Recently in Fiber Festivals Category

YarnCon Stash Additions

20091015_Sophie'sToesYarnCo.jpgOn Saturday afternoon, whatever powers that control the weather in Chicago finally decided to give us a little sunshine.  It made for a lovely day to head to YarnCon with Julie.  Both of us did a little stash enhancement at the Emily Parson's Sophie's Toes booth.  And on Sunday it was not only warm enough to take pictures outside, but I even sat and worked on Elijah on my balcony. 

I've been fondling the cashmere blend Sophie's Toes that I purchased earlier and was hoping that Emily would bring some more man-friendly colors with her.  I already have a skein of the regular merino yarn in "Walnut" (the lovely brown yarn on the left), but after sadly saying goodbye to several pairs of merino only socks, I've come to the conclusion that, at least in my house, if a yarn doesn't have a little nylon, it probably won't survive very long unless it's also very tightly spun or has more than 2 plies.  So I will save my original skein of for another project and use the cashmere/merino/nylon blend skein for the socks I had originally planned.  So, with any luck, John will get two pairs of nice new socks this winter.

The skein on the right is "Lagoon", also in the cashmere blend.  It's a much deeper, more saturated teal in real life, but still isn't dark enough for man-sock duty, so those socks will be destined for my feet.

The biggest prize, however, was the "Magic Ball" (the center pull cake in the center of the bowl).  Emily's Magic Balls are made up of sections of multiple colorways.  This one is called "Enchanted Forest" and features all my favorite jewel tones.  When I first laid my hands on it, Julie told me "Those are your colors!"  Yep.  Deep colors with purply-blue undertones go well with my skin.  Perhaps this ball is destined for a new scarf for me... with all the different colorways available in it, I've been thinking something modular might be fun.

I wrapped up the weekend with working steadily on Elijah (he now has a head, body and two legs) and even got a few rows in on the second Zebra Striper sweater sleeve.  My conversation with Julie, who is trying to decrease her unfinished project pile, has inspired me to go back to my UFO list and figure out what I can start finishing up...  


While a whole  lot of lucky knitters and spinners are heading off to Rhinebeck this weekend, I'll be staying here in Chicago and checking out a much smaller fiber show, YarnCon.  What YarnCon lacks in the presence of live sheep, it makes up for by being practically within walking distance of my house. But don't think that I won't be a little jealous of all those heading to NY -- though that jealousy will mostly be over getting to see fibery friends rather than getting to indulge in fibery consumerism.

In addition to YarnCon (which should be doubly fun, because I hope to be heading there with Julie), since the weather is likely to keep us indoors this weekend (what, I ask you, happened to the gentle entry of fall?) I suspect my needles will be in motion.  I cast on and got started with Elijah this afternoon, and last weekend, while heading out to our pumpkin patch experience I picked up my second Francie sock and made some headway on that project.  The other thing I did today was start to work out the design for my next pair of socks for John -- these socks are going to be my first foray into designing with twisted stitches, which I think will be just the perfect amount of patterning for the lovely cashmere blend Sophie's Toes.

In lieu of actual knitting photos, I have a few pictures from our trip to see the pumpkins.

20091015_Pumpkins.jpgI just loved the way those green squash looked with the pumpkins.  They were just the perfect sagey color contrast to the bright orange.  Definitely not a pair of colors I would have thought to put together, though!

20091015_MeAndZ.jpgAnd here is rare photo of me and Z -- riding a toddler sized train and both wearing our handknits. Z has on (and she actually requested to wear) her upsized "Baby Surprise" sweater and I spent the whole day cozy and warm in my cotton turtleneck and OWLS sweater (which I love).  The Owls are rapidly becoming one of my favorite go-to cold weather sweaters! 

When You See the Giant Chicken....

20080818_MFFChicken.jpg know you've arrived at the Allegan County Fairgrounds and Michigan Fiber Festival.  I like to make the trip to MFF every year because it's a big enough festival to draw a nice collection of vendors and animals, but a small enough festival that you can cover it in a couple of hours if you have a small person in tow.  This year, the weather was absolutely wonderful and we had a great, if somewhat abbreviated time at the festival.

