Fiber Festivals

Let’s talk about Fiber Festivals.

I thought we needed a bit of a lighter subject after the last topic (nothing like criticizing the homophobia of blood banks to make people wary of what the next post might be!). Fortunately, I went to a Fiber Festival this weekend, and thought it’d be a great focus for a blog post!

For those unfamiliar with Fiber Festivals, let me tell you a little bit about the magic.

You put a few dozen fiber arts vendors in a given area (this could be a barn/series of barns, a convention center, or even a field), then let loose the fiber fanatics. The whole thing is full of people that love yarn and other fiber. They’re all people who are passionate about their craft, whether it’s knitting, dyeing, crocheting, felting, or anything else you can do with yarn!

The community that surrounds the fiber arts is something really incredible, and fiber festivals are one of the best places to see that community in action.

I’ve been going to Fiber Festivals for several years now, but my very first was the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo. At the time I was still mostly using the craft store variety of yarn (which I will not touch with a 10-foot pole these days), and the Fiber Expo was an absolute revelation to me. I was astounded by the colors, the textures, the variety of yarn, the friendliness of the vendors.

I was also experiencing sticker shock at the prices.

For those who don’t know, $20-30 for a skein of good yarn (e.g. merino wool) is pretty average, but it is a bit of a shock when you’re accustomed to no more than $10 skeins at the big craft stores.

The sheer amount of choice at most fiber festivals is also intimidating. What the difference between Merino and Corriedale wool? (Basically it’s the length and curliness [called crimp] of the fiber, which greatly affects a number of factors when used for crafting. I’ll probably write another blog post on this someday, because it’s fascinating!) Is the alpaca worth the price? (Absolutely, but you have to be careful what project you use it in.) What will Yak wool feel like when you knit it up? (I have no idea, but I intend to find out one day!)

Because I was so intimidated, I only occasionally bought from independent sellers after my first foray into fiber festivals until my best friend, Taylor, decided to start her own yarn business.

Taylor is an indie dyer. I won’t get too much into the process of dyeing (maybe in another post?), but I have learned so much from her since she started doing it. Not only about dyeing, but about yarn and knitting in general. I’ve also found that my own interest has increased, resulting in my doing more research and broadening my horizons with my knitting projects.

But, I digress.

The festival this weekend was so much fun. It was the Wine and Wool Festival, at Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Michigan. Everyone there was enjoying not just the wool, but the wine and the amazing food offered by the vineyard.

I sat with Taylor at her vendor station for the whole thing. Meeting all the knitters who come up to take a look at her yarn is such a joy. Everyone is in their unique knitwear, and all you have to do is compliment the pattern or the color to see their eyes light up with delight and pride. Some people simply respond with a shy thank you, and others will tell you the whole story of the piece, from the fiber content to the quirks of the pattern.

I have to admit, despite my absolute and total adoration of yarn festivals, when it came time to pack away all the gorgeous yarns and tear down the displays, I was a little relieved. Knitters are wonderful, fun people, but put that many of us together and the noise and commotion of it all can be rather draining, especially for us introverts. But after the festival is one of the best parts, because you get to cuddle up at home with a couple skeins of brand new yarn!

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