Ellen and I have been emailing about how we’ve both been in a bit of withdrawal since Rhinebeck. It’s a little harder than I expected to come back to real life after a fantastic weekend of friends and fiber. I’m thinking that perhaps it is time for a little reminiscence, yes?

(And a little revealing of purchases, too…can’t have a proper festival post without that.)

As usual, I had terrible camnesia for most of the trip, so this post will be link-heavy and picture light.

Fortunately, Ellen had the presence of mind to ask someone to take a picture of our group, while waiting in line for the fair grounds to open on Saturday:

From left to right, that’s Karen, Cricket, Ellen and me (bet you couldn’t tell on that last one).

We all stayed together in a beautiful little cabin about 20 minutes from the fairground, which really was the perfect way to enjoy the festival. Ellen arranged that too. (You may be sensing a pattern here…)

Despite a heavy rainstorm on Friday night, we had a weekend of beautiful weather that was just right to highlight the fall foliage. Driving back and forth along all those winding country highways, it was all I could do not to pull over every 10 minutes to take a picture of the colors as the car rounded a bend into yet another beautiful landscape.

We all arrived late Friday night, had a great nights’ sleep after our travels, and then sprinted off for the fairgrounds first thing in the morning. First off, we investigated the fleece sale, where I was sorely tempted by an 8 pound Cormo. I managed to resist that one, but fell head over heels for this gray Corriedale cross from Lisa Lafferty at Eidelweiss Farm, which Ellen and I agreed to send off for processing and then split between us.

This is the first time I’ve sent a fleece off for processing. It does add a whole new dimension to buying raw fleeces (as well as cutting out many, many steps in between the buying and the spinning). Could be dangerous.

Then, we stood in line to meet the Yarn Harlot and get our books signed. Actually, we stood in three lines. One, to get to a copy of the book, then one to purchase the book, and a third to get it signed.  Fortunately, there were other books and authors to look at and chat with along the way, and Ellen kept us entertained with her adorable little Jenkins Kuchulu spindle.

I picked up a copy of Sheepish along the way, which I’ve heard is a very good read.

Then, we began our wanderings around the fairgrounds. And there was much wandering to be done. I’ve just had a look at the fair map, and there were ten (ten!) barns chock full of fiber. You could go for days and not take it all in. Fortunately, we had Karen to read the map and make sure we knew where we were (and where we were going) at any given time. This is a big help when the rest of the crew is caught up in *shiny!*

Instead of doing my usual walk once around before buying, we just went straight for it and hit up the booths we thought were interesting. We found rare breed wools at Spirit Trails Fiber. I was bitten by the Targhee bug at Jefferson this year,  and so ended up with 8 oz of that, even though I got in line expecting to buy 4 oz. Oops. I also bought 5 oz of Debouillet, since Rambouillet has been on my to-try list for a while now, and Debouillet sounded kind of close, and was very soft.

There was a whole booth full of incredible shetland sweaters from Yarns International. I didn’t buy any, but they’ve gone into my mental file of yarns I must try someday. Their colorwork was also stunning, but it was early in the festival and I hadn’t worked up the courage yet to start asking if I could take photos of sample pieces.

We stopped by the Fiber Optic booth to meet the dyer, Kimber, who I hear is very scientific. Unfortunately, she was also swamped, so I will have to find another time to stand around and talk shop. Her fiber is lovely, though. I ended up with a bag of Black Coffee pencil roving, and a gradient-dyed braid of Merino Tencel in Espresso Gold (must have needed a caffeine kick after the early start to our day).

We also stopped by the Golding booth and had a look at their spindles. At one point, both Ellen and I turned around, saying “you’ve got to see this one” and then dissolved into laughter when we realized that we were holding two copies of the same spindle. Great minds think alike. (And you should see it spin!!!)

After lunch, we wandered the upper fairgrounds, passing by the Briar Rose and Sanguine Gryphon booths. Then, we watched a few sheep lose their coats:

And took a tour of the show barns, including the breeds barn where Ellen picked out all the sheep she wants for her future farm (and for Jan’s…she’s such a thoughtful sister).