Since I didn't know how much time I would have, I made sure that I got my shopping in early.  I didn't really have any intention to get too crazy with my credit card, but I did have one booth in particular that I wanted to spend some time in: Briar Rose Fibers.-- I keep hearing such great things about their stuff, I knew it was time to add a little something something from their products to my stash.

This is my entire haul.  Starting at 10 o'clock and going clockwise...  1) 1200 yards of "Grandma's Blessing" from Briar Rose (a sportweight superwash merino) in blues and purples (darker in real life than in the picture).  Probably destined to be a vest. 2) 450 yards of "Grace" from Briar Rose (a fingering weight superwash merino, bamboo and nylon blend) in rosy reds and varying depths of lavender.  Destined to become the Rivolo scarf.  3) 2500 yards of "Angel Face" from Briar Rose (a laceweight 100% alpaca yarn) in wonderful cherry reds.  Some lace shawl will clearly be lucky to be made out of this yarn! 4) Opal Hundertwasser that I just couldn't resist when I found the Uncommon Threads coffee house in downtown Allegan.  Coffee and a small yarn shop.  What more could I want?  5) Blue Moon Socks that Rock,  Heavyweight in "Thraven" a wonderful black yarn with dark teal undertones.  This will be a pair of socks for John this winter.6) Blue Moon Socks that Rock Mediumweight, no color name because it's a "mill end" -- shades of brown and taupe with greys and and lavender (mill ends rock. $14 a skein!).  I think it's beautiful and will make lovely socks.  And, last bit not least, 7) Blue Moon Silkie in Walking on the Wild Tide.  Yep, more socks.  Definitely for me.    All the STR came from The Fold -- even though Toni isn't that far away from me in Marengo, IL, it's always a pleasure to see her at MFF!  This time was especially nice since I hadn't seen her since last MFF.

After that, it was all about taking Ms. Z to see the animals.  Last year, she was really too young to be interested in anything but an afternoon nap.  This year I made sure she got introduced to the entire fiber animal bestiary.  Starting with the angora rabbits and some alpacas.

20080818_MFFBlueFace.jpgAs soon as we entered the sheep area, we heard all the "Baa baa" sounds of the sheep.  And Ms Z, joined right in with her own "ba ba ba!"  Clearly she is beginning to figure out her fiber bearing animals. This lovely Blue Faced Leicester was the first sheep she got to see up close.

20080818_MFFShetlandAndZ.jpgNot too far away were these adorable Shetland sheep.  Ms. Z must have felt like she had something in common with these little sheep, because she reached out to them all on her own. 

20080818_MFFLincolnAndZ.jpgAfter the Shetlands, Ms. Z decided that sheep were okay in her book, and these lovely sheep owners let her reach right in and touch their lovely Lincoln sheep.  I'd never touched a Lincoln before myself, and their curly locks really made you want to sink your hands right in.

20080818_MFFBrownAngoraGoat.jpgOur last stop was to goat area.  Angora goats are just about the cutest thing on hooves.  These two little guys were curled up for an afternoon nap.

Ms. Z didn't really take as much of a shine to the goats as she did to the sheep.  I thought that if she liked the Shetlands she'd like the goats, too, but she didn't really reach out to them too much. I think John got some lovely pictures of them, though.  This sweet little buck looked so serious.

We rounded up the festival with french fries (Ms. Z's favorite treat) and fresh squeezed lemonade and some time running around in the grass. 

20080818_MFFJohnAndZ.jpgI think the best part of the festival was being able to share my hobby, even in a small way, with my baby girl.  Lately she's been all about grabbing my yarn and running around with it -- I think she likes both the color and the softness of it. I hope as she gets older it's something we'll continue to share, even if we share it in different ways. 

By now you're wondering whether the guys actually even decided to take a look in the retail spaces. Maybe animals and heavy equipment were the only things they checked out. They did, at the end, decide to take a pass back through the marketplace barns. What caught their eyes?

