The fall colors sweater was not finished in time for Rhinebeck. In fact, I have been so swamped with work this week that it still isn’t any further than it was at Rhinebeck. (It also doesn’t help that I decided to pull back one sleeve a couple of inches to tweak it a bit. Perfectionism strikes again.)

In the end, it really didn’t matter whether the sweater was done or not, though. I have plenty of sweaters to wear, and the festival wasn’t any different with or without it, so we managed to have plenty of fun anyway. I was much better than usual about taking pictures. And, since Branden was along this year, together we have a pretty big collection of things to show (and some video that he took from his phone.)

It turns out that we arrived just in time; Thursday and Friday were wet and rainy, but for the weekend, the weather turned glorious. The fall colors were out in full display.

Everywhere we turned, we were met with oranges and golds.

Our first stop of the day was the fleece sale,

where I fell prey to some beautiful crimp.

That lock belongs to a 7-lb Romney-Corriedale cross (from Melanie Chittenden at Dutch Hollow Farms in NY), in a dark chocolate brown. I started washing it today, and boy, do I have a lot of fleece. It’s a tiny bit tipped in places (looks like it has a little sunburn), but otherwise it’s in absolutely beautiful condition and is really very clean.

After the fleece barn we went over to the Golding booth to ooh and ahh over their spindles, all neatly lined up in rows.

And then Ellen took a turn on their new mini travel wheel.

Of course, since Ellen tried it I had to try it too, and it is a very comfortable little wheel. It spun a huge range of weights with no problem; all the way from heavy/bulky yarn down to laceweight or even cobweb without changing the settings. I love my Kromski, but this is a great little wheel.

After the Golding booth, we made a beeline for Yarns International. Both Ellen and I had fallen in love with their natural colored shetland designs last year, and were eager to take another look. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a booth with so many stunning shop samples. They sell their patterns as kits, with a blend of their farm Shetland and Jamieson’s when they need a different color.

The samples themselves are very well knit up, but the colorwork designs are really just amazing. The shop owner was gracious enough to let me snap a few photos, just to give you a sense of the array that they have available. Take a peek at their website; they have even better photos there (I really love the sheep blanket about halfway down the page).

Really, it’s like knitted poetry. Every color has a very specific role to play, and without it the design just wouldn’t sing. I could spend hours just studying how they put all those patterns and colors together. I didn’t end up buying a kit, because I know myself and I wouldn’t knit it from the pattern. And, because I wouldn’t be knitting from the pattern, I would end up having the wrong ratio of colors in the yarn, and it would sit in the stash forever. Perhaps sad, but almost certainly true. For now, I’ll content myself with just looking at those beautiful patterns.

Browsing through shop samples is one of my favorite parts of the festival. The items themselves are seldom things that I feel that I must knit, but it’s really interesting to see all the different ideas, and find out what other people are doing with the same materials. I really liked these asymmetric shawls, for instance:

And the lace in this booth was absolutely amazing (and again, the sheer number of beautifully executed shop samples.)

I also made a stop at Spirit Trail Fiberworks, where I picked up a small skein of silk/tencel that is destined to become a woven scarf with a cone from my stash. The picture is a little dark here (it is a very gray day), but it gives you a good sense of the color of the dark, saturated yarn.

I wasn’t looking to buy much yarn this year – I have a lot in stash, and I’ve been spinning most of what I knit in the past few years – but I did want to get some goodies that might go into the drum carder when I do finally get one. To that end, I picked up some Bombyx top, some silk caps (on the right in the picture below – like Mawata, except much bigger), and some firestar, which I hear takes dye like a dream. I imagine that there will be some fun experiments from these in the months to come.

We spent a good half hour talking with Otto Strauch (of Strauch drum carders), and I’m pretty sure that there is a Strauch double wide in my future. It’s big enough to do 3-4 ounce batts, which are big enough to sell, so I think there may be some fun things in store for the DesigKnit Etsy shop, as soon as I manage to find some time away from work and a little room to breathe.

I also picked up a few ounces of roving that I thought I needed for my spinning class on Sunday morning. It turned out that they provided the fiber, though, so I have some green and blue of an unknown wool (probably merino or corriedale) that may also make its way into a blend, or possibly a marled yarn.