We also got to talk to Otto Strauch about his drum carders, which was very interesting. Both Ellen and I are in the researching phase of considering a drum carder purchase, so it was interesting to hear about all the technical details that make the Strauch carders unique.

At the end of the day, we realized that we had not sat down from the time we arrived at the fairgrounds until we got in the car to head off to dinner. You know it’s been a good day when you’ve forgotten to stop and sit.

We had dinner at a local brewery, where Cricket and Ellen dueled their way through the beer sampler, and Cricket kept us all in stitches. (Actually, she did that all weekend.)

We got back to the cabin late, but we had just enough time for a show-and-tell before bed, and a few more laughs. Ellen did some sample washing of fleeces in the kitchen sink, and we all oohed and aahed over the locks of freshly cleaned wool.

I headed back to the fairgrounds alone on Sunday morning, since I had a morning class and a few hours before my afternoon flight. The class was called Great Garments from Handwoven Cloth by Daryl Lancaster, and it was very, very good. I’ve done a good bit of garment sewing myself, but I learned so much about simple sewing techniques that just hadn’t come up in my self-taught career. Daryl is great at getting into the “why” of garment construction instead of just the rules. She also had tons of useful tips for stabilizing handwoven cloth, adding structure to garments, and finishing edges so that they stay put and don’t ravel. The class was only an hour and a half long, but it was jam-packed.

And then there were the samples. Here’s one of my favorites:

After class, I was in a weaving mood, so I visited the Just Our Yarn booth to peruse their samples. I just love looking at them all.

Look at the detail in this one:

I just love how those colors work together, but wouldn’t have thought to put salmon and blue in the same piece. The owners are also wonderful to talk to about weaving; they know how each sample was made, and can talk at length about the structures and colors and yarn weights used to get a particular effect. I always learn so much from a visit to their booth. I have some of their yarn for a project already, and so forbore to buy more, but I did pick up a couple of books that are kind of the equivalent of weaving stitch dictionaries. There are years of exploration in these pages.

I also found a few things on the fairgrounds that we’d overlooked on Saturday. There were some very artistic carved pumpkins:

And a whole barn full of antique museum-displays. They had everything from the print shop to the formal parlor. I spent quite a while watching the clock maker repair the mechanism for a pendulum clock:

Here’s the print shop:

I got to use the mini moveable-type printing press, but didn’t take a picture of that one.

Then, I headed back into the yarn barns. I found this beautiful colorwork sweater by Decadent Fibers. It’s sold as a kit, but I really just wanted to sit and study those intricate colorwork designs. Might have to buy the pattern someday, just because.

And these fantastic felted/leatherwork bags by Spiralworks. I just love the combination of felt and stylish leather bags.

None of them made their way home with me, but it’s something to keep in mind when I need something special one of these days.

A couple of tiny braids of pure silk from Cloverleaf farms did manage to sneak into my bag:

I bought the first one because I thought it might make the perfect trim to go with the fall colors sweater:

The red is looking a little pink next to the wool yarn, so I’m not sure if it will actually end up in the sweater. We may have to see what it looks like when spun up first. The second braid I bought just because. I’m not sure what they will become, but they are beautiful.

I also stopped off at the Briar Rose booth to show Chris my sweater and gush a bit about her yarn. I’ve just realized that I never actually showed a modeled photo on the blog, so here it is:

And here’s a closeup of the neck detail (that’s my favorite part).

I had completely forgotten to take pictures; probably because I’ve been so busy figuring out how to wear it as often as possible. My sweater queue is completely full up right now, or I’d have bought yarn for another three right then and there. Honestly, I could buy every yarn in her booth.

And then, in my last few minutes of wandering, I ran into Anne, as I’ve already told you. I really had given up hope of finding her at that point, so it was just the perfect way to end the festival.

So that was Rhinebeck 2011. Two days packed full of fiber, fun, and friends. I’m not sure I could handle this much fiber activity on a regular basis, but I am looking forward to next year!