I'm baaaaahk from Rhinebeck. There are many sheep & wool festivals around the country but the biggest one, which takes place each October at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY, at the height of foliage season in the Hudson River Valley, is so well-known amongst knitters that it is simply referred to as "Rhinebeck".
(They even snagged the URL www.yarn.com). WEBS is yarn mecca – genuflecting when you go in the door isn't required, but it is encouraged – and knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers from around the globe make pilgrimages there. They have, as you would expect, a vast selection of fibre and knitting tools, from the cheapest, tackiest acrylic to the most expensive luxury yarns, and they carry some hand-made and local products in addition to the major manufacturers. But, due to volume, they cannot offer products from most of the small, independent fibre and tool makers (although they do support and promote them generously). These are the sort of artisans you see at fibre festivals.
You don't go to Rhinebeck to buy 10 skeins of mass-produced yarn to make a sweater; you go there to buy one special skein of hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn from the vendor's own sheep. Rhinebeck is its own kind of pilgrimage, and I think it is honestly the single event I most look forward to each year. I just got home and I am already feeling down that it's over for a whole year (no, I can't afford to go both Sat. & Sun.; I know that's a sacrilege but it's too far to drive twice and I can't afford a hotel, let alone two days of yarn shopping and eating overpriced fair fare).
Rhinebeck is a two hour drive from my house, through the Berkshires and down the Taconic State Parkway. Scenic is an understatement. And the Taconic even has parking spots for making out at scenic overlooks, although I have yet to bring a date to Rhinebeck. The only downside is the astonishing number of deer grazing along the Parkway. Each trip I worry that this will be the year one of them leaps in front of my car.
|You gonna have the lamb or the lamb?|
|The interminable lamb line.|
There's usually a substantial queue for every food stall at lunchtime but today I noticed one, new this year, without any line. Curious, I read the menu: Lamb sausage sandwich with side of chickpea salad or lamb stew. No prices. I went up to the window and the vendor was grinning at me a little too enthusiastically. Then I saw the fine print: They were each $20. That explains the shit-eating grin on the vendor. He was looking greedily at the crowd and thinking he was going to make a killing. But knitters aren't that stupid. I hope the jackass didn't sell anything all day and then lowered his prices on Sunday.
|Roast lamb, onions, mustard. Worth the wait.|
By making a Herculean effort to completely neglect all of my responsibilities, I finally managed to input my entire yarn stash into Ravelry over the summer. A total of 127 different stashed yarns doesn't win me any largest stash awards, but it certainly gave me pause. Rhinebeck was, obviously, going to test my yarn diet willpower, and the first temptation came when I reached out to pet a skein whose deep wine colour was like a siren's song. It was soft. Really soft. I read the label: 50% cashmere/50% silk (400 yards, fingering). Ah. That would explain it. Yes, it came home with me.
|Green! (Yes, some of that came home with me, too.)|
|A wheel & some roving.|
Some knitters take a detour into related crafts like crochet or weaving. Rhinebeck is dominated by knitters but it is truly a festival that celebrates all fibre arts – for better and for worse. There are booths with everything from tapestries and rugs to needle-felted dragons. There is wool clothing and hats (even horse blankets this year!), woven tea towels and bedspreads, and a variety of fibre artwork, most of which has one thing in common: it's absolutely hideous. I really don't know who buys that crap.
|I told you there was a felted dragon.|
|Fancy wool coolers. Would love to get one for Silas.|
|Yarn art featuring horses.|
|I'm not the folk art type but the horses are charming.|
|Be sure to dye, responsibly.|
|This tool is called a niddy-noddy. I shit you not-y.|
|Spinner in her booth sneaking in a little spinning between customers.|
|Get yer quality yak fibres here.|
|Please don't blame the Romney sheep for the abysmal|
presidential candidate named after them.
|Baah, baah, black sheep. I have plenty of wool, thank you.|
|No, I have never seen kangaroo yarn, but nothing would surprise me at this point.|
I have no idea what they are doing at Rhinebeck.
|Llama taking a load off.|
|You don't have to go to Kashmir to get cashmere.|
|Little half-ounce bags of cashmere roving!|
& it's even legal! Soooooo tempting! (I resisted.)
As the clock struck 5 and I made my last purchase of the day, the vendor told me that she is running the NYC Marathon. We wished each other luck.
I attempted to start a knitting blog many moons ago but, like so many UFOs, it has been hibernating for years. Once I revive it, I will link to it from here.