Every Festival Needs a Fairy

I was really glad that they caught this woman on "film". Mom and I had seen her wandering through the barns where we were talking to Kathryn Carras of Haltwhistle Fibers (from whom I bought the Weavette at Maryland -- she's also a member of my mother's doll making club and a pretty avid spinner) and made a note of it since it's not everyday you see someone wearing wings. From my experience, this is even somewhat unusual for a fiber festival. Even faries seem to like fiber.

Fiber Festival Technology Demo

In all the low tech glory that fiber festivals usually are, Dad and John managed to find a laptop on top of a sheep skin. No idea what they saw on it... the screen looks like it might be showing a picture of cows. No ID on the booth, either. I think this is probably the only picture they took that had a reasonable amount of yarn in it!

The Sweater They Really Want

Girlfriends, if you want to know about what sweater it is that men want, well, here it is: a simple white stockinette sweater with a crew neck and a little ribbing at the waist and cuffs. No complex patterning or shaping. No dynamic coloring here. They did have the good taste to like one made out of Cormo wool (this is the Foxhill Farm booth where I had another really nice conversation with Alice my favorite Cormo shepherd). Now y'all know why John has more pairs of handknit socks than he does sweaters!

Simple Machines

It's been my experience that spinning wheels, lovely simple machines that they are, have a high level of interest for guys. When Julie and I were at Maryland anytime we sat down in front of a wheel, it drew a crowd. And that crowd usually contained lots of men. I think the wheels here are a Louet (right) and a Kromski (left) but I'm not too sure about the Kromski identification. Perhaps Dad is already shopping for his second wheel?

Spinning Tools

Your guess is as good as mine on why they took this picture. I'm betting that it was not an interest in plush sheep toys. In the back, unreadable at this resolution, is a sign that indicates that they are looking at orifice hooks and some other spinning tools. I'd never thought about asking my dad to turn an orifice hook for me. Hmmm....

Four Wheels Good

They're guys! You knew there'd be at least one tractor picture somewhere from a farm related event. Before getting the John Deere, my dad actually had a 1939 Ford tractor. Ran like a champ and was pretty fun to drive. But the Deere (or "JD" as he is known around my parents house) comes with a wonderful little backhoe attachment... the old Ford could never compete with something that could dig holes!

What Men Really Want at a Fiber Festival

It shows you how long mom and I lingered in the barns that dad found the time to catch a bit of a nap. Truly, if fiber festivals wanted to attract more men, they would have lots of hammocks stretched out under lots of shady trees. And beer. John promises me that men would flock to fiber festivals if good microbrewed beer was involved.

And after that picture, the guys ran out of film. An apropos ending for the day, I think.

I also promised to show you what I got. All things considered, this was a pretty mellow trip for me. Everything I got could fit in one basket:

MFF Treasures

The Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock (medium weight) really needs no introduction. I had to take Mom and Dad past Toni Neil's booth for the Fold so that I could introduce Dad to the person who really helped to get his wheel rolling again. Then I offered both of them the opportunity to have another pair of handknit socks and asked them each to pick out a skein of STR that made them happy. Dad chose "Rocky Horror" a chocolate, brown, orange and gold mix and Mom picked "Peacock" which has the rich purples and teals that are evokative of the birds the colorway is named for. The small drop spindle pendant also came from Toni's booth. It was just too adorable for me to leave behind.

The rusty colored skein in the back is a DK weight sock yarn made of 70% Cormo and 30% nylon from Foxhill Farm. Treat socks for me, I think, for the deepest part of winter when it seems like I can never get my feet to feel warm. I also talked to Alice about dyeing some of her Cormo/Tussah blend for me since when I got to the booth, all that remained in this blend was some very bright yellow and a screaming pink. I'm hoping to get 4 ounces of a light denim blue and 4 ounces of a darker blue (which I will spin individually and then ply together) for a lace weight yarn project.

