Tag Archives: Maryland

MDSW-Fiber Festival Here We Come!

 The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is held the first weekend in May in West Friendship, Maryland. It claims to be the largest fiber festival in the U.S. 

For me it’s a knitting adventure. I meet a group of other knitters at a deli at 35th Street and Sixth Avenue to board a bus that leaves the city at 7.00 a.m. sharp for the Maryland fairgrounds. This was my fifth pilgrimage to the MDSW. I join friends and others on this bus. This group started as part of BAKG, the Big Apple Knitters Group. Now  it’s a word of mouth event that fills up quickly!

We all board the bus with anticipation of the wonderful yarns and fibers that we will see and buy. There’s excitement in the air. Regardless of age, we’re like small children who have been waiting for Christmas all year. We can’t wait to get to the fairgrounds and drool over the wonderful display of goods.

Despite the clouds and forecasted poor weather, we came prepared. By the time we arrived in Maryland, the rain had already passed through. The outdoor stalls had temporary coverings. The lines for the fairgrounds were short and buses were re-routed to avoid muddy parking.

As a veteran of four previous MDSW fairs, I had a couple of early stops on my itinerary. Living in Manhattan, I have access to a wide variety of yarns. Therefore, I use festivals like MDSW to buy fibers from local producers and rare breeds. 

First on my list was Spinning Flock Farm, a small Maryland farm which has a small offering of Blue Face Leceister, which is a rare breed. I love it for its ability to show stitch definition and the soft material it makes. It’s wool that’s not itchy! Spinning Flock Farm generally uses old fashioned colors. In addition, they have a variety of other types of wool. I always buy enough wool for a sweater.

Spinning Flock Farm Sign

Spinning Flock Farm Sign

Blue Face Leiceister in Blues from Spinning Flock Farm

Blue Face Leiceister in Blues from Spinning Flock Farm

Making First Purchase at MDSW at Spinning Flock Farm

Making First Purchase at MDSW at Spinning Flock Farm

I stopped by the Ravelry gathering at the Rabbit Hatch and got my buttons. My husband had made me a tailored one to promote this blog.  The place was packed with Ravelers and their friends. Everyone is wearing knitted garments and are intoxicated with the fiber fumes.

 

Ravelry Gathering at MDSW-Distributing buttons

Ravelry Gathering at MDSW-Distributing buttons

 

Ravelry members in knitted garments

Ravelry members in knitted garments

 

 

 

Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief in Swallowtail Lace Shawl at MDSW

Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief in Swallowtail Lace Shawl at MDSW

 

Since I had visited Tess Yarns in Portland last summer and figured that I would have an opportunity to do so again this summer, I had decided not to stop by their tent. But…the burst of color lured me in. I considered buying some of her lace merino which is a great buy at $10.00 a skein. Instead I opted for two skeins of a blue-green super wash merino. It should be just enough for a long sleeve sweater if there’s not much design.

 

Tess Yarns Lace Weight Selection

Tess Yarns Lace Weight Selection

 

Tess Yarns selection by color not fiber!

Tess Yarns selection by color not fiber!

 

Melinda (aka Tess) taking the money at MDSW

Melinda (aka Tess) taking the money at MDSW

 

 

 

On the recommendation of a fellow lace knitter, I made my way to Spirit Trail Fiberworks. It was a small booth in the main barn filled with color. I found a wonderful wine colored merino lace weight. I would have bought 2 skeins but alas it was the only one in that colorway. I am hoping to make a small shoulderette from one of the recent Knitty patterns.

The most unusual find was a blend including dog hair (yes you read that correctly). At $24.00 for 200 yards, I decided it was a bit too exotic to try. It was made by a small mill where a woman comber her dog team and they used the hair.

This year, I was attracted to the Wensleydale Long Wool again. Last year, I came close to purchasing some for its amazing luster. One of my fellow knitters has been making a shawl from some olive colored wool. Since I still worried about the “itchiness factor”, I only bought enough for a shawl as a test. It’s a deep, rich grey. It breaks my rule of only buying fromlocal producers since it’s from Yorkshire, England but I am hoping that it makes a wonderful shawl for the fall.

 

Flying Fibers is a family business

Flying Fibers is a family business

 

In addition to the fiber buying frenzy, there are wonderful exhibits of hand made goods. I use these pieces for future inspiration. 

Of course, there’s the usual fair fare. It’s a combination of lamb dishes mixed with fresh lemonade, ribbon potatoes and ice cream.

