The Rhinebeck report

The Rhinebeck report

I don’t suppose I can go to Rhinebeck (aka the legendary New York State Sheep and Wool Festival) and not blog about it. I have a tragic dearth of photos, though, because my hands were frozen solid for most of the weekend and I didn’t reach for my phone much. Monday morning I did — I took a whole bunch of future-award-winning photos of my sweet friends and the beautiful farm we visited, but then discovered (too late) that my phone wasn’t saving any of them. At least I have my memories.

The highlights: SO MANY of my favorite people, seven of whom I got to share a house with (I even got to meet Nicole Dupuis quite unexpectedly); best falafel of my life; an incredible number of Fringe tote bag sightings; the visit to the aforementioned farm, owned by a guy who turns out to have grown up in the same Kansas suburb as me; amazing yarn from that farm. All in all, a great trip.

To be honest with you, I spent all day Saturday wondering why I had worked so hard and traveled so far so I could spend an entire day standing in painfully long lines. It was like sitting in traffic for six hours. Seeing so many beloved faces while standing in those lines was the only thing that made it bearable.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I seriously considered telling my housemates they should go without me. I could really use a day of rest, and having a creaky old Hudson Valley farmhouse to myself for a few hours sounded way more appealing than a repeat of Saturday. But I’m SO GLAD I went. Sunday the crowds were manageable, and while it was even colder (it snowed on us!) and I looked like a very sad sack indeed — with my army shirt-jacket over my beautiful bulky sweater, droopy hat over my unwashed bun of hair, shivering so violently I lost a few pounds — I had a lovely time. I got to see the animals, eat the falafel I couldn’t get anywhere near the day before, visit many more of the vendors’ booths. Still, it looked like I was going to leave empty-handed.

Late in the day, Anna mentioned that we should all go to the booth where she had bought some nice tallow soap on Saturday, in a building I hadn’t been in. The booth was well done and the soaps on the front table were prettily packaged. As I stood there sniffing the bergamot soap and wondering whether to buy one bar or three (you know bergamot is my favorite) I noticed the deep freezer in the corner, a hand-lettered sign over it listing out the kinds of meats inside. Kate and I were debating what variety of sausage to take home for the evening when I noticed the bushel basket of yarn to the left of the freezer. Hold up now. I had picked up and put down numerous skeins of yarn over the weekend. All small-batch and perfectly lovely, but nothing that sparked joy, as they say — I didn’t want to buy something for the sake of buying something. But this was the perfect natural grey, and as we talked to Kallie about her wares and their farm, I wanted to buy from her. Of course I’d take a skein along with my soap and sausage, and so would the rest of my housemates, and we instantly started planning to all knit the same hat from it, to commemorate the weekend. But as I stood there, petted the skein, read the unusual mix of fleeces involved — Romney, Icelandic, Finn and Texel — I thought, now why would I not buy a sweater’s worth of this? Have I not been saying the wear-everywhere grey sweatshirt sweater is the giant gap in my closet? And have I not been trying to decide on the perfect grey yarn for that sweater? And was this not a beautiful, unusual, memento yarn I had in my hand, direct from a farm I’d love to support? Yes. Yes to all of the above. So I bought a sweater’s worth and will cherish the sweater it becomes.

The next morning, we went to visit Kallie and Michael’s beautiful farm, Sawkill Farm in Red Hook, and that was my favorite part of the whole trip. That’s where I took all the beautiful photos that didn’t save (I’ll never get over the loss of the one with the piglet running through the sunbeam!), but you can see the pics my friends took on their Instagram feeds: @toltyarnandwool, @fancyamber, @fancyjaime and @kelbournewoolens.

Kallie mentioned that her email and Instagram lit up after we posted about buying her yarn, and that makes me really happy. And I’m also happy for everyone else who saw it and bought some, it having been her first, small batch. But here’s the thing I want to say if you’re feeling like you missed out on Rhinebeck or this yarn: Wherever you live, there is very likely a fiber festival of some kind. Not to mention farmers’ markets. Go to them! There will be farmers there from your part of the world, and some of them will have their own yarn for sale. It’s awesome to travel to other places and find special treats to take home, but the real beauty of farm yarns is meeting farmers and buying directly from them, wherever you may be. You just never know what you might find.

