Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

So! Here it is: My big 20×30 outfit plan for October (aka Slow Fashion October). Except I picked out my twenty pieces (above, not counting the shoes), started playing closet rummy and quickly made thirty-five outfits without exhausting all the possibilities. Which is a good thing, because this is October and any plan is going to have to have some wiggle room in it. We’re still in the lower-mid 80s right now (and loving it, honestly — the humidity finally broke) but with any luck we’ll be down into the 70s or upper 60s by the end of the month, but there’s really no predicting it. I’m being necessarily flex about the shoes, too: the black huaraches will give way to black ankle boots; the tan sandals will become tan flats. And somewhere in there I’ll need to make a separate packing list for Rhinebeck, where it will be colder than this.

An increasingly crystalline truth is that I can get by in any situation with this combination of shoes: one black, one tan, and a wildcard or two.

There are a few issues here, mind you. Ten of these outfits are based on a natural version of my “toddler pants” (I’ve told you this is what I call my olive pants and their descendents, yes?) which aren’t done. I, uh, had a little mishap. So that’s why they look funny in the photos: They’re wrong and not done. Also, some of those outfits are sleeveless. Will the pants be fixed before the temperature drops? We shall see. Likewise, the dark jeans pictured are my Willies because my me-made jeans don’t have a hem yet, but in reality I could be wearing either pair. And the striped sweater needs one of its raglan seams redone before it gets cool enough to wear it. Hopefully it will get cool enough to wear the sweaters I’ve included — at least once! But I’ll be winging it if not.

So I’m not being a slave to this, BUT (weather permitting) I can get dressed all month from the following without giving it another moment’s thought … unless of course I want to.

I’ll be attempting to document my outfits every day for #slowfashionoctober either in my main @karentempler feed or my Story (those are my Monday and Tuesday outfits up top), and will post a wrap-up at the end of the month — but I can tell you right now this is my favorite array of outfits I’ve put together yet.

Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!
Wardrobe Planning: October outfits!

For details on all of the garments pictured, see my Fall Closet Inventory + Refashioned army jacket + toddler pants post coming as soon as the natural ones are fixed, but they’re all basically the same as the olive pair (with assorted variations).


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Pre-fall Outfits!

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

BY KATRINA RODABAUGH // It’s a special day when I get to interview the creator of this gorgeous blog, Karen Templer. When I first conceived of this monthly series Karen was one of the people at the top of my list to feature. Now that we’re entering Slow Fashion October I’m thrilled to turn the spotlight on our beloved Karen.

Karen’s approach to slow fashion is one of my favorites from all the slow-fashion folks out there — and there are so many talented and dedicated folks. But Karen gives permission, she makes space, she grows community, and she’s not shy about the challenges or shortcomings either. Let’s be honest, she makes some stunning garments, knits sublime sweaters and curates a gorgeous corner of the Internet, so her down-to-earth attitude combined with her swoon-worthy aesthetic make her a true inspiration.

Karen creates space for all of us — all of our criticisms and concerns and somehow we can show up here in our flannel shirts and mended jeans or our fashionable indie dresses, and we can join in this community together as we are right now today. She cheers for the handmade, the indie designed, the sustainably purchased but also applauds the mended, dyed, dusted, darned, beloved and otherwise decade-old factory fashion garment that’s still hanging on. It’s that sense of community, that permission for different perspectives, that interest in widening the access points and truly fostering slow fashion into a more welcoming movement that makes me excited to show up for this series every month.

Lastly, it makes me a bit giddy to feature Karen’s thoughts today because she so often sits behind the scenes and orchestrates her magic without hopping up on that stool and sitting in the limelight. So, Karen, thank you for creating this space for us and for agreeing to sit in the figurative light for this post. And, of course, thank you for organizing Slow Fashion October!

. . .

What inspired you to start Slow Fashion October or “Slotober” as it’s been called?