 

MDSW ice cream offering

MDSW ice cream offering

Ribbon potatoes are a big hit at MDSW

Ribbon potatoes are a big hit at MDSW

 

Then there are the animals who are really the center of the show (although unlike Rhinebeck, I don’t go out of my way to walk through the barns.)

 

Sheep taking a rest from the excitement at MDSW

Sheep taking a rest from the excitement at MDSW

 

Alpacas shorn for the MDSW

Alpacas shorn for the MDSW

 

 

For entertainment, there were several groups of musicians playing folk music. It’s a good place to park the less wool-friendly members of your group.

 

Musicians play folk music at MDSW

Musicians play folk music at MDSW

More musicians attract listeners at MDSW

More musicians attract listeners at MDSW

 

By 4.30p.m., my New York bound knitting friends wander back to the bus. Each ladened with packages and feeling happy. The bus home is an exchange of seeing what types of fibers and colors we have purchased. Everyone has found some wonderful wool to make a stunning piece. Tired from the adventure, many sleep or knit as we motor back to New York City.

Submitted by: Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief

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F is for Fiber, Fiber Festivals and Fiber Farms

Overflowing basket of yarn at Rosie's Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia

Overflowing basket of yarn at Rosie's Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia

When it comes to writing about fiber, I could go on and on filling miles of online space as I’m sure many of you could as well. There’s the wonderful stuff that we find at Sheep & Wool Festivals that comes from the people who raise the animals or dye  it using a wonderful palette of colors. Of course, some of this may retain its lamby smell as the Icelandic lace weight my husband influenced me to buy at last fall’s Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival. (Don’t worry–I have it well wrapped in a plastic bag to keep its small contained!) 

At the other end of the spectrum are the pre-packaged balls that colorfully crowd the shelves of our favorite LYS. For me, that includes The Point NYC and Knitty City. I love the fact that The Point clusters the yarns by brand and color so that they burst out of their baskets. By contrast, the yarns in Knitty City are packed into their cubbyholes and spill into baskets on the floor. 

In between are the cones of various yarns and mill ends that I buy at Silk City Fibers. They come in a wide variety of contents and the colors may not always be my first choice but they’re well priced and always become wonderful cherished items. At the core of my stash, there are some large cones of wonderful materials including mill ends of cashmere and cashmere blends (which I plan to make into amazing shawls since some of it is laceweight), some thick Chunky in Sweet Potato orange from which I’ve promised to make my husband a sweater (although he insists that a pair of socks would be much better), 2 pounds of black (yes you read that correctly) lace weight Italian linen which I will either make a shawl and/or mix it with a grey and white linen mix to make my After Dark Nightie #2 and a matching bathrobe from the first Mason Dixon Knits book. 

Alas, there’s too much yarn and not enough time to knit it all!  That said, I believe that it’s important to let the fiber tell you what it wants to be . It’s not that the fibers actually talk (that would be silly!) Rather, I find that it’s necessary to test some swatches and see what type of pattern works best for the yarn. For example, the spring sweater that I’m working on required several swatches to see what stitch would work best. I am lucky that I don’t find the math required to adapt a pattern to be a chore (although I would argue anyone can do this math but that’s for another blog post). Further, I am flexible and find beauty in a wide variety of fibers! 

I am a HUGE fan of fiber festivals. They are wonderful outdoor activities that allow knitters to mingle with other lovers of yarn producing livestock, spinners and dyers. The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May and the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival (known as the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival) in October are the two that I attend. While they encompass a wide range of activities, I generally spend my precious time there focused on stash enhancement.

Calmly taking in the NY State Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY

Calmly taking in the NY State Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY

Fiber producing animals at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

 

Lastly, there are fiber farms. While I have only visited one, it was a wonderful experience that happened during the first trip my husband and I took back in the summer of 2005. Based on a brief entry in our guidebook, we drove from Lennox, MA to the middle of the state to Tregellys Farm. The owner was an incredibly friend chap who spent time talking about the farm and its wonderful assortment of animals including the heirloom equivalents of livestock. They also had camels and yaks.

Tregellys Fiber Farm in Massechuetss

Tregellys Fiber Farm in Hawley, MA

Llamas at Tregellys Farm

Llamas at Tregellys Farm (Of course, they may be alpacas?)

Fiber producing yaks at Tregellys Farm in Hadley MA

Fiber producing yaks at Tregellys Farm in Hadley MA

 

Boyfriend (now husband) & Camel at Tregellys Farm

Boyfriend (now husband) & Camel at Tregellys Farm

More fiber producing animals at Tregellys Farm in Hadley MA

Fiber producing llamas at Tregellys Farm in Hadley MA