The end of a second day of what one can only describe as the perfect weather. Sun, warmth, blue, not a cloud, and a gentle breeze... in all seriousness, when I think of how summer should be I think of this weather. Sure enough, soon, we'll have nothing but humidity and sudden afternoon thundershowers. The quiet, constant whoosh of air which now momentarily rings in my apartment blowing it's cool kiss will soon be a permanent resident - constant vigilance against summer heat and un-bear-ability.
***Sheep and Wool is covered in some detail below, my dearies... it was such a day and I have so many photos, I can't possibly recount it all in one entry AND update you all on my life - so pictures of purchases are below (No, I won't hold out on you...) and some interesting events will come later. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...***
Of course, it's late here. Nearing my bedtime, mind you, and I haven't even prepared some dinner munchies. This is mostly my fault - after work (and a friendly catfight), Dan and I rushed off to Caribou to enjoy some good knitting time. I'm showing him how to make socks - the first pair - done out of some Cherry Tree Hill Merino Mini (one of my favorite yarns) is done using Wendy's Toe-Up Sock Pattern as a template - with some suitable alterations of course. In today's lesson, I patiently (and thanklessly, mind you) showed him the provisional cast-on using a crochet hook (a secret I passed on to several, free-of-charge, at Yarn Harlot's book signing/stitch-in), and how to do his short-rows for the toe (and later the heel - but he doesn't know this - don't spoil the surprise). It's hard giving free lessons, I've got to say. While Dan's inevitably reading this (so I should be careful what I say, lest we begin another friendly catfight or something even worse...) and I enjoy showing him new techniques, I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone's mind works the same as mine. This is of course good practice for real life... but don't you worry, when I begin my Certification for the Yarn and Craft Council of America - Dan will be generously signing off on my form, I'm sure, for all the past/present/and future instruction I've offered.
Yup, you read right - I'm going for the Certification Program in Knitting from the Yarn and Craft Council of America. I have, of course, taught many a course in the DC area. Additionally, I have offered hour after hour of instruction and critique to knitters across the country (I like to think it's been good...) - too many to name. This certification is really nothing more than a professional development opportunity - the first level anyway. But, as I move more into a design phase with a lot of my work, I'm interested in what Level II of the certification has to offer - I think it'll be useful and informative. And, I'll get two neat little pins out of it - maybe three if I'm really persistent. This is the second time I've applied for this program - upon receiving the materials the first time - two years ago now - I just then realized the amount of work it would take and that I wouldn't have the time to undertake it. It's suddenly become very important to me though... as though this is a logical next step, so I'm going to do my best to make it happen. Be prepared to see a lot of perfect-looking swatches in the coming weeks.
No yoga tonight. Getting up on Sunday mornings has become almost unbearable. The thought of getting up at 730am - not much later than I would on a weekday (or Saturday even - cartoons begin early) is hard on my twenty-something psyche and the temptation to sleep in or engage in some other sin is too great. And Tuesdays, well, Tuesdays are another matter entirely. First off - before I launch into the myriad of reasons why Tuesday is a complicated day, you should know Yoga begins at 730pm. Now, knowing that, you'll understand that I never know what to eat on a Tuesday. Knowing my body, I can't eat less than four hours before Yoga class - unless it's something bland like a bagel. In order to not eat anything for at least four hours (plus the hour and a half I'm in class), I need to have pasta for lunch... and I need to eat by 2pm. This of course causes all sorts of complications during work not limited to meetings that are always scheduled at the time when I usually take my lunch break and impromptu, eternal conference calls.
Well, beyond that, I've been having a really bad time at Yoga lately. This means, I've been feeling especially chubby and unequal to the fit folk that make their way to the class. Last week was especially harsh - I just couldn't cut it... Of course, our compassionate instructor tells us all that Yoga has nothing to do with how long one can hold Downward Dog or how straight your headstand is - but in reality, Yoga has everything to do with it! How can I not look at the person next to me and think - wow, they're really muscular, and I'm so not.... How can I not go to class and feel insecure about my ability to do the poses perfectly or my size or gender or sexuality. In my mind, when perfection is the goal, how can diversity of level even be considered? Now, I'm not saying I'll never go back - I just need to do some soul-searching... find that inner fortitude - or at least set-up next to someone rounder than I.
