One of my very favorite activities is attending fiber festivals. Each one has its own flavor, but every one has fiber, dyes, tools, yarns, and finished fiber art for sale and inspiration. Often, there are also fiber-producing animals to meet, as well. These are events you can bring your kids to, your spouse/significant other, and non-fiber artist friends to introduce them to the colorful and tactile world of fiber art.
Do you want wool? Fiber festivals all over will provide more choices than you ever knew existed! Roving, batts, tops, dyed, undyed, locks, or fleece– you name it, and you can find it at a Fiber Festival.
At any fiber festival, you can buy raw fleeces in specific breeds, directly from the shepherd who raised them. Those are the people who truly love what they do, and often keep small, natural or organic flocks where the line between livestock and pets gets blurred. What a treat, to buy a whole fleece with the name of the sheep who grew it!
You never forget your first named fleece. (My first named fleece was one I got 30 years ago. Her name was “Clindori,” named after a character from a science fiction novel. The fleece was charcoal grey Lincoln Longwool, shiny as silk.)
This gorgeous sample of textured nuno felting is guaranteed to inspire!
The artist who created these amazing pieces has classes available on Teachable.com! https://rufeltonline.teachable.com
One of the features of most fiber festivals is a few classes offered from experts. Most of them will offer some workshops a couple of days before the vendor booths open up, and expect pre-registration. You can learn new skills and improve old ones. During the festival, you can also expect to see lots of demonstrations. Spinning, weaving, felting, knitting, and using specialty equipment are favorite subjects for classes and demos.
If you’re looking for a piece of specialty equipment, for spinning, weaving, dyeing, felting, or any other fiber arts specialty, you’re very likely to find it at a fiber festival. You can often chat with the inventor or artist who created the tool and try it out yourself before buying.
I thought I hated drop spindles– I was a dyed-in-the-wool spinning wheel spinner — until I tried out one of Tracy’s Spindles from Wooly Designs at the Taos Wool Festival, many, many years ago. Now, I know that a spindle can be so perfectly balanced that it keeps spinning — in the same direction — all the way from my fingers to the ground. His production is limited, because they are all hand-cut with a scroll saw and carefully balanced. If you see Wooly Designs at a fiber festival, snap one up!
My own “Tracy Spindle,” which has seen very hard use, travelled many miles, and made friends out of many total strangers in waiting rooms. https://www.woollydesigns.com/spindles/fancy.htm
I once brought a friend, a former Viking Literature and Anglo-Saxon Language professor of mine from college, to the Estes Park Wool Festival. He didn’t spin or knit or have any type of fiber art background, but he really wanted to see Icelandic sheep! Not only did he get to see furry little Icelandic sheep, but he came home with a large bundle of natural black wool roving. When I asked if he wanted me to teach him to spin it, he said, “No thanks! I’m just going to hang it on the wall the way it is! It’s beautiful!”
One of my favorite things at fiber festivals is the variety of unusual fibers. I’ve seen buffalo fuzz, ready to spin or already made into luxuriously soft yarn. I have purchased cashmere from a bin, still smelling of goat and filled with coarse hairs and dirt– as a fundraiser for kids’ 4-H projects. (It was painstaking to clean and pick, and gave me a real appreciation for the expense of commercial cashmere!) I count on purchasing some silk hankies and fancy Angelina sparkles to last me through the year of spinning and felting. One of my favorite indulgences is a baggy of blended bits of eye candy fibers, with dyed silk or yak or Merino or camel down, or other crazy blends.
And then, there is the mohair. Shiny, soft curls in brilliant colors — I can get lost among the bins of brightly dyed locks, dreaming of needle felted mermaids, art yarns, and textured nuno felt.
If you’re a knitter or crocheter, these festivals are the very best way to find high-end, unusual, or hand-dyed yarns. Many local yarn stores, barely surviving in their retail locations, bring their wares (or “wears?”) directly to their best customers at fiber festivals.
One more thing! Most fiber festivals have recognized that spouses often lose patience more quickly than the fiber artist who brought them along. I’ve seen some really terrific food vendors, and even beer festivals accompany the fiber festivals. They also usually take place in beautiful areas, with local hiking trails and plenty of activities catering to visitors.
If you’re interested in finding a Fiber Festival near you, please check out Fiber Festival Calendar here on SlowYarn.com. It’s a work in progress– if you have contacts with a Fiber Festival, please send me details so I can include it on the calender for next year!
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