Monday, May 6, 2013

A beautiful day for a festival…

You know, I’ve been going to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival for over a decade now. Let me think… The first time was when Pam and Dave took us, and that was pre-Boy 1. I learned to knit after that, when pregnant with Boy 1. So my first MDSW was probably in 2001. Here are some gratuitous shots of Boy 1 at the 2003 festival, when he was nearly one. What a cutie!


The weather can be just about anything during the first full weekend of May. There have been years when I underestimated my comfort level and had to buy a sweatshirt there. There have been years when I wore sandals and short pants, sweated buckets, and got a sunburn. This year was absolutely perfect: highs in the low 70s, sunny, and a slight breeze. Look at these people – they look comfortable and happy! I didn’t even think it was super crowded on Saturday this year.IMG_1207 This year the carpool crew included me, Kris, Judy, and Barb. We met up with Jess there. Also Dave, our Gettysburgian friend now living in DC. And of course, Julie and Alison. I neglected to get a photo of all of us, but you’ll have to trust me that we were all there. Jess sported her new Spectra, bound off at midnight the night before:IMG_1168 That’s made with Miss Babs yarn.

For lunch I actually ate something healthy this year. Traditionally, MDSW doesn’t cater to the vegetarian fairgoer. I usually pack some protein-rich snacks and plan to indulge in ice cream and kettle corn. Well, friends, I still indulged in ice cream and kettle corn, but I also had a VEGAN TAMALE. Yes, you heard me. There was a new food vendor this year!!!


You could choose a pasta salad or lime marinated cole slaw on the side. I got the slaw. Super delicious. The tamale included mushrooms, kale, and corn.IMG_1176But, there are traditions to uphold. Here’s Judy with a sausage sandwich: IMG_1178Dave’s big lace project is coming along. Check this out – we had to photograph it in sections, like a scroll: IMG_1181 IMG_1183


We made sure to eat early, in time to get to the Great White Bale meetup with Clara Parkes and the other Great White Balers.

IMG_1188Proof! The crowd was full of fiber celebrities. Look, here are Sasha Torres (of the SpinDoctor podcast) and Deb Robson (author of the unparalleled The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook) just standing around with the gang:IMG_1194We also met Jill Draper of Jill Draper Makes Stuff, here sporting the Tripod shawl of her own design (which I quite like):IMG_1197Check out her tights! (The stitches are printed, not knitted.) Clara had a ball of yarn from Great White Bale Lot #1 with her and was handing out bits – here’s Judy with hers:IMG_1196

But I know you’re all waiting to see what I actually bought. Well… I got pretty darn excited about this bag of yarns from Miss Babs. I saw it hanging up as I approached the booth from the aisle and said “I don’t know what that is for, but I want it!” Then, conveniently, someone working in the booth walked up wearing the Albers Cowl (which the kit was designed to support) and that did me in. I got in line to pay for the yarn I was already clutching in my hands. You can totally understand why, though, right? These are MY COLORS:babs They came all packaged in a bag like this, which doesn’t photograph well because of the glare, but you get the idea…


Each little skein contains 133 yards (1.3 oz) and is 100% adorable.

I also bought some essential toiletries from Bar-Maids. I was happy to see a vendor carrying them, since I hadn’t seen Bar-Maids in person since Sock Summit in 2011. Why don’t more East Coast retailers carry them?IMG_1209 I got a luxurious skein of cashmere/possum down laceweight. I have one pair of possum blend socks and they are among the warmest handknit socks I own, so I was very interested in knitting with possum again. (By the way, this New Zealand possum is not the same as our North American possum. The NZ critter is a non-native, invasive pest that is regularly hunted… this way, at least the fiber goes to good use.) I plan to make another pair of Plain Jhaynes from this wee 25 g ball:IMG_1219 I got another skein of Zealana laceweight yarn, too, but this one is 40% merino, 30% organic cotton, and 30% possum. I figure I have lots of beads that match it, since it’s in my preferred palette (and so are my beads), and I can whip up some more of those addictive Laura Nelkin designs.IMG_1222 And to round out the exotic single skein acquisitions, I got this ball of indigo-dyed yak yarn, which is from a sustainable employment project for women in Tibet. As a regular reader of Wild Fibers magazine, I was happy to be able to support one of the projects I read about there. I think this ball will become winter hats for my kids next year.IMG_1223



Finally, I had in mind that I wanted to buy some yarn to make Alana Dakos’s Twigs and Willows sweater from her new book, Botanical Knits. The pattern calls for Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter. I didn’t see any of that at the show, but I did pop by the Bartlett Yarns to see what they were up to (since they spun Great White Bale Lot #1). Their mill spins woolen-style yarns on a mule, and Shelter is a woolen yarn (though not spun on a mule). Their 2-ply worsted weight is very similar to Shelter, just a bit thicker (Bartlett’s is 210 yards to 4 oz, and Shelter is 140 yards to 50 g, which translates to about 316 yards to 113 g/4 oz, if I did the math right). Anyway, the STYLE of the Bartlett yarn is very much like Shelter, but it’s THICKER. The sweater is mostly stockinette with a fetching leaf motif along the neckline. Made in Bartlett, my leaves will be bigger proportionally than as they appear on the model.

I dithered over 5 different colors and settled on this lovely blue with hints of green and grey in it:IMG_1205


And as a festival bonus, I had a lovely chat with Mr. Lindsey Rice, owner of Bartlett Yarns, about buying American, how stuff is made, and growing general interest in the topic. This is one of the reasons I love a wool festival!IMG_1206 I’ll leave you with a chuckle – here’s a sign I saw in one of the booths:IMG_1199All in all, it was another fantastic year at the festival. I feel so fortunate to live only 75 minutes away from this event and wouldn’t miss it for just about anything! Friends, I had a great time. Let’s do it again next year.


  1. "100% adorable" -- Hah! It looks like it was a beautiful day and that you all had such a wonderful time. As Cinderalla says in Into the Woods, "I wish to go to the festival!"

  2. Looks like you got some stunning yarn at the festival! Great photos, too.

    I went for the first time this year, and I had a brilliant time. I, too, was eying Alber's Cowl. I may have to invest in the yarn for that soon.

    I have to say that I was disappointed about the vegan tamale vendor. By the time I got around to finding him, he had no more vegan tamales, and said that he was being encouraged by the festival promoters to stop selling them, as they don't promote the sheep-as-food aspect of the festival. So sad. I hope you enjoyed it, though!

  3. Hi Candace,

    If that's so, it's disappointing. I've contacted the festival to let them know how much I appreciated the new vendor.

    People, if you liked the tamales, let the festival organizers know!