Now, truthfully, I couldn't wait to write about this either. I won't be mad if you've skipped the awkward ramblings to get to the juice. That's right baby - Maryland Sheep and Wool. Recapped. In parts.
So, Saturday morning rolls around. You should know, this is my third Sheep and Wool, and by far, it was the most crowded this year. I've only been once before on a Saturday - a Saturday afternoon my first year - and that was nothing like this.
Anyway - Saturday. Even though I'd arranged a S&W Buddy long ago, and told him again and again, Keep the first weekend in May open - don't plan anything, my ride (bless his kind and generous heart) managed to make the trip an ordeal. With his partner and their guest, the plan was to go to Pennsylvania on Thursday night to attend a family affair, spend Friday visiting a new locale for The Mid-Atlantic Mens Gathering and time at the cabin, and then return to DC on Saturday morning to drop off the hairchild and pick little old me up to go to S&W. Now, if anything, Dan is to be commended for his stick-tuitive-ness and his desire to keep with the plan and go with me to S&W. I offered several times to procure other rides or go with someone else, but he insisted we continue as planned (this guppies, is true and lasting friendship, I say!). You can imagine, when Saturday morning rolls around, and I am sitting on their front porch when they arrive, everyone is very tired. Lancaster is a four (plus) hour drive from DC. The least I could do to repay, was to procure lunch for all four of us. (This paragraph has of course left you all asking, why didn't you just go to Lancaster with them and go to S&W from there. Well, beyond the hairchild, Friday marked an important religious accomplishment for a good friend which I decided I had to take part in - grudgingly at first, but later very thankful I was there to experience it. I won't share details, because it's his story, but it was a good thing - you know - the way all this worked out).
Now, I will own up, that I specifically said, when asked whether there was any need for us to be there right when it opened at 9am, for us to be there toute de suite, that there was no specific need. I will also own up, that I was incorrect. The photo above was taken just before 11am. By this point, the paths were incredibly crowded - precious items - too precious to name - were long gone from the shelves by the time we walked through those plywood gates.
Shortly after arriving, Dan and I separated from his partner and their guest. I had hinted to these two that this might happen, though looking back on it, when we said, Peter, take Dan's cell phone just in case we get separated, I was actually saying, Peter, Dan and I are disappearing into the crowds to spend all sorts of money. We'll meet you for lunch in two hours; for as you can imagine, shortly after giving cell phones and such, Dan and I ran away in a hurry. Giving cursory acknowledgement to the beasts that made the heavenly bounty we were procuring (this was my urging - Dan wanted to stop and pay homage - but money was quickly burning a hole in my pocket and precious hours had gone to waste), we entered the first barn of yarn.
Those first few steps, rubbing elbows with rich and poor - all of there for the love of things wooly - was a fleeting moment of synesthesie for me and oh so enjoyable. At the end of the first barn, my first purchase.
Have I mentioned I have a sock yarn problem? I simply couldn't resist - 8 hanks of this luscious yarn - from a store in Illinois - spun and dyed by a woman in Portland, OR. The weight is similar to Koigu and the colors are just to die for. It has taken all my strength not to throw down all three pairs of socks in progress and pick up a hank of this lovely stuff. The brand is Blue Moon Fiber Arts, the yarn is Soft Rock, and from the looks of the mad rush we ran into, it would be gone soon after I dropped 80 bucks. We'll have to re-examine my sock yarn fetish later, but when it comes to said fetish, abandon all hope, dear Mastercard. In fact, I like this yarn so much, it almost gave me a woodie. Even now, holding it in my hands... er... um... Well, the colors are just too fabulous. My prayer is it looks half as good knit up as it does in the skein - the samples they had showed signs of pooling which will be dealt with in due time - mwa ha ha ha!
