sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 8, 2008


two friends, eight hours, a *lot* of yarn
posted by soe 2:40 am

Alpaca

Sarah (née Sweetpea) and I (not pictured above) hit the road Sunday morning for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Eight hours later, Sarah dropped me back at my doorstep with a heavier bag and a lighter wallet.

Sarah had temporary possession of her brother’s car, so we plugged in her iPod, turned up the tunes and headed out of the city via 16th Street and Silver Spring. We chatted about our weeks and how Saturday had been so hot and sticky and about what a beautiful day Sunday was looking to be.

No traffic appeared to slow us down and it really wasn’t until we pulled into the Howard County Fairgrounds that we encountered any kind of slowdown. Apparently on Saturday that same route had three-mile backups just to get to the road that the Fairgrounds are off of.

For the Love of a Job Well Done
Arriving shortly after noon, we wandered through a few of the outside vendors’ stalls en route to where I mistakenly thought the Ravelry meetup was going to be. Turns out I was mistaken, but I accosted two girls wearing Ravelry buttons to ask them where it was we were supposed to go. They had a map and pointed us back to the area adjoining the front entrance. Oops.

The Ravelry folks had been overwhelmed at the two Saturday events, and I knew they’d run out of buttons the day before, so I knew our quest for free swag was going to be for naught even as we walked in. I looked for Mia and for Lolly and for anyone else I could actually put a name to in real life, but didn’t see anyone I was acquainted with.

I can be shy. And a pavilion full of strangers (albeit fiber strangers with whom I’d possibly chatted online) just didn’t excite me. So Sarah and I decided to head out in search of sunshine.

Because, folks, the sunshine was abundant. The sky was a deep blue. There was a light breeze. The temperatures were in the low 70s. I don’t think we could have asked for a nicer day.

The Mission

I suspect Sarah would have been happy enough to settle down with a lamb kebab right then, but I knew the sheepdog demonstrations were going on and I pestered her to go watch them with me. Sarah is a good sport, and so we caught the tail end of the dogs being put through their paces.

At their HeelsI think it’s fascinating to see how thoroughly these dogs are trained. They respond to voice commands if they’re near the shepherd. If they aren’t, though, they follow whistled commands. Sometimes they work singly; other times they’re paired with another dog. Yet still other times, the farmer will get involved if something requires, say, opening or closing a pen.

Nietzsche’s sheepish masses? Well named. Sheep really seem to like to hang together. Individual thought seems to come hard to them and they’re happiest in a pack. Which means if you can get one sheep to do what you want, oftentimes you’re in luck. However, if one of those sheep panics and bolts, you’ve got chaos on your hands.

Success!But eventually, the dogs force the sheep to obey their will. Whether it’s running around cones in a figure 8 pattern, entering a stand-alone pen, or crossing through a gate with a little bridge in it, the dogs know their mission — and won’t rest until they’ve achieved it.

After that fun, we realized we were famished and we each found food to eat near the main stage. The microphone didn’t carry well, but I believe they were announcing the winners of the Sheep-to-Shawl contest, the entries of which were to be auctioned off for charity. We eavesdropped on the knitters around us, but eventually decided we’d better get moving if we were going to make it through the whole fairgrounds before it closed.

So, off we went, winding our way through barns filled with vendors selling all things fibery. There were spinning wheels and drop spindles. There was roving waiting to be turned into yarn. There were garments. And there was yarn.

Yarn as far as the eye could see.

(The fact that this statement would be better believed if I had photographic evidence is not lost on me. You’ll just have to trust me, as I neglected to take any shots of the fiber or the vendors. I’m blaming the yarn fumes.)

I’m not sure if The Fold was the very first place we stumbled into once we moved into the barns, but if not, it was still early on. The Fold sells Socks that Rock, a sock yarn that was once available only at festivals and that still remains an online-only company. This is the booth that festival-goers arrive early to get in line at. There’s usually a run on the goods, and I believe they have, in the past, sold out within the first hour or two.

This year, though, they brought lots, including a huge shipment of the colorway Knitters without Borders, representing a charitable group that the Yarn Harlot put together. They brought so much yarn that there was still some left by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around. It was with delight that Sarah and I realized that we were going to be able to try some of this well-regarded yarn.

Knitters without Borders Silkie! Dupont Circle
Socks that Rock Lightweight in Knitters without Borders Silkie Socks that Rock in Oregon Red Clover Honey Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock in Dupont Circle

After that, it was on to other booths, where we squeezed skeins, felt up fibers, and handled hanks. In general, if Mr. Whipple had still been alive, I think he would have been perturbed. Colorways were admired and debated. In general, I feel we were quite restrained.

Midafternoon arrived and we were starting to wane, our lunches long since worn off. One more barn, we said, and then we’ll stop for a snack.

And then I pet myself right into my new favorite booth.

The Fibre Co. had such luscious yarns and such significant discounts I knew I wouldn’t escape unscathed. It was just a matter of choosing what kinds of fiber I wanted and how much.

KhromasA Quartet of Canopy

Okay, some people might not consider seven skeins to be unscathed. And I can see where they’re coming from. But will it help if I say I know what I’m going to make with each of them — and that most of it is designated to be gifts?

On the right is Khroma DK (a 50-50 blend of merino and baby alpaca) in Plum, Cypress and Winesap. The colors are vibrant and the yarn is pettable.

On the left, though, is Canopy (a baby alpaca, merino, and bamboo blend). These skeins are so squishable and smooshable. You can’t help touching them and then immediately cuddling with them. The colorways (from left to right) are Purple Passion, Paw Paw, Palm Bud, and Blue Quandons. I totally had no idea what I was going to make with them when I first laid eyes on them, but I knew they had to come home with me.

Sarah and I paid for our yarn and emerged back into the sun for funnel cake and some rest for our feet. We paused for about half an hour and then went back in for our final building. The clock was against our loitering anywhere, particularly when we arrived at the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth, our final intended destination, with less than ten minutes until the end of the festival. That didn’t stop Sarah and me from examining nearly every skein remaining in the booth, mind you. It just meant that we didn’t linger over many of them. The staff was just noting it was five o’clock when we sprang to pay for our Neighborhood Fiber Co. skeins, each of us buying the colorway that represented our home turf.

We paused on our way out to purchase a couple of plants for our respective gardens and then got in the car and retraced our steps from earlier in the morning.

It had been a good day.

Yum!

Category: knitting. There is/are 6 Comments.



AWESOME!!!

Sheep!!!!

Comment by Jenn 05.08.08 @ 5:28 am

Wow, it sounds like an excellent day! I agree with you about the sheepdogs and so much of it is inate ability which is quite amazing. Your yarn purchases are pretty yummy. I am so jealous! I am glad you had such a fulfilling day trip…sounds like the kind of thing that just fills you up inside!

Comment by Cynthia 05.08.08 @ 6:20 am

What a great day! We have Shepherd’s Harvest here this weekend which is like a mini-MSWF. I can’t wait! (Yes, you’re more than welcome to stop by for a visit with your jam whenever you get a chance…I just baked more bread yesterday!) 🙂

Comment by Catherine 05.08.08 @ 7:31 am

Sounds like you had an excellent day. We were there on Saturday and it was way too crowded but we had a blast anyway. Sorry we missed you.

Comment by Hillary 05.08.08 @ 2:29 pm

Sounds like a great day! And isn’t there something twisted about lamb kebabs at a wool festival?

Comment by Sarah 05.08.08 @ 5:26 pm

So glad you made it to the booths on time, and there was yarn left! Your post has me excited for Rhinebeck, though that’s a nice long way away yet.

Comment by Debby 05.09.08 @ 7:22 am