. In A New York (State Sheep & Wool Festival) State of Mind

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In A New York (State Sheep & Wool Festival) State of Mind

Category: fiber animal

It’s that time of year again — the air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and I’m wearing at least four layers of clothing to work every morning. It’s almost fleece-lined-leggings-o’clock. Every year around this time, I find myself in a New York state of mind… New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, that is! I’ve never been to Rhinebeck, but I dream of one day witnessing this sheep-tacular spectacle myself.

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This festival is a big deal for us fiber folks. Just look at the schedule: over a week to go, and most of the classes are sold out! And what wonderful classes they are: dyeing, spinning, weaving, felting, knitting, crocheting… the list goes on. The schedule is studded with big names, the rockstars of the fiber world, including Bristol Ivy, Norah Gaughan, and Mary Jane Mucklestone (from Maine!).

Have you heard of the phenomenon of the “Rhinebeck sweater”? Knitters heading to Rhinebeck will often knit a glorious sweater to show off at the festival. Can you imagine a better audience than thousands of knitters, who understand exactly how much work went into your pullover? Ysolda Teague even compiled a book of sweater patterns by famous designers called “The Rhinebeck Sweater”. We have a copy at the shop, and looking through it always makes me really want to actually be there.

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(Vegans, avert your eyes for this next part.) I’m not going to lie, a big part of why I go to fairs is the food. Rhinebeck apparently has lamb. LAMB. And not just one kiosk with lamb kabobs and a line a mile long, but a whole workshop on how to spit roast lamb. There’s also apple crisp, and falafel, and cheese!

(Ok, this part is vegan friendly again.) Rhinebeck also features tons of adorable fiber animals to admire. I didn’t pet enough critters at the Common Ground Fair this year — I really want to snuggle some baby goats, and feel the lanolin on my hands after petting a sheep. It’s a good thing Brooks’ car is just big enough for the two of us, or else I’d be stuck trying to talk my landlord into bending the no-pets policy for a small flock of sheep. They could mow the front yard!

My Favorite Fiber Animal

Category: fiber animal

As fiber artists, we all appreciate the variety of fuzzy, wooly, hairy creatures who provide us with the materials of our craft. Sheep are my favorite fiber animals, and not just because I see sweaters when I look at them. They have such lovely, funny faces, and so much personality. There used to be a small family farm ten minutes from my house, and every spring we would detour past the fields to look for the new lambs. There’s nothing better than watching lambs at play — they seem to have springs instead of legs. This little cutie is from Bittersweet Heritage Farm in St. George, Maine:

Photo by Dyan Redick

Photo by Dyan Redick

One thing I’ve always been fascinated by is sheep herding. I suppose it started with James Herriot. My grandmother sent me his picture books when I was young, and my mother would read them aloud with all the accents. I quickly became a devotee of the TV show as well. (For those of you who don’t know, James Herriot was a Yorkshire veterinarian who wrote wonderful stories of his patients and their people.) In almost every episode, there would be a flock of sheep pouring across the Yorkshire Dales, accompanied by a farmer and a dog or two. Now, I’ve personally tried to single out a horse from a herd, and I’ve only succeeded when the horse allowed me to. How could one farmer possibly direct a whole flock of sheep across an open landscape? The answer is thanks to a seamless partnership between farmer and sheepdog. It’s pure magic to see a sheepdog at work, and if you have a chance you should check out the herding demonstrations at the Common Ground Country Fair this year. But for those of you who can’t wait until September, I’ve rediscovered a fun video that was sent to me a few years ago. It involves sheep, LEDs, and a few farmers with a brilliant idea (and perhaps a little too much free time?). As you watch it, think about the incredible work of the sheepdogs that made this video possible: Extreme Sheep Herding.