It’s been almost two weeks since one of my favorite days of the year: the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I get to buy fiber and spur of the moment yarn only at MDS&W and at Rhinebeck in the fall. Which is probably a good thing. If I allowed myself to buy the kind of things I get a festivals whenever I wanted, we’d be living out of my van. Granted it would be warm and soft in there with all the fiber, but still, I think the kids prefer having indoor plumbing.
A little bit of a shift this year, as normally we go on Saturday morning. But the church was having its annual fundraising auction Saturday night. I had volunteered to bring food and had a couple of items I had put up in the auction, so I needed to be there. I dragged the kids and the Aquarians along as well. Nikki was open minded about checking it out, and I think she had a good time. Morgan was REALLY resentful that I made him go, but in the end he got a couple of items he was really excited about, so hopefully he’ll be a little more open minded about it next time I want him to go to something. The peril was in not spending all my fiber money at the auction!
I was worried about getting to the show on time, as I was hearing horror stories about the wait times and parking, so we left home at about 5:30 Sunday morning. It’s a 3 hour drive to the Howard County Fairground, which really is ridiculous that we go, since we rarely spend more than 4 hours or so, so we spend more time in the car than at the show. But honestly, it’s worth it. And leaving that early turned out to be an equally good idea. We got there at 8:15 and got to park right outside the gate, which was BRILLIANT. We weren’t the first there by any means, but that’s okay. There were none of the delays going back to the off-ramp on the highway that we have run into in past years. Such a much nicer entry into the fair!
When I say we, I’m talking me, Nikki, Xander and Hero. This is another thing that I can’t get Morgan to come to, and in the wisdom of choosing my battles I don’t make him. But the kids have a good time. The first year I took them, I gave them both their cell phones and set them loose with $20 each and orders to check in every hour. Which they did beautifully. So I’ve gotten more relaxed, especially as they’ve gotten older. This year it was, “Yeah, whatever, check in when you’re ready for lunch.” They were gone prectically before we’d cleared the gate.
I went in with a very specific list of needs. Not a long list, though. Which may have been my downfall. I needed two new bobbins and a replacement orifice hook for my travel wheel, and I wanted some fiber to start learning how to card with the hand carders Nikki scored me when she was out in Lancaster. Beyond that, I had no restrictions. Oh, and I needed a new jar of Wood Beams. (I love this stuff. Even if you don’t spin, I recommend it for using on your cutting boards, rolling pins, wooden spoons, whatever. And no, I’m not getting paid to say that!)
When you go to a show often enough, you develop a strategy. We hate crowds, so we go to the main building first before it gets so congested you can’t even move. Even at this early hour, the big name dyers already had lines 20 people long (the show didn’t even officially open for almost half an hour after we got there). My wheel builder was actually in one of the barns, but he’s always in the same spot right on the end, so we stopped there first before the barns got insane as well. Got my two bobbins, and he gave me the orifice hook for free, saying it’s not uncommon for them to break, so the first one is always free! Get a Merlin Tree wheel, people. Seriously. Then it was off to the main building.
We actually stayed pretty focused on that building this year. Some really interesting new vendors. One place called itself the dollar store of the show, and I got some great nicknacks there. A little travel tool kit, a pair of really sharp yarn snips, and some conductive thread so I can make smart phone compatible gloves. They also had some lovely jewel toned merino that I got on a second visit. We stopped at Into the Whirled, as we always do. I only got one braid of fiber from them this year, as they didn’t have any bamboo blend, but I did get four skeins of finished yarn, three for a big project (yet undecided on) for me and one skein of Moriarty as a prize for the 221b team in the Ravellenic Games this year. At a new stall for me, I was introduced to silk caps. Silk comes in a couple of different ways for spinning. You can get it in hanks of combed top like wool fibers, but it also comes in compressed layers, usually squares called hankies, since that’s what they look like. Caps were something new to me, so I asked the vendor about them. Basically, they look like stocking caps. When you spin them, instead of pulling them apart like you would with a hankie, you just turn it inside out, pull out some of the threads from near the crown to whatever thickness you want for your yarn, and spin. The fiber then unravels itself from the cap. I was really curious, so I bought two, one in a purple/blue and one in a copper colorway. I’m looking forward to trying those. The other new vendor I got excited about was a place called Bead Biz. They had, as the name implied, trays and trays of strings of beads for fiber crafts. When we first found them, I didn’t have any projects in minds, so I just petted and coveted and moved on. But after I got the ITW yarn, I knew it needed beads, so I went back and finally got a shimmer steel blue set. I’m really itching to start something with them, but I’m forcing myself to wait until I finish one major WIP that’s kicking my ass.
Other little goodies I got: A bag of dyed Gotland sheep curls. I love Gotlands so much. I do think those are going to be my fiber sheep when I get the farm. Got some blue beads to make a full set of shawl stitch markers, since having a bunch of random markers on a project makes me crazy. I got an inexpensive drop spindle to teach one or two people at church how to spin. And I got a bag full of alpaca fiber to practice my carding on. There were a couple of plant vendors tempting me as well. I didn’t need any tomatoes, and for the moment I am resisting peppers (we’ll see how long that lasts. I do still have two self-waterers in the shed…) But I did get a lavendar and a lemon verbena to go in a couple of urn planters I trashpicked.
What I didn’t come home with was a big bag of raw wool. It was a near thing. I suspect I won’t be as lucky at Rhinebeck if we go this year.
We had a late lunch, intending to hit all the barns, but by then it was almost 1:30 (how did that happen?), everything was getting crowded, and we were exhausted. So we gave up, satisfied with our purchases and our day, and hit the road home. Dropped Nikki off around 5 and we were home by 6:30. I had about enough energy to photograph everything and order in dinner before I collapsed. It was a good, productive weekend, but honestly, I’m getting to old for that much excitement!