The Mielke's Farm booth was just jam packed full of interesting little tools. I picked up a yarn/singles gauge that has lines drawn on clear plastic that can help you gauge the WPI of the yarn you are spinning. It's a nice thing to keep handy while you are spinning so that you can see whether you are spinning to the dimensions you want to spin to. This is really just a fancier version of an idea Joan of Twosheep talked about in March. (If you click here and scroll down to "spinner's control card" you can get a better picture). I also got a McMorran yarn balance for helping me estimate yardage in a skein when I spin. It's hiding in its box. It will get more blog time when I use it very soon.

The last purchase was a fibery one: 4 ounces of a fine wool, angora and silk blend dyed and blended by Jane Purcell of Ann Arbor, MI. It's very soft, and even though it is multicolored, it is multicolored in a vertical rather than horizontal direction, so it might be bright when it's spun up, but it won't be stripey! I test drafted a bit and the fiber looked good, so I'm looking forward to getting this on my wheel sometime in the future.

One of the highlights of the festival was meeting Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood who hosts the Craftsanity podcast. Jennifer does great interviews with all sorts of crafty people -- everyone from quilters to knitters to plush toy makers and a whole bunch more people. Her shows are usually around an hour long, so you get a real great feel for what her interviewees are like -- I find them perfect for when I want to spend the afternoon spinning up a storm. If you like podcasts and haven't sampled hers yet, I definitely give it both thumbs up.

Now I have another little contest for you all -- sort of a reward for making it through all those pictures. Mixed within the 20 pictures that I claimed the guys took, is one that I took. Can you figure out which one it is? You can ignore the rooster from the first post on Wednesday and the stash enhancement picture in this one. Those were both mine.

I'll put the names of everyone who gives me a correct answer into a little drawing and the winner will get a copy of my "Here There Be Dragons" sock pattern. If you win and you already have it, I will let you give me the name of someone else who you think should have it or you can have a free copy of any future pattern that I make (yep, I've got one that's going to get started soon, and another good idea banging around in my brain).

To enter, leave me a comment to this post, indicating the picture you think is the fake guy shot... you can tell me the day and the number of the picture (numbered from the top down in the post) or give me the caption that I put on the picture. I'll leave the contest up until next Friday, midnight and announce the winner on September 5th (the Tuesday after Labor Day).

Thank you to everyone who pointed out that the last picture in my previous post is probably a goat. To be honest, I just have no idea. The face looks like it has sheepy elements and goat elements to me. It's probably a good thing that I don't raise livestock, eh?

But John and Dad aren't quite finished yet. What did they capture on digital film next?

Serious But Contemplative Horns

Well, they decided to spend a little more time with the animals. My dad really has a soft place in his heart fo all kinds of animals. He also is pretty good at getting the sort of pictures of them that capture their personalities. I love the way the shadows and light play on this curly locked sheep. He seems to be having a quiet contemplative moment at the festival.

An Impressive Rack

This little goat has an awfully impressive body to horn ratio, don't you think? Looks kind of heavy to me. And like it might be hard to get through barn stall gates. Makes me kind of glad that humans don't have similar acoutrements.

Angora Goat

I have to admit, Angora goats have a total cuteness factor for me. Even at Maryland I wanted to keep looking at these little guys. This guy has kind of a smart alecky look about him to me -- like he might be thinking that that camera could be a good shiny snack.. But I still would have wanted to reach into his pen and pet him.

A Horse is a Horse of Course of Course....

Clearly, not a fiber bearing animal here. I'm not even sure where John and Dad found this guy, because I doubt he was in the sheep pens. But he is quite photogenic.

Rusty Scenery

At this point, Dad and John must have headed back outdoors. Where they immediately discovered large rusty mobile containers, artfully juxtaposed against a rural Michigan landscape.

A Scenic Rock Pile

This is one of my favorite pictures, and I am sure that it must have been taken by my husband. My dear husband can not pass by a hole in the street or any kind of construction without stopping to take a look. I once asked him what the allure of this stuff was, and I got this very surprised look and "Well, it's a hole! How could you not want to see what's at the bottom." So a pile of concrete at a fiber festival? It might not be moving right now, but clearly it is evokative of men using heavy equipment and doing manly construction oriented, or even better, destruction oriented things.

