Rhinebeck Newbie

It's that time of year. Looking back over the past and maybe making a list of what you want your 2018 to look like. Maybe you need more of this in your life?

Have you heard people bring up "Rhinebeck" in conversation and wonder what the heck they were talking about? And why they said it while gazing wistfully into the distance? I first heard the it uttered during the load-out of a Broadway show I was working on. Someone was happy the show closed before "Rhinebeck" so she could attend, because otherwise she wouldn't have been able to get time off to go. So - she was happy to be unemployed because it meant she could attend an event that wasn't a wedding, family vacation, graduation, etc. I thought, "This thing must be pretty awesome."

I'm definitely more of a sewist than a knitter/crocheter but I'm curious about all kinds of fiber arts. So, of course, I googled. The official name is New York State Sheep and Wool Festival and it began in 1980. It's held on the Duchess County Fairgrounds in beautiful Rhinebeck, NY (hence the nickname) on the third full weekend in October every year.  Workshops, competitions, livestock displays, and vendors, vendors, vendors. It makes me think of my county fair days back in Ohio - but much more colorful! I'm lucky to live about an hour away from Rhinebeck so I thought it would be fun to check it out for myself. I'm so glad I did...

I had work-work on Saturday morning (and was getting over the flu) so I wasn't able to go that day, which is the 'big day.' I was originally bummed about this but there was still PLENTY to see on Sunday. Looking back, I think it was a good thing I had to go on the second day of the festival. I overheard that Saturday was their highest attendance EVER so I would've just been dealing with that and not able to see the loveliness. As a vendor told me, "My advice for first timers is this: Look on Saturday, buy on Sunday." I don't know how I would've been able to hold back but I think it's good advice!

I grabbed a friend and hit the road early. We made a stop on the way to real-life meet some lovely people: @vanessa_knits, @premknits, @sere_k_nity, @knittysknittycreation and @lnsandbe. They all attended Saturday and were heading out. I wish we could've visited more but there was just time for a quick meet/visit and some festival coaching from the ladies. They made me feel much better about being a first-timer and what to expect.

The "festival" part of the name of this event is so appropriate. There really is a fun, festive air to the entire scene. It takes place on a picturesque fairgrounds and there are so many makers, doing their thing and excited to meet other makers. Along with the over-200 vendors, there are competitions, livestock displays, demonstrations, workshops, book signings, an equipment auction and even kids' activities. Pace yourself!

I didn't take any workshops and I (regretfully) did not get to see the canine frisbee demonstrations, but I did walk around aaall the vendor booths. I thought it would be the best way to get a real overview of why a maker would be so excited to go to Rhinebeck. Let me tell you - I get it! As you may expect, the majority of vendors were yarn-focused. I found one lone sewing booth (Hi Brooklyn Haberdashery!) along with many rug-hooking and roving vendors. If you are looking to pick up any new skill that involves wool, this event will start you on your way. I've always wanted to start needle felting so I was in heaven. (And I later heard from a co-worker the roving prices were great, which made me feel better after the fact because I bought a few big puffy bunches of it!)

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I've always wanted to start needle felting so I was in heaven.

Not to doubt your superhero abilities but YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER ANYTHING. That yarn you saw just as you were leaving and had already hit your spending limit but maybe you'll find later on-line? Gone to history... A system I've used on some vacations is to take a photo of the sign of every landmark/park/attraction before I take any photos at the landmark/park/attraction. That way my organizing is done for me and I don't have to stop to write notes. I didn't take my own advice at Rhinebeck and I'm kicking myself now. And remember to clear out your phone storage before you go! I did manage to pick up many, many business cards. One of the great parts of an event like this is discovering new stores and sources.

I heard many vendors taking orders to ship items direct to customers. Many stalls were even set up as more display/touch-and-feel areas than straight-up shopping areas, which I thought was a good move. The staff was free to really talk to people and take time with them instead of working around the crowd while trying to restock. Some vendors bring special Rhinebeck-y items that are limited edition (keep an eye out on Instagram in the weeks leading up to the big event) so definitely seek those out and pick them up if you want the special kit or limited-edition yarn for that year. But don't be shy to ask someone working the booth if you want to order something and if they have any deals on shipping. 

Many vendors have gift items for display as well. Finished garments and projects, decorative objects and toys share space with materials and supplies. Next time I'll budget for holiday gifts as well as my craft materials. 

My favorite unexpected discovery was Sweitzer's Fiber Mill. It was my first time seeing corn, soybean and mint yarn! (Yes, I smelled it and, yes, they caught me.) They were very nice people. Their focus seems to be on fiber processing but they had some lovely items of their own to offer (see above photos). Some of the colors were inspired by the photographs of the owners' daughter, Lilli. Hence the name "Lilli's Rainbow Yarns." Hearing that definitely tugged at my mama heartstrings. Unfortunately, I found them late in the day after I'd spent my budget.  I didn't buy anything on the spot but I'm looking forward to buying some of their yarn in the future.

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Yup.

I Ran my fingers through that.

A word about festival merchandise: If getting the tote bag, t-shirt, etc. is important to you, think about taking advantage of the pre-sale and pick up option available on the festival's website. I saw a 'Sold Out' sign on the merchandise tent for multiple items. And why wait in line to buy something you already know you want? This is the Super Bowl of Yarn for many people - you may find yourself being one of them!

