This weekend was the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. While we haven’t been there for several years, this festival holds a special place in my heart — it was the first Knitpistols roadtrip. It was our introduction to fiber festivals, and damn. We were overwhelmed after the first day. It’s taken me several years to be able to successfully navigate a yarn festival like Maryland or Rhinebeck. Our first year, we were all stressed. Did we see it all? Did we miss something? Plans were thrown out the window in sheer sensory overload. We clumped together going from stall to stall, always trying to keep people together. In fact, we left the first day with relatively little, and had to regroup the next day so we could go back and get what we wanted.
Now, with a number of festivals under our collective belts, we are far more comfortable splitting up and staying in touch via text, or letting the others know if we spotted something they were on the lookout for. One of our own has ventured into spinning, and this festival was a revelation for her. She signed up for the pre-festival spinning workshop, and while she’s had her wheel for three or four years now, it was like everything fell into place this year. I think the big picture is like that — we all want to think we know what we’re doing, but it takes a while of struggling before we really see our way through to the confidence on the other side.
For me, personally, I’ve learned a lot since that first festival. I’ve learned what fibers I like to work with, that I tend to go toward fingering weight rather than worsted, and I am attracted to colors. I’ve learned that closeout yarns aren’t a bargain if I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, and that I strongly prefer natural fibers to acrylics (which really aren’t commonplace at these things, but it’s still good to know). Not only do dyers and fiber farms have stalls, but many store merchants purchase stalls as well. Where the challenge arises is knowing what you can get back home and sidestep it for the more unusual yarns that aren’t carried at your local yarn store (LYS). I’ve discovered that at yarn festivals, I target hand dyed and hand painted yarns — colors and patterns that are unique to the small dye lots. Four skeins from the same dying can still be significantly different from each other, and it pays to choose those in person.
As for me, I came back with some beautiful fibers, and I actually surprised myself by not picking up some of my more standard choices. I bypassed Socks That Rocked (after standing there two hours trying to decide on a colorway) and instead picked up Dragonfly Fibers, Cephalopod Yarns, a single skein of Miss Babs, a whole lot of Neighborhood Fiber Co, and even KidLin — an odd combination of linen and kid mohair that I’m excited to try (yes, the sample they had on display totally pushed me to get the pattern too). Yes there was orange, but there were also purples, green, pinks (!!!), grays, and a one skein mix of browns witha touch of blues and purples. I picked up DK, fingering, and lace weights – weights I’m most likely to knit up. The colors are deep and saturated and beautiful. I’m relatively certain that these will all have a high chance of making it to a finished project, and that makes for a successful outing.
But the bigger picture? Loads of sunshine. Hanging with knitters who are happy to be among beautiful yarns, promising rovings, and other happy knitters. We came with friends, met up with more friends, and created new friends. It amuses me that I fit so well here. I don’t have to explain my love of knitting, and it’s acceptable to tell people their knits are amazing and take pictures of complete strangers just because they’re wearing something that appeals to you. There’s enough fair food to make you sick. There are animals fat with fiber as well as those skinny missing shorn locks. There’s a sense of happiness at a festival, and knitters are generally happy people. It might not be as big as Rhinebeck, but the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival will always be a happy place for me.
It was certainly a fabulous roadtrip — and such a merry landing.