Guide to fiber events in the US, part three

October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Smaller shows don’t often get the attention of their larger and medium-sized brethren on Ravelry and other fiber craft websites, but they are some of my favorite events of the year. Many of these smaller shows have free or very low cost admission with reasonable crowds and great opportunities to speak directly with producers, dyers, spinners, and breeders. Beyond that it is hard to generalize; each show seems to focus on the fiber types common to that area, and as such each will have different activities, animals, visitors, and vendors.

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to attend two, both for the second time each, and they did not disappoint. The first, Homespun Yarn Party, a show in the Washington, DC/Baltimore region, I look forward to because it is a chance to interact with local knitters and dyers that focuses on the community aspect of fiber crafts.

The second show, Lamafest in East Lansing, MI, I love because it focuses mostly on the animals and the fiber they produce. Many vendors at Lamafest bring a selection of goods that are entirely made in Michigan, with the wool (or fiber) having been grown, cleaned, carded, spun, and dyed within 75 miles of the show. Often you can see the animals from whom your fiber came standing just a few aisles away.

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Event: Homespun Yarn Party (HYP)
Date: Typically the third weekend in March
Location: Savage Mill, MD
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Sidewalks, with asphalt in the parking lots (some street parking may be quite hilly, but there is ample handicap parking in the actual parking lots for the mill complex)
Inside pathways: Wood and carpeted floors
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 20 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Yes, in other parts of the mill complex
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms with baby-changing tables. There are bathroom stall hooks and the lines aren’t too long.
Other amenities: Water fountains; small shops nearby sell everything from pastries to antiques to gourmet dog treats
Number of times I’ve attended: 2

Homespun Yarn Party is a small local show that features indie dyers, spinners, fiber producers, and fiber-related craft things (e.g., project bags, spindle bags). There’s also a charity knitting and crochet event, a spinning contest, and best of all it’s all indoors so no worrying about the weather (it always seems to be drizzly on HYP weekend).

Pros: HYP is a small show, so it’s easily doable in an afternoon. A lot of the big name dyers and vendors from the Maryland area are here, including Cephalopod Yarns, Dragonfly Fibers, Neighborhood Fiber Co., and the Verdant Gryphon. Other notable vendors include Space Cadet Creations, That Clever Clementine!, and Cavey Family Farm (they sell beautiful Montadale wool). If you’re a spinner you’ll be able to indulge in some indie-dyed fiber and many different types of handcrafted spindles. While no vendors sell weaving looms or spinning wheels, if you’re a weaver who enjoys working with handdyed yarns it’s worth a trip. There’s also a vendor who sells gigantic rug yarn (with accompanying huge needles) that can be woven or knitted.

Cons: HYP is a bit too close to MDSW (in terms of timing) for my liking; MDSW is about 6 weeks away and I feel sort of competes with that event for time and attention.

Also, the Great Room at Savage Mill can get really hot from everyone crowded in it, so dress in layers despite it being an indoor event. You may have to wait in line in a hallway outside the Great Room to enter if you show up right when the event starts; I prefer to arrive a bit later because of this.

Don’t miss: the half-hourly drawings for free gifts, typically yarns and patterns and project bags donated by vendors. (You have to be present to win.)

Do take advantage of the back deck (the exit is on the back right side of the room near Cephalopod Yarns’ booth) if you feel you need some fresh air. Also, sometimes spinners set up wheels out there and many break out their new spindles and fibers, so it’s fun to watch the demonstrations. You can also see Savage Creek that used to power the mill complex, although the wheel itself is not operational.

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Event: Lamafest
Date: Labor Day weekend, Saturday and Sunday
Location: East Lansing, MI
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Sidewalks, with asphalt in the parking lots
Inside pathways: Cement floors
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 3 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Yes; think sporting-event food
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms with baby-changing tables. There are bathroom stall hooks and no bathroom lines.
Other amenities: Water fountains
Number of times I’ve attended: 2

Lamafest was the second fiber festival I ever attended, and it is a very, very small show, filled with (surprise!) llamas and alpacas. There are only about twenty vendors but they all sell lovely merchandise, mostly featuring llama and alpaca yarn and fiber.

Pros: As the show is so small, it’s not very crowded and it’s easy to really get to look at everything the vendors have to offer. Many also sell wool products too, so even if you’re not wild about camelid fibers you’re sure to find something to tempt you. Most of the vendors are from very small farms so the merchandise is very special (in other words, if you see something you love, buy it), and the prices are really almost too reasonable. This year I was able to find some delightful Shetland fiber grown in Potterville, MI, and cleaned and carded at Zeilinger’s in Frankenmuth, MI, for only $2 an ounce. I also bought a dark gray llama batt – as I was purchasing it, the vendor’s friend walked by and said, “Oh, I recognize that, it’s from Thunder! He’s so soft.” Only at Lamafest!

Next to the vendors area you can walk around and admire all the llamas and alpacas (also this year there was a camel good-naturedly tolerating a swarm of toddlers), and don’t forget to check out the llama and alpaca show in the show ring. The Mid-Michigan Spinning Guild also does demonstrations in the vendor area too, and are more than happy to share some spinning knowledge with you. They also sell some of their gorgeous handspun too.

Cons: There aren’t any food options available for anyone who doesn’t want sporting event food. However, East Lansing isn’t that far away so if you’re hungry after the show, just drive a few miles north and there’s lots of restaurants on Grand River Avenue.

Don’t miss: the llama and alpaca fashion show! It is the hands-down highlight of the event and the creativity of the owners is unparalleled.

Also, if you drove from outside the East Lansing area, check out my favorite yarn shop in the entire universe, Woven Art. It’s just a few miles north of the MSU Pavilion where Lamafest is held and worth a visit for beautiful yarns and fibers for all sorts of fiber crafts. (Yes, even after Lamafest I drove up to Woven Art to go shopping and knit with my friends. It was the perfect end to a fiber-y day.)

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Previously:

Part one, featuring larger shows, and

Part two, featuring medium-sized shows

Up next:

Part four, featuring dyer open houses, yarn crawls, and mill tours, and

Part five, featuring tips for safety and comfort at fiber events.

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