I published the proposal for it in May of 2015, which was a pivotal time for me. I’d been knitting for a little over 3 years, which had rekindled my interest in sewing and had brought me into the orbit of a lot of people who were really putting a lot of thought into how they clothed themselves. I guess you could say I’d been going through a very slow awakening to the various issues and considerations that were already so central for many of these people. But then I had emptied out my closet just before deciding to move across the country, where I wound up living out of a suitcase for two months … all of which had me really thinking about my own fashion over-consumerism and how to make good choices as I rebuilt my wardrobe. Meanwhile, I’d been watching #memademay for a couple of years, feeling a little left out because I had only a couple of sewn garments in my closet and May isn’t exactly sweater season. But also, at that time there was a portion of MMM that was people frantically making things and taking daily selfies and lamenting some imagined imperative to not repeat a garment in those selfies, and so on. And it really struck me that there this dichotomy in the handmade wardrobe community — people making and buying clothes more thoughtfully than I had ever witnessed, and people making things with the same kind of unconsidered fervor as the shoppers of the world.

I had long been one of those shoppers, and had also been having the all-too-common experience of knitters and sewers where you are just making the wrong things — things that don’t ultimately become productive members of your wardrobe. (For the record, paying attention to what gets worn and how to make better choices was, as I understand it, the original impulse of Me Made May.) So your question caused me to go back and look at my original proposal and see what I actually said at the time about what kind of conversation I was craving:

“… the world doesn’t need another me-made month, per se [but] I’d like the scope of this to be different and broader. I’d like us to be able to celebrate not only our own makes (although definitely that!) but clothes that have been made for us by others; worn over the course of years or decades; handed down or rescued from thrift shops or attics; mended; handcrafted in the small studios of slow fashion designers and/or from ethical fabrics; and so on. I want it to be about responsible and sustainable fashion in all its splendor, in other words. An opportunity to discuss and explore the wide range of topics that are at the core of slow fashion.”

I’d been reading a lot and thinking a lot, following people who were so far ahead of me in all of this, and just really wanting to be able to have a larger conversation about it — to learn from others, think through some thoughts, have my preconceptions challenged. It’s such a complicated conversation — sometimes I think it’s harder than discussing politics — but so worth having, as I learn so much from everyone. Speaking of which, I’m surprised to see the word “ethical” in there, which is a word I try to avoid, but that must be one of the things I’ve grown more sensitive to over the course of the conversations.

Sustainability seems to be embedded in the ethos of your shop and your personal work with growing a homemade wardrobe. From heirloom tools to wool from small farms, support of indie makers and shops, supporting community and initiating conversation — it all circles around a larger concept of sustainable making or sustainable living. Was this intentional when you launched Fringe Supply Co?

Not on such a conscious level, but I think all of it has evolved in parallel. There’s an extent to which I’ve always been an environmentally conscious person (child of the ’70s) and a lover of quality goods and natural materials — things that are built to last — and that has informed my whole life and so of course was there from the beginning with the blog (which started in December of 2011) and the shop (November 2012), but it has deepened — or maybe come to the forefront more — over time as result of these explorations and conversations.

The part about supporting farms and indie makers and other small businesses is huge for me. It really matters to me whose pocket I put money into when I shop for myself (whether it’s yarn or a pair of pants or whatever) or when I place orders for the shop. It means the world to me to be able to help people get to do what they do, because it’s very difficult if you want to have an existence that’s outside of our increasingly corporatized system. And I love getting to know and talk about where things come from as much as that’s possible, so it’s win/win.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

For many of us, general stewardship for the environment and a desire to deepen our relationship to the environment might have been present for a long time but there’s often a pivotal shift in mindset when we realize “I can go so much deeper,” and that often results in a shift in habits. Was there a light bulb moment when sustainability came to the forefront in your life or work?

It’s funny to me that my clothing habits were such an anomaly and blindspot in my life for so long. I have always furnished my homes chiefly from flea markets and antique malls, loving the hunt and the fact that everything has character and a history. All the years we were living the Bay Area, a lot of our food came from farmers’ markets or local fish markets or our backyard, and it’s taken time to re-establish those habits in Nashville, but we’re now in a CSA and have a winter’s worth of local meat in the freezer. (We don’t have the luxury of our own vegetable garden here.) I care about my carbon footprint. I drove the same car for 19 years until it would go no farther, and still it had very low mileage for its age — even though it was our only car for most of those years — because we walked or took public transportation more often than not. I never turn on an overhead light until it’s absolutely necessary; use heat and air conditioning as little as I can get away with. On and on. So you’d think I would have been thrifting and hand-making and dyeing all along, right? But no, I was a devout and fervent mall shopper. Total clothes junkie.