At this very moment - having paid for my first purchase I was in dire need of a trough. Any man who's ever been to a fair can identify with me the need for the trough - gentle folk beware! Urinals are not to be found in all bathrooms. Still - the Good News? They can be found at the Howard County Fair Grounds in West Friendship, Maryland. The Bad News? Given that the number of female fiber artisans greatly outweighs the number of those male, the women took over the men's restroom. Now, as a man, swarmed by hundreds of Bethesda women with full bladders, this made me feel a wee bit uncomfortable. I mean - which line do I wait in if they are both now marked (figuratively mostly - the women didn't deface any signs - though if women are animals, these restrooms were most certainly "marked") female, what now? I think, I'll stay in the mens line - be true to my roots. Then again, what happens when I get there? Do I take care of my needs at a urinal, in front of those prying eyes? Or do I weight for my own little room? And moreso - if I wait for my own room, will the women yell at me? Get to that urinal, young laddie! This is women's territory now! I realize, amidst my floating eyeballs, that there are other men in line - who are as worried (if not more, than I) about displaying their wares (or not) for all to see. As we're looking at one another, weighing our options, a man in dungarees, seeing our despair, came to the rescue and led us to the promise land! Not two hundred feet away, another bathroom - women free! Not two minutes later, I was empty - washing my hands - ready to further procure.
Next stop - barn number two. I stopped in at Wool in the Woods and despite everything I've heard, this stuff was downright nasty. In a word? Murky. Dan and I both looked here, and then both left - muttering to one another how misled we felt. Leaving Barn Two, we made our way to Barn Number Three, where I visited a favorite vendor of mine, Mistralee Studios. This one woman show (a little nutty - and I think she wears a wig) sells laceweight alpaca at a very decent price. The first year I visited, I purchased enough for a sweater. This year? Just a hank.
Almost 700 yards for just over $20. Probably enough for a scarf and or hat or two - and I'm sure I'll find a use for. Stay away Marq1!
Also procured from Mistralee - two fabu lace patterns from Fiddlesticks.
Lilly of The Valley & The Garden Path Shawl. I have great admiration for lace knitters and would like to one day be very good at it. Just not today though... but I bought these because I had the opportunity more than anything. I've never seen the Fiddlesticks patterns outside their website - so I was pretty psyched.
Next up? Dan and I make our way down to the main barn. We stop in at Oak Grove Fibers, which are pretty fabulous. I've got my eyes on this beautiful pink/gold/black/brown fiber - like Manos - but the booth is too complicated to navigate. Seriously - this is how crowded it was. AND - besides the fact that the vendor had set up the fibers so they were practically impossible to get off the rods they were on, each of the hanks I was interested in had different yardage to them and the prices weren't clearly marked. By the time I had flagged the sales person twice for help, I was clearly getting crabby (and hungry) and opted to leave the booth. Dan, on the other hand, is more stubborn than I. He stuck around for 10 minutes OR MORE than I and procured a lovely hank of silk in a colorway called Paprika. While I'm not a fan of silk on it's own (no give), this was well and moderately priced. But, all is not well, that ends well. The woman taking payment was, well, not well versed in such ways. Rather than go on, look at Dan in this photo and surmise on your own:
Thus, we meet for lunch just outside the main barn. We watch some shearing (poor thing - I've got to say), as we eat.
I was so glad I brought lunch from Whole Foods. Not even having been at the Festival for two hours, and already stinking of grilled meat, I was an unhappy camper. And despite reports that vegetarian food is served at these events, it really isn't. Granted, Kettle Corn and Cotton Candy are vegan - but they won't help you make it through another barn and a mile more of vendors.
