Guide to fiber events in the US, part four

November 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

zeilinger's fiber mill

While fiber festivals are a lot of fun, there’s other great things to do and see if you’re interested in wool and how it is transformed from fleece to fiber. Here in part four of the guide to fiber events I cover yarn crawls, dyer open studios, and visiting fiber mills.

Yarn crawls are the fiber events with which I suspect most knitters are familiar, if only because they seem to happen in almost any region where there are at least three yarn shops.

Dyer open houses (and their hybrid relatives the dyer open house yarn crawl) are a varied bunch, reflecting the personality of the dyer and her studio. Some are like tiny fiber festivals, with outside vendors selling food and bringing animals, and others are like knit nights with lots of shopping.

Finally, there are fiber mills that offer tours. Many fiber mills do not offer tours for various reasons, but I know of two that do: Zeilinger’s in Frankenmuth, MI and Harrisville Designs in Harrisville, NH. If you like machinery and fiber they’re a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

cy skinny bugga!

Event: Yarn studio open houses
Date: Variable, depends on the dyer
Location: Dyer’s studio
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Variable – some are in cities with sidewalks, others are in rural or light industrial areas with none
Inside pathways: Variable – typically cement if it’s a warehouse-y kind of place
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 10 minutes to find a spot (frequently these involve street parking)
Food/drink: Maybe; may not be vegetarian/special diet-friendly
Bathroom status: Clean, may or may not have bathroom hooks (but that’s because they’re mostly workspaces and not necessarily set up for visitors)
Number of times I’ve attended: 3

Rather than write up each open house, here’s a brief rundown of what typically happens at a dyer’s open house. Generally they have a lot of yarn for sale, it’s a great chance to meet local knitters/crafters, and sometimes there’s food and/or drink, either brought by guests or provided by the studio. Beyond that there can sometimes be sit and knits, charity events, or just general yarn drooling.

Pros: If you like a dyer’s work, nothing is more fun than meeting them in their “native habitat” and seeing all their gorgeous yarns in one place, with an even larger selection than at a show or festival. Often local designers will show up too, which is a great chance to meet and greet with them as well.

Cons: You see all the yarn and want to buy all the yarn. Generally there are no ATMs at dyer studios but they all take credit cards, cash, and sometimes checks.

Don’t miss: the chance to buy a custom-dyed pot or two of yarn! (Assuming they’re offering it, anyway.) Make sure you get yourself on the list ASAP as there is a limit to how many pots can be done that day.

skinny bugga! dyed at an open house

Event: Yarn crawls
Date: Variable, depends on who’s running it
Location: Yarn shops and/or dye studios
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Variable – depends on yarn shop/dyer location
Inside pathways: Cement or other hard surface, typically.
Entrance fee: Free or paid, depends on the organizers (if it is paid, there’s usually coupons and gift bags involved)
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 10 minutes to find a spot (frequently these involve street parking) per location
Food/drink: Maybe; may not be vegetarian/special diet-friendly
Bathroom status: Clean; typically the stores will have bathroom hooks but the dyer studios won’t.
Number of times I’ve attended: 3

Yarn shop crawls often have a passport or other stampable item available so that at the end of the crawl, you have enough stamps to earn a pattern. Some, instead of doing stamps, offer part of a pattern. Most LYS crawls cost some money, although often you get the pattern, sometimes coupons, and often a tote bag. Some shops also offer a discount for that day at the shop.

Dyer crawls (well, the one I’ve been on) don’t tend to have an admission fee but you also don’t get a gift bag. The Maryland Hand-dyers’ Guild Crawl last year offered stamps, but I forgot my stamp booklet at home and so never really figured out what the stamps were for. I think it was a contest? Anyway, I was there for the chance to not only see the dyers’ yarns but to also check out some smaller local vendors, who were vending at the studios.

Pros: LYS crawls, especially if you live in an area with a lot of yarn shops, offer the chance to check out the wares at each shop and get to know the staff there. Going with friends or by yourself is equally fun in my opinion, as even if you’re shopping solo knitters and fiber crafters love to help others pick out patterns and yarns.

Dyer studio crawls offer similar opportunities as their open houses: a chance to see the whole line and meet and chat with the dyer and other local crafters.

Cons: There seems to be something about an LYS crawl that brings out the impulsive purchaser in me, and in others too I’ve noticed. In many groups and with my knitting friends, we’ve all grumbled about yarn we’ve purchased with no real purpose in mind. I don’t tend to participate very much in LYS crawls any more for this reason.

Studio crawls fall under the same pitfalls as the open houses do, with the side effect of realizing that after the crawl is over, you’ve bought a lot of yarn…at each studio!

Don’t miss: The great deals that often pop up for LYS crawls, sometimes up to 25% off regular yarn (not just sale-bin yarn). At dyer open houses, enjoy being able to find sweater quantities of indie-dyed yarn in large enough quantities that you can select the best-matching skeins.

wool at Zeilinger's

Event: Fiber mill tours
Date: Variable – call ahead
Location: Various – call or check the website before heading out
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Variable
Inside pathways: Typically cement or wood
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Variable – can sometimes involve street parking
Food/drink: No
Bathroom status: Clean; may or may not have bathroom hooks as these are workplaces.
Number of times I’ve attended: 2

I have mentioned this before, but sometimes I think I like crafting because it’s the chance to see and use awesome new tools and machinery. I love a good educational tour, and putting fiber and scary-looking machines in a room together and I’m happy.

Pros: The two mills I have visited offer free tours – at Zeilinger’s they are self-guided, and at Harrisville you must call ahead (I’d recommend at least a week in advance – my family was unable to go on the actual tour itself because of time constraints, but the mill store staff were happy to tell us about the history of the mill). Being able to buy the yarn or fiber right where it’s made is very cool, and since it’s made right there there’s usually enough yarn in any one type/dyelot for larger projects.

Cons: Since these are working mills, be aware that they may not be suitable for children (Harrisville does not allow minors on their mill tours). The tours make take guests through areas that are not handicap accessible due to narrow walkways and/or stairs (especially at Zeilinger’s, where the sock machines are located upstairs). Also, they are dusty and loud places.

Don’t miss: The chance to see all the different machines in action! I loved seeing the machine that turns the fiber into large strips of roving. At Zeilinger’s they also have a bunch of sock machines running, churning out socks. (Learn more about Zeilinger’s in this post from 2011.)


Part one, featuring larger shows,

Part two, featuring medium-sized shows, and

Part three, featuring smaller shows

Up next:

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


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