I don’t think there was a lightbulb moment as far as wanting to do things differently in that regard — really more of that slow awakening or gradual transition. There was a tipping point that I wrote about just a couple of months before proposing Slotober. And there was a very vivid moment, later, where I realized I had again crossed over into new territory. I was in my once-favorite store with my husband, looking at the vast racks of clearance clothes. And where before I would have been piling things onto my left arm to try on, I was left completely cold by all of it. It just couldn’t compete with the handmade and known-origins clothes I’d been slowly collecting, and the stories those clothes contain. So whereas in the beginning of all of this, fast fashion felt like a hard habit to break — like I’d really really want something and have to remind myself why I didn’t want to buy it — I realized I had reached a point where I was completely void of the want. There was no more need to talk myself out of it — it had simply lost its appeal. It’s a process.

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

I love how you are so relatable as a sustainable fashion leader—I don’t feel like I have to make every garment of clothing for myself when I read your blog. I feel permission to make some things, buy some things secondhand, buy some things ethically made, and still hold on to those factory fashion garments I’ve had forever but still love and wear so much. Can you talk about access in sustainable fashion? Or about various entry points to a more sustainable wardrobe?

I don’t feel like a leader, but thank you. I’m just a person who’s thinking and trying and learning and doing what I can; I just happen to be doing it in public and sharing my progress, but I certainly don’t think of myself as an expert or role model or anything of that sort. And I think that’s an important point to make, because one of the most interesting and difficult things about these conversations is how much we all feel judged, or judge ourselves against others. The frequency with which people have said “I can’t make all of my own clothes” is really striking, as if anything less than that is sub-par somehow. Or “I can’t afford slow fashion — all of my clothes come from the thrift store.” That, to me, is the epitome of slow fashion.

I love knowing where my clothes come from — whether it’s that I made them myself or I bought them directly from the people who made them. Both of those things are unattainable for a lot of people. For me, I wish I were a better thrifter — I’m just not — but I am lucky to have access to a lot of remnant fabric because I live in a town where there are a lot of small fashion companies. If I were still in the Bay Area, I’d be shopping at the remnant store, but we don’t have one here. I can’t know where all of my fabric comes from (as much as I would like to) but I like knowing at least that some of it is me keeping remnants out of the landfill. So that’s something I can do, even if it’s not 100% of the time. (And I could also stand to buy less fabric — I’ve gotten a bit gluttonous about that lately!)

I mentioned before that I have local meat in my freezer. Sometimes we can also get a loaf of bread from a local baker, and lettuce from our CSA. It’s wonderful — it’s more nutritious and delicious than factory food, and I’ve supported small-scale farmers and bakers in the process. I also often get a perfectly tasty turkey sandwich for lunch at the deli near my work, and that’s factory turkey and factory bread. It’s a reality of life, and it doesn’t make the local stuff any less wonderful — in fact, it makes me appreciate it even more, because it’s not something I can do for every meal.

I feel like this is a really common way of thinking where food is concerned. Like people might go to a farmers’ market now and then, and appreciate the food and the experience, or even grow some vegetables in the backyard. But nobody says “I can’t grow or raise 100% of my own food!” as if they should or could. We don’t put that unreasonable expectation on ourselves, and yet so many people do where slow fashion is concerned.

Certainly some of it is plain old, unavoidable envy — I remember what it felt like to see other people’s handmade or traceable wardrobes and look at my J.Crew-stuffed closet and feel envious or think “I’ll never get there.” I get it. So I think we have to keep in mind that it’s not about trying to achieve some mythical goal of pureness or traceability, or comparing yourself against anyone else. We all have different wishes and circumstances and budgets and time constraints and skill sets. But also: You never know what will happen once you start. Three years ago, I would never have imagined as much of my wardrobe would be homemade as it currently is, but that’s what happens when you make a few garments a year. It takes time, but they add up. Same if you’re thrifting or sourcing responsibly or whatever it is that you can do and enjoy doing.

So my feeling is do whatever feels right and good and doable to you, cherish that, and don’t beat yourself up about the rest.

What’s one beloved homemade garment of yours that’s become a staple in your wardrobe? Why do you think that one garment is so successful for you?

I can make all the showstoppers I want, but it’s the simplest things that get worn the most and are therefore my favorites, because they just make getting dressed in the morning easier. Especially the little sleeveless tops like this and this, which can be worn on their own or layered under everything else. Although I’m expecting to wear my jeans and my fisherman sweater for years and years to come. So there are the inconspicuous workhorses and the treasures.