Black Alpacas

No horns, but these alpaca are seriously cute. My folks have some friends who used to raise llamas, and my aunt, when she lived in Colorado, used to have a couple as well. I think my whole family has a fascination with these creatures. I know that I am always surprised by how small alpacas actually are -- especially when they don't have a full fleece.

So we've gone from cute animals, to rust and concrete, back to the critters again -- and still no sign of any retail opportunities. I'll have the last batch, along with some of my purchases and a very cool chance meeting tomorrow!

Thank you to everyone who left us happy anniversary wishes. We had a most wonderful day, ending in a delightful restaurant (schwa) and we are looking forward to what our 9th year brings us!

This year, I wanted to bring you a different perspective of the Michigan Fiber Festival. By now, you all know what gets my attention when I am at one of these things, so this time, since both John and my Dad were with me, I thought it would be fun to just give them my camera and let them show you what (mostly non-fiber oriented) men see at a fiber festival. Because they were such good sports (they knew that mom and I just wanted a little more time to go shopping) and did such a good job of capturing their own spirit, and the festival, I have decided to post most of their pictures, in order, over the next several days. With a little running commentary by me, of course. How could I resist?

WARNING: This is a very picture heavy post. Apologies to those of you on dialup. I think the pictures and the story they tell are worth the wait. And I did try to make them as low-res as I could in hopes that they would load faster.

The Rooster that Guards the Gate

This is the one picture I took at the Allegan County Fair Ground in Allegan, MI. How could you not like a festival that starts with an enormous chicken?

Grain Grinder

My dad, who has always been the family photographer, has an eye for seeing the artistic elements in the everyday. I love the handle on this grinder. Almost like a sunburst design.

Manly Discussion at the Fiber Festival

When I asked Dad what was in this picture, I was expecting to hear something interesting about the piece of equipment. The answer I got: "it's a bunch of guys around a machine". I think this might be the fiber festival equivalent of opening up the hood of a car in your driveway on a Saturday afternoon when the other guys are all out mowing their lawns. Especially if everyone decided to bring their own lawn chairs.

Beautiful Sheepy Face

This might be my favorite picture of the whole batch. I have no idea what kind fo sheep it is, but I love how dad managed to capture what I think is the essence of a sheepy face: wooly, a bit solemn, actively interested in something. You just want to reach out and give the sheep a little chuck behind the ears.

John Goes Car Shopping

Clearly grain grinders and other antique equipment aren't the only machines of interest at the MFF. John took 4 pictures of this car, from different angles, just to make sure I had a good one I could use. He told me "I think you'd look pretty good in that knitting with the top down as we drove to the lake shore". Clearly, this man knows how to get what he wants.

Cars Aren't the Only Impressive Vehicle on 4 Wheels

Not sure which of the guys took this one. MFF is nice because it supports those who want to camp out. When you're camping in one of those, you're definitely camping in style.

Baa Baa Brown Sheep

The guys must have headed back into the sheep barns to find this guy. How could you not love his color and his horns and beautiful curly locks. Once again, I wish I knew what kind of sheep this is. Given the size of the horns and the shape of the face, I'm thinking one of the older, less domesticated breeds. Anyone recognize this guy?

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow... we get deeper into the livestock barns and check out more of the local scenery.

Stitches Midwest 2006


I went to my first ever Stitches Midwest event over the weekend. In spite fo the fact that Stitches Midwest has pretty much always been held in the Chicago area, I've never actually made it out there before. Why? Since the time I started getting back into the fiber arts, Stitches has almost always collided with my anniversary. My husband loves me, but draws the line at fiber events on our annversary. This year, however, Stitches is a full two weekends before my anniversary, so with Julie and Bonne Marie, I got a chance to wander through the marketplace and see what goodies were available.

The Goods From Stitches: Two Skeins of STR, Two Two Old Bags Patterns, A Nifty Button and Ribbon Tape with Inch Markers, and Two Batts from Grafton Fibers

Since I really wasn't looking out for any particular yarn, it was pretty easy to be well behaved at Stitches. We made a beeline for the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth as soon as we got to the marketplace. I picked up a skein of "Rooster Rock" (which has some gorgeous reds and purples that don't show up here) and the second skein is an almost solid colorway called "Sun Stone" -- both are Socks That Rock, medium weight. The Rooster Rock is for me, the Sun Stone does not yet have a destination. Slowly but surely I am building up quite the stash of STR sock yarn.

