Tuesday, May 4, 2010

2010 Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

This past weekend was the annual Sheep & Wool Festival in Maryland. If you're not into sheep, wool, or festivals, then you'll probably want to move along.

Saturday morning, I traveled to the springtime mecca for fiber enthusiasts: the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. With my new friend, Pam, driving, Brenda in the shotgun position, and Linda in the back with me, we drove for about an hour and a half to the fairground.

We took the exit and got in the slow-moving line with the rest of cars inching toward the fairgrounds entrance. The Jeep in front of us sported a few gun-loving bumperstickers, including one that said something like, “I’ll keep my money, my Bible, and my guns, and you can keep your change.” Not an Obama lover, then.

After about 15 minutes or so, we turned into the hilly field where dozens – hundreds? – of cars were already parked. Once we parked, I took a couple of pictures of the view from our spot toward the fair proper in case we’d need help finding it again when we were ready to leave.

Now I’m an impatient walker. At an event like this, I’m not in the mood for strolling along right out of the gate. So as soon as we passed the front gate (no admission charge – yippee!), I made right for the second tent, where the festival booklets were laid out. Smart people that they are, the festival organizers include in their booklets a postcard that you can send in, requesting that they mail you next year’s booklet as soon as it’s available. This time I’ll try to remember to do that.

Right at the top of my list this year was cotton for spinning on the charka WonderfulEd gave me for my birthday this year. The one vendor that I know who carries bags of carded cotton is the Little Barn. That’s good. What’s bad is that they’re in the Main Exhibition Hall, right at the end of the main drag. And they’re right at the far end of the hall, too.

So, saying that I’d catch up with them later, I left Pam, Linda, and Brenda, and kicked it into high gear for the Main Exhibition Hall. On the way, I made a pit stop, having downed my usual two diet Cokes (with caffeine) on the drive down. The wait wasn’t too bad, and the bathroom was wonderfully clean. (The staff at the fairgrounds does a superb job of keeping the facilities clean – kudos!)

A woman who walks like she means business is one who gets where she wants to go. I made it to and through the hall in good time. I made my selections pretty quickly (cotton, silk, and some bluefaced Leicester, just to see what the fuss is all about) and went to pay.

Interestingly, a line snaked out of the booth and nearly all the way to the other side of the hall, where the exhibition fleeces were laid out. Yep, that was the line to pay.

Note: It’s been my experience – so far – that fiber people are among the friendliest and most honest people you’re going to meet. It would have been so easy to have just lost myself in the crowd with my stuff before I’d paid for it. Heck, we *all* could have made off with things from any of a number of vendors’ booths. But that sort of thing just isn’t done. I don’t know about you, but I like being able to sleep at night with a clean conscience.

So, I had a nice conversation about socks with the woman in front of me and showed off my Kai-Mei socks (Sock Innovation by Cookie A) and then paid cash for a 10% discount. Even though I’d dropped my camera (no damage, thank Bob), I was very happy with my visit to the Little Barn.

Saturday was h-o-t, and even though the fans in the hall were huge and working hard, everyone was sweating by 11. Since my personal thermostat seems to be broken, I did more than my fair share. I’m sure that’s more than you care to know about that part of the festival.

So, I wandered over to the fleece display, whose entrance and exit were each guarded by two volunteers.

Bags and bags and bags of wonderful fleece, just begging to be taken home. I fondled and groped, along with everyone else.

Fortunately for my back, I remembered that whatever I bought would have to be schlepped around the fairgrounds until we left, sometime after 6. So I squeezed out the exit (they were quite serious about making sure no one left with something they shouldn’t) and headed back through the hall.

Fiber ready to be spun, yarn, accoutrements, books, baskets, buttons, wheels, spindles, looms – it’s all a bit much to take in at one go. I left the hall with a little difficulty, squirting out through the mass of humanity like a wet bar of soap. This is one of the very few instances where I’ll make an exception to my overall avoidance of crowds. Hate ‘em. They make me muy cranky.

I went next door and began admiring the sheep. So many different sizes and appearances. I know next to nothing about sheep, so this part of the festival is one I particularly love. And if the sheep are interesting, they’re owners are even more so.

This man, who's giving his sleepy sheep a touch up, had driven with his flock (note I didn’t say “had driven his flock”) all the way from California. Dang!

One man, seeing how much I was enjoying the breeze from the jet-sized fan, struck up a conversation with me. He started by telling me all about Jacob sheep and their biblical origins. (These guys were fairly "busy," and since I didn't want to blind them with a flash, we've got that crappy blurred snapshot thing going here. Sorry!) Then he told me how his ancestor had been given the deed to his property by William Penn himself. Dang, again!

Since it was getting close to time for me to meet my wool combs connection from Ravelry, I stood in line to buy a gyro. After 5 minutes and no sign of movement in that line, I gave up and hustled over to the Dining Hall.

Linda (from Ohio) told me that she was one of a group that would be wearing “I’m with Hotpants” tee shirts, and there she was, standing right near the door. Um, OK, so that wasn’t her, but the woman sitting on the bench *was.* (That's Linda on the left, Mr. Hotpants in the center, and Linda's friend on the right -- pic is from Ravelry.)

She was very nice and wanted me to check the combs to be sure I was happy with their condition. Believe me, at $70 for the whole shebang, I would have been thrilled with them, even if they’d had their own little colony of cockroaches (a la my very first treadle sewing machine – fortunately, I found the little buggers before I brought the machine in the house and smashed each of those suckers flat).

Combs in hand and a smile on my face, I went into the blessed air conditioning of the Dining Hall to listen to Jackie Bland talk about “the 40 manifestations of fleece.” One hour and one power bar later, I felt refreshed and a bit more knowledgeable than I had before listening to Jackie.

Fiber fans: the best gift you can give yourself or someone else is Jackie’s fleece study. You’ll receive 40 one-ounce samples of different fleece. They’re raw, so you get to/have to wash them before you either spin them yourself or have a friend of yours do it for you. By the time you’re done, you’ll have filled your notebook (provided) with insight about what you like and what you don’t like about the different fleeces. Go. Now. Buy it. WonderfulEd loves me and gave it to me two Christmases ago. I love him, too.

More to come ...

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the view of MD! Too far and would have been too hot for me!