You’re embedded in the knitting and maker community but I’m curious if you might share some inspirations from outside this community that have inspired your work with sustainable fashion. Could you share a few authors, artists, activists, or other thinkers outside of the craft world that have inspired your work?

I’ve definitely been more steeped and for a longer time in the slow food movement than slow fashion. I’ve read most of Michael Pollan’s books over the years as they came out, but I was especially influenced by This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow when I read it in the early aughts. I find farmer-innovator Sally Fox hugely inspirational on so many levels. And the same goes for my friend Molly DeVries of Ambatalia (maker of the beloved Bento Bags), who is one of many striving for both conscientious production and a nondisposable life. To name just a few!

Slow Fashion Citizen: Karen Templer

PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion Citizen: Sasha Duerr

Top photo by Zachary Gray, remaining photos © Karen Templer

2017 Remake 2 + Slotober wardrobe challenge

2017 Remake 2 + Slotober wardrobe challenge

It was my intention for today to post October outfits and a fun little wardrobe challenge, but I got caught up in my own challenge and didn’t get the outfits done! Here’s the idea: Have you ever seen Lee Vosburgh’s 10×10 challenge or similar sorts of things? Lee routinely challenges herself to pick out 10 garments and make 10 days of outfits out of them. I’ve never actually done it, but it’s fun to watch! Jess Daniels suggested to me last year that it would be fun to include something similar as part of Slow Fashion October and I didn’t manage to pull it off. During Slotober last year, Jess set a challenge for herself of picking 1 garment per week and wearing it 6 different ways (documenting each day on Instagram), and there have been a couple of people the last two years who wore 1 dress 30 different ways for the month. I don’t know if I could do any of that, but I love all of those ideas and, as you know, my quarterly wardrobe planning thing this past several seasons has boiled down to me picking out 20 or 30 garments that will form the core of the season for me, and putting them together any variety of ways. I also really loved my Paris packing list (and my Squam one, for that matter) and how many outfits I got out of those very few garments.

So I decided that for my October wardrobe planning, I would challenge myself to pick 20 garments (including shoes??) and make 30 outfits out of them. It’s a 20×30. And I’m wondering if you might want to play along — with this idea or any of the above, or any variation you might cook up for yourself. It’s a parlor game, sure, but it can also be pretty amazing to see how far some pieces will go. And it’s also a great way to make sure things get worn that you keep meaning to wear but somehow don’t. That’s the challenge part!

And then here’s what happened: I had plans to make more of my beloved toddler pants (like my olive ones) and knew I wanted them to factor heavily into my October, so have been head-down at the sewing machine since Friday night. Plus there’s a refashion I’ve had in mind for three years that I decided to do yesterday — live in my Story on Instagram — in honor of the first day of Slotober, after finishing the second pair of pants (which I’ll show you soon). So instead of putting together my 20×30 this weekend, I was sewing for it! But it was extremely productive, and it’s not like I can’t get dressed in the meantime, so I’ll have my 20×30 plan to share on Wednesday (after tomorrow’s Slow Fashion Citizen interview with yours truly).

Meanwhile, what about this remake? This is an army-green men’s shirt I got off the clearance rack at the J.Crew outlet three summers ago, when we had just moved to Nashville, our stuff was in storage, and I was living out of a suitcase for two months. It’s perfect in a lot of ways, but in addition to being a little too mannish and a little too military, even for me, it was weirdly high-cut on the sides, awkward. From the beginning, I’ve had the urge to lop it off and make it into a cute little cropped shirtjacket. So yesterday I cut off the bottom, sliced those scraps into 2.75″ wide strips, sewed them together into two long strips (deliberately not caring where the seams wound up — I love random piecework), assembled them into a waistband and reattached it all. It took me a couple of hours, as I was making it up as I went, but I had a blast doing it. And now instead of a regrettable unworn thing taunting me from the end of the clothes rail, I have this awesome new little layering piece! You’ll be seeing more of it.

The only thing I really debated was the button tab on the new waistband. That’s how I’d always pictured it, for some reason, but when it came time to commit, I wavered. In the end, I’m glad I went with it. “First thought, best thought.”

