is in the shop, so all I had was my camera’s phone. But the good side of it is, it was always right there in my pocket, ready to snap a shot. So what I lack in quality, I made up for in quantity – isn’t that just always what you want to hear from an artist?]
My first stop, every year, is the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth. Partly because they sell my stuff; partly because Jolene always gets some small fiber artists that I won’t get to see in person anywhere else. This was the first time I got to participate in the morning rush on Saturday, instead of working. I got to be one of those people, wandering around and making selections before the fair even opens.
Woolgatherings is a perennial favorite at Cloverhill, but I have another birthday present on the way from them, via my mother, so I held off. But I did encounter this pretty pretty batt, which was love at first sight as soon as I laid eyes on it. Maroon and pink and glowing with luster and literal sparkles, this was assembled by Wae, an employee of Cloverhill who I met for the first time. I could not find a website for her company, ColorWae, but if it exists, I would like to know it.
This BFL roving was another early find; I love the fact that it’s one long color run from one end to another. I have a major weakness for these after my recent episodes with rainbow-colored spinning. Besides, I’d been meaning to buy a roving from the delightful Fat Cat Knits for a while, and this was a golden opportunity.
From Cloverhill, Mom and I wandered down the rest of the Main Barn, where the longest-running vendors are found.
I had promised myself a matawa silk hankie this year, after the Yarn Harlot’s perpetual blogging about silk, and since Spin Control includes instructions on how to spin with them. The first place I saw them was at this great place I forget the name of, and after going through every one in their possession, I settled on a deep orange one with grey-green highlights.
But next to the hankies, they had a bin of things they were calling “silk caps.” They looked like the hankies, but a little more freeform. I asked for a tutorial, which I was given in some detail. She was so helpful that I bought one; they were only five dollars and there was a pretty seafoam-y colored one. For a very simple reason, I can’t show you a picture of it, but I went back and took another picture of the bin of them so you could have some idea of what I was talking about.
My next acquisition was another jumper: a tiny 2-oz top of BFL and silk in lusciously deep colors.
You might notice a trend in my color choices this year. This didn’t stop when I got to the Shelridge Farm booth. Here I made the only truly premeditated purchase of the festival, and hence the only purchase of yarn. The purchase of these four little skeins of fingering represents a significant commitment for me. Can you guess what it might be?
Last, but not least, there’s another booth I forget the name of, fairly close to Cloverhill’s on the right side as you walk down the barn. They always very good prices; I don’t know anywhere else that you can find dyed merino for 10$/4 oz. This merino roving caught my eye because it is a thin top with all these colors running down the entirety of it. It reminded me of the book, Color in Spinning, that my dad bought me on a whim a few months ago, all about blending colors in spinning. The shop owner was very obliging when I asked what are some different ways one could spin with it. It’s an unusual color family for me, but I’m trying to push my comfort zone a little. Besides, I can’t have everything I buy be green, orange, and maroon.
We did eventually make it out of the main barn, on Sunday, and into the smaller barns. We took a long stop at the Socks that Rock booth, while Jared brooded over a book on knitting for men that he hadn’t seen before. (He’s somewhat of an expert on that small category of literature.) I resisted temptation at that booth, not because I don’t love Tina’s colors, but because I’m trying not to buy more yarn for the stash. At least, not unless I know for a fact that I’m going to knit with it within the next year.
The same rule does not, of course, apply to fiber at this point. I found a booth I’d never noticed before, home of Fiber Optic Yarns. This dye artist has an impressive eye for color, and as time goes on I only get pickier, making this a booth that will definitely be a top priority for me next year. I was looking for just the right gradient roving, because some day in the not-too-distant future, I am going to spin a gradient yarn for Goldberry. I am going to knit through every one of those Lord of the Rings patterns one day, and I want to start some time in the next year. Don’t look at me like that, it’s going to happen!
At a certain point, I ran out of cash, and I didn’t want to break my yarn diet. I’m to the point where I can’t even excuse buying yarn for projects I have planned, because I have the next two years of projects planned out before me. But I have a camera in my pocket. So I recorded a few stand-out items, for future consideration.
A secret project in the hopefully-not-so-distant future will require a particularly wonderful red super-bulky. Two candidates were readily found:
The above is Super Traveller from Dragonfly Yarns, an outstanding Cloverhill seller. The below is from Brooks Farm, which has a particularly good reputation among good knitters I know, and who makes an incredibly soft bulky called “Macho.”
I have also had my eye out for just the right yarn for Galadriel’s Mirror, another LotR pattern. I’m not a big wearer of blue, but no other color makes sense to me for this project. As a result, it has to be a particularly compelling blue for me to be willing to buy 1300 yards of it. I did not expect that when I found it, I would know instantly. It’s Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere, which I’ve designed with before. They have a perfectly perfect deep sky blue called “Dark Current.” I resisted, because it would have cost most of my budget to buy enough for this shawl. But believe me, the mental note is made.
Always, at Sheep & Wool, there are sheep. I did not buy one. But should Jared and I ever own any property whatsoever, hobby farming will be done. And it will start with something that looks an awful lot like this bundle of cuteness. I bet it costs less than a lawnmower.
I had to get out of this next booth fast before I fell down with my credit card in my hand and it accidentally swiped through the machine.
Near the end of the day on Sunday, we found a booth that is my mom’s weakness: the Tess Yarns booth was jam-packed with yarns of all different textures, sorted by color! I had to take a picture in front of this, which is the Wall of Mom.
I thought I was immune to such madness, until I turned around and saw the collection of fantastic rusty golds, surrounded and intermingled by deep, rich turquoises.
I honestly had to pray at the beginning of the fest that I wouldn’t get too caught up in the shopping aspect of things. It feels childish, but I can definitely get caught up in the “yay I get to buy!” and then get anxious about getting just the right thing. Really, this is just one more creative endeavor. And anything that I like this year and can’t afford, realistically, I will probably be able to afford it by the time I have time to knit it. I have learned after being deep into this hobby for over eight years that if I really love something, I will remember it; it will stick with me like a bug until I have to do it. Creativity is like that; it follows you around. That’s how, even on the knitter’s 10-year-old two-day Christmas, I think I succeeded in keeping myself from becoming just another slave to consumerism. It was a fest of creativity, and I enjoyed myself heartily, with no regrets.
And I am going to be doing a lot of spinning this year.