Here's Pete and Dan finishing up lunch. If I didn't know any better, the look on Dan's face screams, Please tell me you're done shopping - I'm tired. Sorry buddy - we're not leaving til the last penny is spent! (This statement is untrue - I stayed well within my budget - but you get the picture). Before running back into the Main Barn, I quickly run into (and shout more loudly than I should have at) the girlie girl. I was hoping to hang with her a bit, but well, circumstances prevented such hanging.
Onward. Still in the Main Barn, whether from heat exhaustion or acid reflux, I manage to miss both Tess and the Koigu booths. This is probably for the best - it gives me something to look forward to next year. Up and around, then back down the other side, we get to the Cherry Tree Hill Booth - and I meet Dan's friend from Seaport Yarns in New York. Here, I procure two hanks of Blue Heron Yarn - rayon chenille - which I'm psyched about.
This beautiful stuff reminded me of Colinette's Isis. But with more than two times the yardage at half the price, well, Blue Heron's got something going for them, let me tell you. Happily, it turns out Seaport may also have several single skeins of Cherry Tree Hill Potluck Bulky to hand over so I can finish two sweaters. I'm psyched about this and need to get several strands from the skeins in the mail to her. Great woman - seriously - if you go or live in New York, Check out her shop. Seriously.
We leave the main barn, and I buy what is probably one of the cheapest yet most valuable items from the whole festival.
A Family Sized bag of Kettle Corn (can you all see how round I'm getting in the mid-section?). Today, being Tuesday, I have barely just finished half the bag - they weren't kidding, were they? But at $5 a bag, I couldn't go wrong - it was the best buy. The other best part about this item?
Getting close to the stud-muffin making it. Yum yum!
Making our way back up towards the entrance, Dan and I enter the side barns. The line to buy a T Shirt is more than a half hour long - we both decide, simultaneously, that neither of us wants to wait that long and both forgo T Shirt purchasing. I'll check their website and see what I can find - you know the bits and pieces not purchased by the hords. In Side Barn 2, I buy this:
Sweater Quanity of Weavers Wool by Mountain Colors. Yup, 1470 yards of Worsted Weight Wool, in these great colors - for just under 70 bucks. I couldn't resist. From Hunt Valley Yarns - in Middelburg Virgina - not far from Washington. Only one shop in the area (to my knowledge anyway) sells Mountain Colors. You know, the-shop-that-must-not-be-named... and she doesn't even sell Weavers Wool. So, I figured this was a good buy all around. What am I going to make? The one-piece zipper cardigan from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I think it'll be great.
Getting sleepy... but I must persist!
Dan and I continue making our way around. We stop in a few places, Dan is in need of a juice box, and I am almost done anyway. We check out Brooks Farm - which I've heard a ton of great stuff about and I really liked some of their stuff - but the line to purchase is 20 people too long, and the remaining colorways are all too murky. We make our way around, I almost buy 500 yards of the bulky wool - Dan almost buys one too - but again the vendor has a long line and I don't have the patience. Even stubborn Dan loses his patience and returns his skein. Again, for the best, methinks.
Last purchase of the day - one of the last ones on their shelves:
On my shopping list - a new drop spindle. Handcrafted by Hatchtown Farm, this spindle has an oak shaft with Rosewood and Purpleheart. These folks from Bristol, Maine, drove down with what looked like a hundred spindles. When I got there, there were three left. I asked, Do you have backstock to sell tomorrow? And they replied, No - but we'll be here. They did have some beautiful fleece - no question about it - left still. But yes folks - THIS is how crowded it was. Moreso, when I left, it looked as though EVERYONE was spinning with a drop spindle. Honestly, it looked like something out of Amityville or Children of the Corn even.
All in all - I'm thrilled with my purchases. All good additions to the stash. The day ended with a group photo at the entrance.
A great time was had by all - again many thanks to Dan and Peter for helping to make it happen. It was a great experience and I can't wait for next year, when we'll be joined by Franklin and Marq1 - and maybe even you?
Tune in folks, next time, for some of the funnier pictures I snagged and another update. I'm thinking the weekend, but we'll see.
And with that, I'm off to bed. Have a good one folks!