This is just the sort of thing I used to do all the time as a teenager — cutting stuff up and hoping for the best. This one worked out better than most of those high-school experiments, and I hope to be doing it more often!


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first jeans

Slotober Swap Meet

Slotober Swap Meet

So we had a nice chat about whether there’s a way to organize a mega clothing swap as part of Slow Fashion October, and I don’t have any concrete ideas as far as in-person events. But I do have some things (handknits and RTW) that need happy new homes, and I’ve decided to go ahead and post them on Instagram and make it a fundraiser for hurricane relief in the near term. I’ll be covering all of the postage as part of my donation, so it will be included in the “price,” but I will limit it to US shipping addresses. Each garment will have slightly different terms — for some of the store-bought stuff, it might just be “price is a donation in $x amount” whereas at least some of the handknits will be an auction scenario to try to raise more money. Funds will be directed to Unidos por Puerto Rico and potentially other organizations along the way. I’ve set up a separate account @kt_clothesswap for this, so keep an eye on that for further developments!

If you are interested in posting garments on Instagram for sale or adoption (or whatever your terms may be!) here are some tips/suggestions/things to consider:

• You might want to set up a separate IG account specifically for your listings and make a single post on your regular feed telling your followers and the #slowfashionoctober crowd where to find it.

• Please use #slotoberswapmeet and NOT #slowfashionoctober for the individual listings, so they aren’t flooding the main conversation feed.

• Post your terms/policies in the profile header, or in each post if they will vary, or in a single post at the start.

• For each garment, state the garment details/size/fabric/condition, your price (or if you’ll consider a swap, or whatever), the shipping fee, and how you want the payment (PayPal, Venmo …).

• Say what country you’re in and whether or not you’re open to shipping internationally.

Anyone who is hosting or aware of or interested in organizing an in-person event or series of events, please do run with it, share below or let me know, and I’m happy to help get the word out!


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: This year’s plan

Slow Fashion October is upon us!

Slow Fashion October is upon us!

In under 48 hours, depending what time zone you’re in, it will officially be the 3rd Slow Fashion October. I still think the best description I’ve ever given of this event is the one in the @slowfashionoctober profile: “A celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.” Slow fashion, to me, is all of those things — from the thrift-store find to the me-made to the special purchase, and everything in between. Slotober is meant to be fun, thoughtful, enlightening and challenging, and has been for the past two years, so I’m looking forward to this year’s conversation.

How and how much you participate is completely up to you. If you want to weigh in daily/weekly/just once for the month; here, on the #slowfashionoctober feed or elsewhere; in brief or at great length, I applaud that. I’ll be posting on my @karentempler account and trying to share highlights on the @slowfashionoctober account as in years past. And here’s what you can expect to see here on the blog:

1) Katrina is doing four Slow Fashion Citizen interviews for this month (essentially one per week), and she asked if I would be one of the interviewees, which is a little weird for me but also a great way to organize my current thinking on all of this. So I agreed, and that will appear here on Tuesday. But in the meantime, I do want to offer up some links to past posts for those who might be new to the conversation or the subject, and I hope you’ll share your favorites (from wherever) in the comments:

How much can we know about where clothes come from?
Why I make (most of) my own clothes
Can Slow Fashion impact Fast Fashion? (Or why I don’t make all of my clothes)
What makes a garment slow fashion?

2) Tomorrow (hopefully, or soon thereafter) I’m going to post some further thoughts and details following our chat about the idea of a clothing swap.

3) I mentioned before that I’m going to do outfit lineups one-month-at-a-time for the foreseeable future, and my October outfit plans will be up on Monday — along with a little wardrobe challenge for anyone who’s up for it.

4) And since a lot of people feel strongly about the conversation starters, I’m going to give you/us a topic each Friday for the next few weeks, starting today — a question or thought to respond to wherever/however you like. (Or simply to ponder for yourself!)

THE WEEK ONE TOPIC IS: WHO. As in not only who are you (i.e. introductions) but who has influenced or inspired you to think or do differently with regard to clothing yourself, and in what way? And if you’ve set any goals or plans for yourself this month, include them in your introduction!

ALSO: If you are hosting or aware of any tie-in events or promotions, are posting on your own blog, or have anything else to point to or share, please do include a note and relevant links below!

And with that, we’re off. See you in the comments and on the #slowfashionoctober feed — have fun and happy weekend!


