This past weekend was the annual New York Sheep and Wool Festival up in Rhinebeck, New York. Amongst fibery folk, this is a bit like Mecca. Everyone wants to go at least once. I’ve been fortunate, living where I do, that once I discovered it, we started going every year. We would drive up to my mother’s the night before, stay over, and then drive the hour and a half from there to Rhinebeck, get in when the gates opened, and be done by 1 or 2, when the crowds got overwhelming. Mom usually went with us, but when she couldn’t, we would always bring her back goodies. But then last year she moved to Virginia in September, and we decided our Rhinebeck days were done.
But god, we missed it. We needed Rhinebeck in our lives. We love the Maryland festival, which is growing and improving every year, but it just isn’t the same as fall in New York.
So this year, I begged my brother to let us impose on him. He’s just a little further south from where Mom lived, so it was still doable. He and his wife were very generous about letting us, and suggested I bring Hero along as that was the weekend he would have my nephew Owen, and they could go with and hang out together. So that was set. Nikki caught the train up to my house on Friday afternoon, getting there just as I was getting home from work. We threw everything and the girl in the car and were on our way.
We got to Gabe’s at about 7:30, just in time for pizza and kittens. Pam is a vet and works with a local shelter. When they get tiny kittens in that need fostering, she sometimes brings them home. This time she had two little one month olds, a tabby and a tortie, who could barely stand, they were so small. It was very tempting to sneak one home with us! I think this was Nikki’s first time being around little ones like that, and she was totally smitten. But the long day, long drive and early start time the next morning caught up with us fast, and we were crashing by 9.
We were all up by 6, and Gabe made us eggs before we hit the road at 7. It was a gorgeous morning,
punctuated by hot air balloons
We saw three different ones within 5 miles. It was brilliant.
We got to the fairground at about 8:30, half an hour before the gate opened, and the front lot was already full. The gate we usually go in had a line all the way down and onto the road, so we went to the other gate, which turned out to be propitious. One of the best things about Rhinebeck being in the fall is that people get to show off their knitwear because, well, it’s chilly! The Rhinebeck sweater is a thing, often a thing with epic stories behind them. I was wearing my Eden Prairie shawl, as I was really proud of it (and it was snuggly warm!)
We had barely gotten in line when I heard a voice behind me say, “I know that shawl! Oh, I know that person!” Turned around and it was a fandom friend who I talk to all the time on Twitter and occasionally on LJ, but we’ve only met in person once before, there at Rhinebeck in passing. So we got to have a nice conversation in line while we waited for the gates to open while the kids played ninja and I’m sure annoyed everyone else in the line. As soon as we got inside, we split up, the kids off to do their own thing and Nikki and I off to do a methodical job, starting with the main buildings, although we rarely buy anything there. Cell signal is terrible up there, so I had wisely (I thought) brought our camping walkie talkies, one for me, one for the kids. Little did I know my battery would give out after an hour. We made good progress, though, and were out of the buildings before the worst of the crowds settled in. I found a great deal on tussah silk, and found the laceweight yarn I want to use to make Hero’s bridal shawl. (Shut up. I know she’s only 13, but do you KNOW how long it will take me to make this damn thing? And if she doesn’t get married, I’ll give it to her for getting her D.VM. or something. It’s fine.) But I didn’t buy anything. I had a list, and I wanted to see everything before I made any decisions.
We met the kids at our designated meeting spot (thankfully I’d been wise enough to do that ahead). They were pretty much eating their way through the fair, which was pretty much what I’d expected. But they were good, so I told them where we’d be and we started on the barns.
The barns are always my favorites. The smaller vendors tend to be there, and there are always treasures to be found. And this year was no exception. I finally, FINALLY found Turkish drop spindles that I hadn’t been able to find at Maryland or in the buildings. But I didn’t buy one yet in case I found something else I needed. And I found an amazing deal on Gotland fiber, 8 oz. for $9. I have a weakness for Gotland. I call it Middle Earth fiber, as it’s the fiber that was used to make the cloaks for the Fellowship in Caras Galadhon in the Lord of the Rings movies. But I didn’t buy it. What if there was something else? That was becoming a pattern. I was frozen in indecision. I couldn’t commit to ANYTHING. All the beautiful yarns and fibers that I picked up and almost bought, then put down and walked away from. Nikki bought stuff before I did. Unheard of! I started to get really frustrated with myself.