After the Blue Moon booth, there was a good deal of moseying around.

Roch Button

This button, which is made of polished stone, came from Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods (no website) -- a booth that wins my award for the most engaging. All the buttons and bobs were arranged by color and you could find everything from very vintage to very now as well as a whole collection or ribbons and other kinds of trims. I'm imaging this button on a sweater that only needs a single large closure detail. I buy a lot of buttons not knowing what their final destination will be. I just like to have them around, knowing that someday the right garment will show up. I think it takes me back a little bit to when I was little and I used to dig through and sort the buttons in my mom's button jar. I wonder where that jar is today?

Corriedale Cross Batts from Grafton Fibers

Since I now know that it is pretty unlikely that I will get to Rhinebeck this year, I had given up hope of getting the opportunity to get my hands on some Grafton Fibers batts. I've heard so many good things about them, but I hadn't yet had the opportunity to see the goods for myself. I was totally and pleasantly surprised to find them in the Stitches marketplace. These two bats are right in my favorite color range (the picture above is truer in color than the first picture) and in my favorite fiber type: Corriedale. These batts are clearly beautifully prepared. And what I test drafted was impeccable. These two batts are about 7 ounces of fiber. A respectable amount for a shawl. I'm just itching to get this stuff on my wheel.

And speaking of wheels...

Jensen D-30 "Ultimate" Production Wheel

I now have a new covet wheel. There aren't too many wheels in the Stitches marketplace (no surprise, really, it's not really a spinner's meeting) but since these wheels were parked right across the aisle from the Fold's booth we had no problem finding Carl and Shelby Jaeger's booth which featured Jensen spinning wheels. I'd heard of Jensen wheels -- when I was looking for my first wheel, a couple of folks left comments to tell me about them and said some awfully nice things about them. But since then, I've come to realize that wheels are a very personal thing. A wheel that one person adores may be something that the next spinner hates. There's no substitute for sitting down in front of a wheel yourself and spinning a bit.

This wheel spins very nicely. In fact, you hardly even realize that you are treadling such a big wheel because the motion of the wheel is almost effortless and it stops and starts without hesitation. It has just the right amount of pull and I didn't feel like I was being dragged along for the ride like I have felt with some wheels I've tried. And because it's such a big wheel, you don't have to treadle very fast to keep things moving at a good clip I could have kept spinning on it the entire afternoon.

The D-30 Ultimate Production Wheel is a parlor wheel in the true sense of the word. This is definitely a wheel that would not be moving around the house. It's only the second double drive wheel that I have ever spun on (the first being the Winsome Timbers wheel at the Fold) and I find the fact that the big wheel ultimately controls both flyer speed and bobbin drag rather fascinating. It certainly created a very smooth spinning experience. The wheel he had set up was also perfect for me with the orifice on the left hand side. When I get ready to make my second wheel purchase, this wheel will definitely be in the running. (I also got to try the Tina II wheel and liked it a great deal as well, but since I already have a castle-style wheel, it wasn't quite as interesting for me). Those of you who said nice things about this wheel are definitely right, in the opinion of this newbie spinner!

The last place I want to mention was a place I didn't buy anything from because they didn't have quite what I was looking for on hand -- Homestead Heirlooms LLC. They make all manner of wonderful leather straps that can be used with handbags and baskets. A number of Christmases ago I promised my sister-in-law (the same one I made the original dragon scale socks for) a felted handbag of her choosing. What she wanted wasn't quite like anything I had a pattern for, and since my design inspiration shows up in fits and starts, it's been only recently that I have figured out what direction I want to go with it. One of these straps (the one with the D ring) fits perfectly into my developing vision and I'll definitely be giving the folks at Homestead Heirlooms a call after I figure out the exact dimension and color that I need.