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Can Slow Fashion impact Fast Fashion?

Photos above from 2016 via @repair_revolution, @whistlinggirlknits, @anloubroen, @clairemadeit, @mollieelle, @stitchinschmitz, @ecoage, @romidesigns, @thecharmofit


New Favorites: from the Grannies collection

New Favorites: from the Grannies collection

I had a little chat with myself the other day — after seeing a photo of my friend Kathy wearing a gorgeous crocheted scarf (in Iceland) — about just how long it’s been since I’ve picked up a crochet hook, despite how often my right hand sends me a “let’s do this (loopity loop gesture)” hand signal. Then I got a look at Rove Handmade’s new Grannies collection: four not very dissimilar cardigan/shrugs. Invoking “granny” always gets eyes rolling, but here it’s clearly a reference to the good ol’ Granny Square, which here has taken on these simple but beautifully executed garment shapes. My favorites are the super simple kimono shape, Hexa (top), and the Duo Two-Way Shrug (bottom), which somehow seems to lay nicely both directions — unlike all the knitted versions of the same concept which generally seem to me like they don’t quite fit right either direction. And the silhouettes are so clean it’s easy to see that they’d be just as wonderful in traditional granny multi-colors as they are in the beautiful neutrals of the samples, or anything in between. Maybe this is the excuse I’ve been looking for to take home some hooks.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Huck

What I Know About: Rhinebeck (with Kay Gardiner)

What I Know About: Rhinebeck (with Kay Gardiner)

I’m cross-posting this lively interview to both Craftlands and What I Know About. You see, I’ll soon be making my second pilgrimage to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck NY for the knitterati-packed New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, and rather than telling you what I know about it, I asked Kay Gardiner — mover and shaker, knower of things — to give us her much more informed perspective on how it has come to be the most famous fiber festival in the US, as well as her tips for how to get the most out of the event. I’m already wishing I’d had this advice before going my first time!*

You can find Kay’s wit and wisdom on the regular at Mason-Dixon Knitting and on Instagram @kaygardiner.

. .

How long have you been attending the NY Sheep and Wool Festival, aka “Rhinebeck”? What was it like in your earlier years?

I tried to figure out the correct factual answer to this question, but the archives of Mason-Dixon Knitting did not yield it up. The oldest Rhinebeck post I could find was in 2007, which was certainly not my first or even second Rhinebeck. I think my first Rhinebeck must have been 2004 or 2005. I remember my husband dropping me off with my daughter, who was a little girl then (wearing a Rowan Denim pullover that was very long on her), and that I was surprised and a little worried that a few people recognized her from the blog. The power of the Internet! Husband (who had a shockingly low interest in sheep) gave us something like a two-hour time limit before picking us up again, but I was hooked. I have missed very few Rhinebecks since that first one, and I’ve generally stayed two days instead of two hours.

What was it like? The early 2000s were the heyday of knitting blogs, which were the first blossoming of the rich, deep and wide Internet knitting community that we know today. Rhinebeck, a country livestock show, was inundated with roving packs of very excited knitters from all over the region and country. People would run into each other and start jumping up and down and squealing when they recognized each other. Many virtual connections became real-life friendships on the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.

How would you describe the difference between Rhinebeck then and now? Better/worse? Anything you miss or feel has been lost along the way?

The crowds seem to grow every year, but otherwise the fair retains its character as a sheep-centered event, despite the knitters thronging the yarn stalls. The fleece sale thrives, farmers and their kids still show their sheep, and the sheepdog trials are as lively as ever. We continue to mourn the tragic loss of the chicken pot pie stand, but we still have the Artichokes French and the apple cider donuts. I miss the Culinary Institute of America (based in nearby Hyde Park, New York) doing a big food tent. I can’t remember if that was for just a year or for several, or if I just dreamed it.

One fun event that did not exist for my early Rhinebecks is the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, of which Mason-Dixon Knitting is a proud sponsor. Now in its fourth year, the Trunk Show takes place on Friday evening from 4-8 at the Best Western in Kingston, New York. Independent yarnmakers and dyers, from all over, are gathered in one place to discover.

Of all the fiber festivals all over the country, how did this one come to be the Mecca for the entire knitting world? Do you have a theory?

