10 Reasons To Go To A Wool Festival

It has come to my attention that some of you have not been to a wool festival. Having just come back from the mystical, magical event that is Rhinbeck Sheep & Wool, I feel it is my duty to Spread The Woolly Love and try to convince each and every one of you to run, not walk, to the nearest and soonest festival. (There are a few left this season, and it is never too soon to be planning for the spring season!)

Thus, I present to you my Top Ten Reasons To Attend Your Local Sheep & Wool Gathering:

10. More yarn than you have ever seen in your life. Even a small festival has the equivalent of several shops' worth of yarn, offered by both local shops with a booth and vendors from parts of the country you may never get to visit. The selection, colours, and literal WALLS O' YARN are incredible.

9. Goodies not sold in stores. Some yarnmakers and toolmakers sell their wares exclusively at seasonal shows, which means the only place you are going to be able to see (and touch!) their amazing stuff is at a festival. Those vendors who do sell through shops may have colours and one-of-a-kind items exclusive to fests. (And if you are a shop owner, extra bonus: The opportunity to discover in person more wonderful things to offer to your customers!)

8. Endless parades of inspiration. You don't even really have to walk around a wool show–if you want to see dozens of gorgeous knitted sweaters, shawls, hats, and mittens, have a seat on a bench and watch the crowd, and their knitwear, go by!

7. Learn something new. Many shows have classes you can attend; but if money is tight, you can check the schedule for the free demos offered. Not to mention that everywhere around you will be knitters knitting, spinners spinning, and weavers weaving. I learned a new spinning trick just by standing and watching a group of spinners in the next booth.

6. Buy direct, literally. If it says "sheep & wool festival," then…there will be sheep there! Also: Llamas, alpacas, goats, bunnies, sheep dogs, and their assorted shepherds. Watch a sheep being sheared, then buy a fleece from the shepherd; pet a cria (baby alpaca), then purchase some yarn made from the babymama's fleece. I bought bunny fibre from a bunny owner, and wool yarn from the sheep farmer. (I also bought a fleece from a sheep named Nancy. I feel quite affectionate towards Nancy right now, as I dream of the sweater her fluff will become.)

5. Did I mention more yarn than you have ever seen in your life?

4. All The Knitters. You just never know who you will bump into at a wool gathering. I managed to hug Ravelry's Casey three times this past weekend. (Never saw Jess, though, nor Mary-Heather. Where were you folks hiding at?) I also met dozens of my Ravelry friends in person for the first time, and there were hugs and laughter all 'round. (Plus: You might even bump into me someday. Just sayin'.)

3. Show Your Stuff. It's become a tradition for many knitters to create a special "Rhinebeck Sweater." (It's also traditional to finish your Rhinebeck sweater the morning before you leave for the show.) Whether you make a new shawl/sweater/hat, or wear a past favourite, there's no better place to show off your work than a wool festival…because most of the folks there will truly appreciate every stitch. Be prepared to have complete strangers yell "Beautiful shawl!" at you from across the aisle.

2. Food, food, food. From legendary chicken pot pies to delicious ice cream treats, from spun maple cotton candy to deep-fried artichokes, each fair has its specialties, and long lines are a small price to pay for these once-a-season delights. This year, I ate fresh apples and apple pie from local orchards, and swooned at the rich sweetness of spun maple sugar.

1. Beauty, love, yarn, laughter, fun, play, yarn, fresh air, friends, family, yarn, sheep, colours, fibre, no tv, yarn, being silly, and more yarn. 'Nuff said.

Here's a list of 2010 shows, courtesy of the ever-fabulous Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review. The list includes festivals through the end of the year! Many events happen on the same weekend each year, so check the links to see when the spring shows are. Rhinebeck's 2011 dates are already posted!

See you where the yarn is!

– Sandi

P.S. Yes, I wore my new Rhinebeck Hat. Yes, I wore my lovely Farmer's Market Cardigan. And because the weather was warm, I even had a chance to wear my Bolero. No, I did not get a photo of me, at Rhinebeck, wearing any of this knitted finery. What was I thinking? (Bad blogger, no donut.)

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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