Sunday, May 8, 2016

I didn’t buy ANY yarn! MDSW ‘16

What a great year it was for the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival! Here are some highlights:

Judith MacKenzie class

IMG_0251On Friday, I drove in for a class with the famous Judith MacKenzie called “Drafting Techniques to Make the Yarn You Want.” We spun many samples and practiced techniques from worsted to woolen. Every time Judith opens her mouth, I want to write something down. I took lots of notes!

Whenever I take a spinning class, I inevitably learn something from my neighbor. My neighbor Michelle showed me how to make a “fauxlag” out of combed top. This is a useful technique if your top is too slippery to spin easily and you want to calm it down a bit. (For my non-spinning readers, a “rolag” is a carded preparation that looks like a tube. This fauxlag is a combed preparation that looks like a tube. You draft off the tip.)IMG_0261

This last one isn’t a dreamy picture, but it proves that I made some samples in class and that my future spinning will be better for it. Most of those samples are made from wool, but there are also some wool-silk blends and even some 100% cashmere – what a treat!IMG_0279

It rained ALL DAY on Friday. I had to carry my spinning wheel in and out of class with a big black yard bag over it (so humiliating for my sweet Ladybug). I really felt sorry for all the vendors who were struggling to set up in the rain, especially the ones in outside tents. But, the show must go on!

Festival Part 1 – with the knitters

Judy, Kris, and I rode to the festival early on Saturday and got there about 8:45. We snagged good parking spots and commenced shopping, stopping for what have become predictable breaks for snacks and lunch. We are a well-oiled machine after all these years of fest-ing together. It was grey, chilly, and damp, but NOT RAINING. First stop: Brooks Farm. Can you see the mud here? I wore my hiking boots and they were absolutely the best footwear choice.IMG_0281

While I was at Brooks Farm, I heard a baby crying. It turned out to be a lamb that was born just that morning. No ewe would claim it and the owners weren’t sure which one was the mother, so they had to bring it.IMG_0282

Next I scooted up to the Main Hall, where I spied Clara Parkes signing books at Spirit Trail. Note that she didn’t expose her new wool shoes to the festival mud! I never got to say “hi” to her this year, but I spotted her a couple of times.IMG_0283

I did some serious shopping during this part of the day. I got some consumables: IMG_0361

Everyone knows what Eucalan is for. I tried the maple cream last year and it was DELISH, so I went back for more. They also had maple seasoning this year – it’s a mix of maple sugar, salt, and other seasonings…kind of sweet and salty. I can’t wait to try that on everything. And the last thing is a tube of cuticle cream.

I also got excited in one booth and bought a weaving shuttle – with appropriately-sized bobbins – to use with my Cricket loom: IMG_0360

AND I got some yummy fiber to spin from Spunky Eclectic. This is the first time she’s shown at MDSW, and I’ve never used her fiber. I really liked this special limited edition colorway called “Peepers.” It’s top dyed on a base of 65% Polwarth, 25% Mohair, 10% Silk:IMG_0364

Then, because I have REALLY enjoyed spinning Jacob roving in the past, I snagged a couple more 4 oz balls of it. This particular fiber is from Spot Hollow Farm.IMG_0369

I stumbled across a new button vendor, too: Favour Valley Woodworking. They make buttons from wood and antler – and they are washable! (Hand wash or gently machine wash.) I loved them and thought they were very reasonably priced, so I bought a card of 6 buttons for some unknown future sweater. Normally I don’t buy buttons until I have a sweater, but these were too good to pass up. IMG_0359

And this was my big splurge of the day: a kit to make rainbow towels:IMG_0366

It has two big white cones and eight smaller cones in multiple colors. I should be able to make four towels on my Cricket loom with it. This is 5/2 cotton for my weaving readers:IMG_0368


Festival Part 2 – with the spinners

Around lunchtime, I met up with Sasha Torres from Sheepspot and Kat (AsKatKnits). Kat is a fellow member of Sasha’s Fiber Club, and the three of us have been chatting online about breeds throughout the past year. During our last chat, we made a plan to meet up at Maryland and go to the fleece sale. I was interested in learning how to choose a fleece wisely. Here’s Judy with Kat (note that Kat is wearing a gorgeous Vodka Lemonade sweater made from Sasha’s Clun Forest yarn):IMG_0286

