This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival: Part the First

Yesterday my friend Jay and I trekked from Boston to Rhinebeck to experience the Sheep and Wool Festival. It was the first time for both of us. Jay has been involved in fibre arts (knitting, weaving, spinning, dying, etc.) for a long time. Not realising just how big this was, we left at 7:30 am, made good time, and then spent just over an hour going the last 1.25 miles. Sheesh.

But it was worth it! Man oh man oh man! was it worth it! We had decided early on that we wouldn't buy any alpacas (or sheep or goats), even though the Land Rover was big enough for one or two (though not big enough for a llama). Okay, we didn't have enough money to bring home any livestock, but the Souay sheep, the Icelandic sheep, and the Welsh Black Sheep all caught my fancy. I would have been happy to take any of them home. Of course, I live in a third floor walk up flat, have no yard, and have no knowledge of what it takes to be a shepherd (um, grass? shelter? I dunno), but still, I wanted to take them all home with me.

And there was yarn. Lots of yarn. I must admit, I bought a lot of it, and there was more that caught my fancy. I tried to stick with yarns I can't find at any of the yarn stores in my area, things I'd never seen before, or yarns from farms that usually only sell directly, or at festivals. I collected a fair number of cards from various yarn sites and will be organising a shopping tour via the internet at some point in the not-too-distant future.

So a couple of things we learned from our first time at Rhinebeck:
  • Leave earlier if going on the first day of the festival. We got there at noon, they close at 5:00, and there was still much left to explore, booths unvisited, yarns unbought.
  • Get there the night before. The gates open at 10:00, and it would have been better to have had more time there. 
  • Bring more money. I will need to save up for more stuff next year, especially if my goal is to get products that are not available locally, yarns or roving (first spinning lesson later this week, but that's fodder for another post) or even fleeces.
  • Book a hotel and stay for the second day. One cannot truly see it all in one day. I am not so much interested in the livestock shows, since I'm not really in the market for livestock, but there were many more booths I'd've visited if I'd had the time.
  • Bring more money.
  • Hydrate. I didn't drink enough water.
That all said, I had a terrific time. Jay was fun to hang around, and when we were visiting the sheep in their pens, he was really informative about the fibre that each animal provided, how well it spun, if it felted, what it would be good to mix it with, and so on. He really made my experience at the festival better by a hundred fold. His advice about yarns and what colours go well together (I'm good at that, he's better) was indespensible. He's funny, smart, and has an English accent that is to die. And is an excellent traveling companion. Every time he asked, while pondering a hank of yarn, "Do I need more sock yarn?" I would enthusiastically answer, "Yes!" Because I know one can never have too much yarn, sock or otherwise. But he wisely refrained from buying too much. So did I, but I did come home with a lovely stash. I will post pictures about the stash later, today I want to post pictures of all the cool beasties we saw.

Near the entrance to the festival, there were some animals for feeding, and this kangaroo, carrying a joey in her pouch. I wonder what kind of fleece one can get from a kangaroo, and how spinable it is?

Some alpacas. One can really see their relation to camels here. The alpacas are small, very soft, and have beautiful eyes.

Llamas! I llove how their ears llook llike horns.

Love her hair!

 Cashmere on the hoof! I didn't buy much cashmere yarn this weekend, but I thought these goats were so cute.

These two pictures are of Souay sheep, one of the oldest breeds in Europe. They were left in the islands north of Scotland by Norsemen (remember, "viking" is a verb) and were basically a larder. They were left to breed wildly, and this is probably what sheep looked like in Europe 3000 years ago, at least according to the shepherd. They were very gentle, came up to us, and were friendly. This particular breed of sheep is not shorn, but rather combed for its fleece.

These two pictures are of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep. While their fleece looks dark brown in the pictures, it is actually black after the dust and dirt is washed from it. These guys were among my favourites.

One of the Icelandic sheep. These guys were not interested in coming towards the crowd. But they are the providers of a yarn I love, so I thought to include them.

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