Oh hey, speaking of which — this weekend is our local festival, Fiber in the ’Boro, and we will be there again with our Fringe Supply Co. booth. So if you’re anywhere near Middle Tennessee, get there!

Pictured are my housemates eating the famous apple cider donuts; gorgeous skeins of Sea Colors yarns hanging against a wall; a cashmere goat; and my haul of Sawkill Farm yarn in my favorite tote bag

21 thoughts on “The Rhinebeck report

  1. Your IG photos were among my absolute favorites from the weekend flurry of Rhinebeck shots over the weekend! Thanks for taking us along, despite the cold fingers and shiver-induced weight loss.

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  2. Piglet in a sunbeam! You don’t even need to post that for it to stick in my memory. What a perfect weekend–something about your acquisition of the Sawkill Farm yarn is so great, exactly what makes Rhinebeck so special.

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  3. It was so good to see you Karen! I definitely had the same opinion of the Saturday Rhinebeck and I believe that next year (and I will absolutely have another year of this wonderful festival,) I will probably sit out Saturday and explore downtown Rhinebeck or only go a half day, or something like that. It was just so overwhelming the first day! Sunday was so different, a more calm and knitterly sort of day. Our group has discussed adding more days before or after as well for more knitting and cabin time, as we absolutely loved how beautiful the weather and trees were (as does everyone.) Perfect weekend getaway!

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  4. Considering that I live in NY and not very far from Rhinebeck, it’s sort of amazing that I’ve never been! I’ll take a note from your book and think about going just on the Sunday portion one year. Your trip was a real memory maker!

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  5. My mother and I have gone to our local fiber festival (the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival in Tunbridge, VT) religiously for years, but we’ve always lamented that we’ve never been to Rhinebeck, and had always heard about how much bigger and grander the NY Sheep & Wool Festival was, so this year we skipped the VT festival to see what all the fuss was about. We only had one day at Rhinebeck (Saturday) and honestly, we came away feeling nostalgic for our small little Vermont festival, which generally has a lot of teensy tiny farmers that don’t make it to the NY Sheep & Wool. I don’t think we’ll be going back to Rhinebeck next year, but whenever it is we do make it back, we’ll definitely aim for Sunday. I completely agree with your closing sentiment; there are small producers everywhere making great yarns close to home, no need to feel left out.

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  6. As a starting point for finding your local(-ish?) fiber festival or producers, I like the list kept by Fiddlehead Fibers (for the US: http://fiddleheadfibers.com/festivals/Festivals.html), the Local Fiber Finder (US and Canada: http://www.localfibers.com/FiberFinder.aspx) and Clara Parkes’s venerable events list at the Knitter’s Review (more international coverage: http://knittersreview.com/upcoming_events.asp). But a quick perusal of these sources will reveal that no one list seems to capture it all — anybody else have good sources of fiber event info?

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    • Also, while I wasn’t too surprised at the scarcity of fiber/sheep&wool events in Hawaii, I was a bit dismayed to see Nevada largely absent, since in my head I associate that state strongly — if vaguely! — with sheepherding. Curious how I’d come to that association, I started poking around and found this great UNR site about northern Nevada’s sheepy history: https://knowledgecenter.unr.edu/sheepherders/default.aspx

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  7. Maybe one day I’ll make it to Rhinebeck, but this time in October is when my workload really ramps up, so who knows when that will happen. In the meantime, I’ll content myself with attending Wisconsin S&W every 5 years or so (I’ve been twice, and it’s lovely and a manageable size, too) and try not to feel sad about missing out!

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  8. Oh the leaves! The yarn! I long for my years of living in New York, because Denver to Rhinebeck seems unlikely. I am so happy you bought a sweater’s worth of yarn. What a memento that will be.

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