And here is Sasha petting my latest skein of yarn spun from club fiber – this is the Perendale that I finished last week. (Oh wait, I might not have showed you that yet. Surprise!)IMG_0287

I learned a LOT about how to evaluate a fleece, and I feel much more confident about choosing one. If you’ve never peeked into the fleece sale, this is what it looks like – a lot of tables covered with plastic bags holding fleeces:IMG_0288

I learned that if you want to spot the knitting celebrities, they will turn up at the fleece sale. I saw Clara again here (but no photo). Here is Judith MacKenzie admiring something: IMG_0292

And Maggie Casey, too. I took a spindle spinning class from her a few years ago. She is so nice to chat with!IMG_0293

I didn’t buy one this year. Maybe next year! (You know it’s coming…)


Festival Part 3 – a new knitter?

By this time, my knitters and spinners were gone and I was waiting to meet my friend Zakiya, so I went back to my car and dropped off purchases. Then I watched a BFL fiber prep demo and perused the skein and garment competition. It’s so inspirational to see the winners.

My friend Zakiya does not knit or spin or weave or know anything about sheep, but she was interested in experiencing the festival. She arrived about 3 pm, which I’ve learned is a really great time on Saturday. The crowds have calmed down a lot by then and you can walk around easily. The frenetic energy of the morning is gone, and the whole atmosphere is more chill. And yesterday, the sun actually came out in the afternoon! We started at the sheepdog demonstration – always interesting to watch the dogs work:IMG_0331

Then she sampled some festival foods and music. My next move was to take her to the Rabbit Building with the fiber demonstrations. She was really interested in the lace tatting and the angora rabbits.IMG_0339

Next we walked through some of the sheep barns and admired the various breeds. Check out the horns on this Jacob!IMG_0345

Then, and only then, did I take her into the main hall. I popped into the Into the Whirled booth (which had been too crowded to enter earlier in the day) and found another Falkland batt that I just love:IMG_0362


And that is where it happened, my friends: Zakiya picked up yarn and said “can I knit this?”

Some of you know that Into the Whirled has mainly fingering weight yarns, and I didn’t think that was the place for her to begin. But I said I’d make her a pair of socks if she loved the yarn – so she bought it. That was step one – buying yarn at a festival:IMG_0347

Then we went looking for something in more of a worsted weight. She flirted really hard with a skein of Yowza at Miss Babs (again, NO LINE and NO CROWDS after 5 pm), but she fell in love with Hudson at Jill Draper Makes Stuff. IMG_0350

We envision a long cowl that can be doubled. Knitting lessons shall commence within the week, if my hunch is correct!IMG_0352

Then the announcer got on the loudspeaker and said “The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is now closed. Please make your way to your cars.” (I’ve never stayed long enough to hear that before.) So we went outside for one last photo, and then called it a day.IMG_0353

I don’t know why I shot that sideways. I guess I was just excited. There is a new knitter in gestation!

I didn’t buy any yarn, but I bought plenty of making stuff and maybe made a new knitter, too. Another great year!


  1. What a cool recap! I love how you divided your MDSW up into discrete parts -- each one sounds like a rousing success. Thanks for linking Favour Valley, and I can't wait to see your rainbow towels. And what a treat to see Zakiya's introduction to knitting! She has excellent taste in yarn, and I wish her lots of fun and enjoyment as she learns.

  2. Wow! I love the weaving kit! Where did you find that? Also, it was sooo awesome to see you! Your Perendale yarn is just gorgeous!

  3. You're like a one-woman MDS&W gateway drug!

    Looks like it was such a fun time. I'm always impressed how you schedule your time and get things done there. The two times I've been I always feel so overwhelmed. I really missed not getting to go this year after having such a good time last May.

    Best to luck of Zakiya on her knitting path. And so it begins...

    Oh, and Maple Cream. Sigh.