Timing is everything, and the third weekend in October is Peak Autumn in the Hudson River Valley. The show hits the exact moment when one most wants to be outdoors, breathing country air, looking at animals and wool, buying yarn, and checking out spinning wheels and looms. Winter lies just ahead, and we have to eat a bunch of kettle corn and get ready to hunker down for the duration.

I cannot remember a single Rhinebeck that was not beautiful, with the trees glowing orange. (OK, it may have been blustery and overcast in 2009.) On a few occasions the weather has been too warm for sweaters, but the knitters still manage to pile on the handknits. One of my lifetime goals is to knit a special-purpose Rhinebeck Sweater, as many knitters do (they’re frantically trying to finish them right this minute), but that would require planning ahead.

Do you remember that time I had a sweater photo contest? My way of living vicariously that year. For those who might be contemplating their first Rhinebeck visit, what’s your advice?

I’ve given this some thought! Rhinebeck is a whirl of sensory and social stimulation, and it’s also seven-hour days on your feet, exposed to the elements. Here are my tips for having a good time.

1. Make a plan. Before you get there, spend a little time with the new-and-improved vendor list. Jot down the sellers you absolutely must see, and see them first. Or, do as I do, and just walk through the barns in order, ready to be surprised and amazed by what you find. Popular vendors get hit hard very early, so if there is a yarn that you will be disappointed not to take home, get to that booth right at the start of the day.

2. Keep your strength up. Carry a bottle of water and some energy bars so you don’t get woozy. I’m not kidding! When you’re in the Rhinebeck Zone, two or three hours can go by without your noticing it until you need to lie down on the bleachers at the dog trials and look up at the sky. The Artichoke French and cider donuts lines are very long, and they are not going to get any shorter over the course of the day, so just get in line and enjoy the experience. You are going to meet lots of people and see lots of handknits while you wait. I like to save the kettle corn for last, and pick up a big bag of it on my way out of the fairgrounds, “for the kids.”

3. Take care of your feet. This is no time to break in a pair of new shoes, or for sandals of any description. The fairgrounds are dusty and uneven when dry, and sloppy when wet. Ideally you want to be wearing old Frye boots, Blundstones or the like. If it’s been raining, you are going to want full-on rubber boots, like the farmer in Babe wore.

4. Handknits: more is more. Rhinebeck is a feast of knitwear. Wear as many handknits as you can fit, visibly, on your body. Compliment the beautiful handknits you see passing by — that’s why people are wearing them!

5. Buy stuff. Don’t get so overwhelmed by the amazing range of goods on offer that you forget to buy a few skeins of something beautiful. Rhinebeck is an opportunity to support people who have dedicated their lives to making beautiful, authentic yarns, tools and supplies for us. We didn’t always have so many choices, and we have them now because these craftspeople are able to make a living doing what they love, and what we love.

6. Make friends. Stop by the book barn (in building B, not far from the picnic tables) to meet authors who will be more than happy to sign their books. Ann and I will be there on both Saturday and Sunday from 11-2, hoping to say hi to as many people as we can.

7. Parties! On Saturday night, there are two fun events that I know of. One is the first-ever Mason-Dixon Knitting Rhinebeck Pie Party, in Rhinebeck, New York. It’s free; for details and to RSVP, go here. Stop by for a few minutes, or stay a while, have a cup of hot cider and a slice of pie from a great local baker. We’ll be there from 5-8.

Also on Saturday night, from 6-9 across the river in Kingston, is Jill Draper’s legendary open studio night, a great event of food and people and an incredible selection of her beautiful yarns for sale. Here’s her Eventbrite to RSVP.

And who are you especially keen to spot in the crowd this year?

You, of course!

. . .

I did not pay her to say that. Thank you, Kay! See you there—

As fun as Rhinebeck is, it’s important to note that there are amazing fiber festivals all over this country. If you’re not familiar with your own state’s (or region’s) offerings, definitely Google it. And please share your favorites in the comments below! Fringe Supply Co. will have a presence in the Harrisville Designs booth at Rhinebeck this year, and that same weekend we’ll have our own booth at our favorite Tennessee festival, Fiber in the ‘Boro. Mark your calendars!


*Please forgive me for reusing the images from my 2015 Rhinebeck recap here — the rest of my photos from that trip were all lost! I’ll take new ones this year.

PREVIOUSLY in What I Know About: Natural indigo (with Kristine Vejar)
PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: My week in the Craftlands