I had been planning to visit the Briar Rose booth during their Sunday sale, but I realized on Saturday that my spinning class was at the same time. So, we stopped by Briar Rose to pick up my one anticipated yarn purchase of the trip. Turns out that it was a really good thing we went early; the booth was so full of people that we had to wait 5-10 minutes just to squeeze in. I was really sad to find out that my favorite yarn (Legend) has been discontinued, so I went with the slightly heavier weight Fourth of July. It was hard to find three skeins that matched, but we picked out a blue-green colorway that I liked a lot, and got in line. Just as we got to the cashier to pay, I saw this sitting on a chair behind the counter. I had to ask if it was reserved for someone, and by a minor miracle it was not. Someone had taken just one skein of the dye lot and left the rest, and the booth had been so busy they hadn’t had time to put it out yet. I wasted no time in switching that out for the brighter green, and can’t wait to cast on for a new coffee and charcoal Briar Rose sweater.

We ended up going back to the Briar Rose booth on Sunday afternoon, too, and Chris had put out a huge tub of her dyed rovings as seconds; all the short bits and pieces that she can’t quite sell for whatever reason (as a dyer, I really sympathize). The seconds were marked down to $1.50 an ounce, so I went a little crazy and bought what I thought would be a few ounces. I thought I was restraining myself by putting it in a little bag (they kept asking if I wanted a bigger one, and I kept saying no), but it turns out you can fit a lot of fiber in one little bag.

Twenty ounces, to be exact. Roving is like the fair’s maple cotton candy that way; it’s so light that you don’t feel like you’re getting a lot of it, until all of a sudden you realize just how much you’ve had. (It was also really fun walking around eating the white maple cotton candy and having everyone think you were munching on wool. Joce, we tried bringing some home to ship to you, but it had completely deflated by Monday morning. You’ll have to come in person to get that one, I’m afraid.)

I’m thinking that Chris’ roving might also make good fodder for the carder, since some of it is a little compacted by the dyeing (which is exactly why it was seconds in the first place). At twenty ounces, I have enough for a pretty substantial project, and with some creative pairing might even get enough yardage for a sweater. And it really does all fit in that little bag. See?

While I was digging around in the roving bin, Branden took a quick video of how busy the booth was. This is the Sunday afternoon crowd, waaay less busy than Saturday’s had been.

Here’s another video of the crowds on Saturday.

It’s always a little hard for me to convey the sheer size of Rhinebeck, but I think these videos do a pretty good job of giving you a sense of the fair.

There was an apparently impromptu alpaca (llama?) parade

And some very cute faces in the show barns

And, of course, there was a sheep shearing. This first video is the “before”:

and here’s the “after”:

You’d hardly believe that’s the same sheep, would you? She went right back into her pen and started scratching her shoulders on the bars…you could tell she’d been wanting to do that for a while.

We also spent some time watching the sheep dog trials. It always amazes me how fast the dogs move.

And then we ended the day waiting for our group under the maple trees.

Sunday was a quieter, less shopping-heavy day. I took two classes (Drafting methods, where I made my peace with worsted spinning, and Seams for sewing handwovens…I really need to get weaving!). While I was in class, Branden poked around the town and festival a bit on his own. One of the women in our group had found some beautiful cones of fingering-sock weight wool, and Branden went over to check them out for me. It turns out that they were out of cones, but he asked the shop owner if he could take a photo to show me the colors. They got to talking about how hard it it to take photos that do colors justice (Branden has a lot of experience with this from the shop), and before he knew it she’d given him a skein of each of their colors. We’re both a little amazed by her generosity, and I’m really looking forward to working up something with these beautiful colors from Sheldridge Farms. They’re very nicely heathered, and I think they’ll work up into something great.

And that, I believe, pretty much sums up Rhinebeck. It was a really fun (and really busy) two days. As always, the best part about the festival was the people we were with, and we had a great group this year. If you’re dying to hear more, head over to Jan and Ellen’s new podcast to hear all about it from them. (I believe I’m even quoted in there somewhere…I really do need to go have a listen and see if Jan managed to make me sound halfway intelligent. After two days of crowds like that, this introvert is lucky to be able to put two words together!)

Here’s looking forward to 2013!