Finally we finished all the buildings and tracked the kids down to get lunch. I think at that point I needed the break. And the protein. We got fair fare (hot dogs for the kids, sausage and peppers for us) and had a seat. Hurrah. The lines were starting to get long everywhere, which was kind of our signal to get the heck out. So I started making a list. I’d kept cards with notes from almost everywhere I’d found stuff I wanted, so now I sorted them out by get now, save for later and not happening. Then I wrote everything I wanted down along with their prices, and totaled it up. 4 things I was absolutely getting, with about $80 left over for whims. Pretty good. So we sent the kids off with the agreement to meet back at 1, and I went on a mission, dragging poor Nikki along behind.
I was victorious. I got the silk and a pound and a half of the Gotland (my first sweater quantity!) I got sock yarn for a barter I’d arranged with a coworker, and a contrasting color for myself. I got one luscious braid of yak/silk. I wanted a sweater quantity of that, but at $31 a skein, when I need 6 skeins, it wasn’t happening that day. But I will go back to her in January to get it. She said she’d even do a special order for me if I needed it! So the one braid is just to get familiar with it so I’m ready for the SQ. I got a braid of merino, just because I like the color and it was cheap ($10). I got a handmade Turkish spindle that it lovely and light. Plus I got to give Turkish instructions to two people while I was waiting to pay! I tried to score an instructors discount, but that didn’t fly… I rounded it out with a bottle of wool wash and some goat’s milk cheese for Gabe and Pam and we were done. The shawl yarn ended up being waaaaay too expensive. I get that it’s a luxury blend (silk/angora), but $55 for 1500 yds just seemed a little excessive. The blending boards were all well priced at $160, but when I know I can get the cloth for $75 and make my own, I just couldn’t justify it. And I couldn’t remember where I had been talking to the lady about the dye kit, so I couldn’t go back for that. Which breaks my heart, because after the fact I realized it was a dyer whose yarn we LOVE, but they’re closing up the business and moving to Colorado after this show! *sigh* But I see those kits every year at both shows, so next time.
We were on the road by 2, and stopped off at Hyde Park so Nikki could get some Roosevelt tat for her mom. We usually stop there every year, and never have a problem. Well, Ken Burns’ series has obviously done what it intended, because the place was PACKED. We had to park way the hell and gone, so I dropped Nikki and Hero near the door and waited in the car with Owen, who had passed out. they were in and out in 15 minutes, and we scooted. We were tempted to buzz Sleepy Hollow, but at that point we were just too burned out, so home we went.
Which was when Nikki broke.
My friend is a woman of strong will and determination. But with enough patience, you can convince her of anything. Thus it has been all along this fiber journey of mine. She didn’t need to knit, crochet was fine. She didn’t need fancy yarns, Red Heart was good enough. She now knits Manos de Uruguay, her preferred yarn. I just keep exposing her to things and eventually she succumbs on her own. Thus it was that day with spinning. I don’t know if it was me spindle shopping, or all the gorgeous fiber, or watching the Australian/New Zealand (we still aren’t sure which) lady doing long draw on the wheel, but something got in her head that day and said it was time. She had bought 2 oz. of an alpaca blend for me to spin for her, but she decided she wanted to try it herself. Thankfully I had brought my top whorl spindle with me just in case, along with my yarn swift and ball winder. Hey, some projects won’t wait! So I dug it out, got her set up and showed her the basics the way my teacher, Deb (not that Deb. We call this one Alpaca!Deb in my house) had shown me. I spun a couple of yards to show her, and then let her have a go at it. To keep from hovering, I tried to take a nap. In the 20 minutes it took for Gabe and Pam to get dinner on the table (an amazing vegetarian chili!), she had the basics down and was well and truly bitten. My “I win!” dance might have been a bit gloaty.
We had dinner and puttered around a bit, and then settled in to watch X-men: Days of Future Past, which was surprisingly excellent, as my last X-movie experience had been X3, which was terrible. We made it to 10:30 that night. Go us! But sleep was entertainingly challenged by Pam and Gabe’s cats, who decided to make their presence known in a myriad of ways that night. Despite that, I still got a decent night’s sleep.
We eased into the day the next morning, hitting the road around 10. All the indulging of the day before had finally caught up with Owen, who had a terrible stomach ache as we were leaving. Poor thing. We made a pit stop at a local farm stand for cider donuts and apples. OMG, these apples. They’re the size of softballs!
Two of them made a whole apple crisp. And so good! From there it was a pretty traffic-free drive down to Philly and then a not so traffic free drive back up to home. Dropped Hero off at OM and went home myself to crash. The sign of a great weekend.
I still haven’t started anything from the new goodies, although I’m itching to. I’m binding off a lace project at the moment, and then can start the barter project and a quick pair of wrist warmers for Xander. I’m not touching the spinning until I can be less indecisive about it. But I have time.
Only 7 months until Maryland Sheep and Wool…