As with any large event, planning is key: There are many, many small buildings spread out over the grounds (among vendors set up outside buildings along the walking paths) and it's easy to get overwhelmed. In the week before the festival, I took some time and wrote down the names, building numbers and stall numbers of the vendors I didn't want to miss. While I was at the festival, I realized the stall numbers weren't very helpful. The stall numbers aren't displayed as clearly as the vendor's name, so it ended up being extra information I couldn't use. The program that is provided with admission is fantastic. It has a great map and a full list of vendors. 

Some nitty gritty stuff...Parking was free and very well-organized. I saw only one small water fountain so plan to either buy water or haul around a lot. The bathrooms were excellent but, given the fact this event attracts a majority of female attendants, there were lines as the day wore on. The fairgrounds are very well-maintained with paved paths that can be navigated easily. As per usual in this part of the country, the terrain is hilly but I did see people in wheelchairs and motorscooters that were getting around without difficulty. There's a bag check! I personally like to lug around my purchases in order to keep spending in check, but that may not work for everyone. 

This event is very popular (and not in a major metropolitan area) so housing options fill up quickly. If you are really excited to attend, book workshops and a hotel ASAP. (As a guideline, workshop registration this year opened on June 1.) I am lucky to live within driving distance but I heard that all hotels within a 30 minute drive were sold out. Also, in case you didn't hear, Indie Untangled hosts a trunk show the Friday night before Rhinebeck in a hotel near (but separate from) the main event. I heard it was a busy, busy place but definitely for good reason.

The booths get very, very, very crowded very, very quickly. As lovely as fiber artists are in general, I did experience some light jostling ... I'm not going to say shoving. Maybe because it was Sunday and people were filling out their shopping lists. Who's to say? Also, I'm going to wait until my daughter is around 7 or 8 to share the Rhinebeck shopping experience with her. She's beyond stroller age but I witnessed some heated exchanges around a stroller in a booth and would not like to put either of us through a similar experience if I can help it. If I do choose to take her with me next time, I would bring along someone to sit with her, watch the sheepdog shows, take her to the petting zoo and let her visit with lamas.

Oh, and a veeeery yarn-y friend of mine directed me to this post before I went and I found it helpful.

i'm guessing that face was made because I was high on wool fumes.

i'm guessing that face was made because I was high on wool fumes.

Just to finish things off, here's the roundup of my purchases. Lots of colorful roving from Bartlett Yarns, sashiko needles from Brooklyn Haberdashery (two different lengths!), and lovely white fluffiness from Twist of Fate Spinnery. Oh, and some yarn from Dragonfly Fibers

the obligatory haul photo...yup, i'm a sucker for roving.

the obligatory haul photo...yup, i'm a sucker for roving.

I'm so glad I made time to visit this lovely event. It really has it all - beautiful scenery, passionate attendees, and sheep!

Stitches Midwest - Worth It Every Time!

I first heard of Stitches Midwest in 2013. I had recently opened my Etsy shop and just been accepted to appear in the upcoming One Of A Kind Show in Chicago. I knew it was time to step it up a notch and fill in some holes in my self taught crochet knowledge so I searched for area events and voila... my discovery of Stitches Midwest. As luck would have it, Drew Emborsky (The Crochet Dude), who was a big inspiration of mine and a name I recognized, was teaching a class, so I knew it was serendipitous. I enrolled right away and was grateful for a local find!

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

While it seemed to be more a knitting event, I had a blast and the class I enrolled in was simply fabulous. There were several A-Ha! moments and "oh man that's HOW you do that" light bulbs going off in class with Drew. I learned so much and could not have been happier and, in fact, we are friends to this very day! I also shopped until I dropped (for real) in the market and discovered all sorts of tools, fibers and delights. I learned Tunisian Crochet and discovered the Big Alpaca Bump from Becca Smith. That was also the year I met indie dyer Katie of Dragonfly Fibers, who I have worked with ever since.  A total success!


In 2014 I returned with Katie to grab my enormous haul of incredible hand dyed delights she made for me. For real... it was So. Much. Yarn. I wandered a bit and got to discover Karen and her company Fringe Supply Co with her lovely rosewood hooks and notions for fiber folk. That was also the year I met Stephen West and Steven Be,  which launched our fiber affair. (more on that later). So all in all... another success!

I had to skip 2015 due to being on location for a shoot so was super excited to return in 2016. I was pleased as punch to discover that so many more crochet oriented classes and vendors were there. These were MY people. My fiber business was taking off and thriving, I had just launched this blog and was dialing in to go full time and full steam fiber dream chasing so I had a feeling it would be special. It was more special than I could have imagined.

Due to my schedule, I wasn't able to take any classes but was able to see some amazing humans and tear it up in the market. I got to spend some time with The ShibaGuyz Shannon & Jason Mullet-Bowlsby in person. We had basically become social media besties at that point so being in the same room was just too fun. And of course, Jason & I landed in a deep discussion about photo apps. I mean, no one was surprised by this.

And HUGE Bonus, Shannon introduced me to Theresa & Ron of The Buffalo Wool Co.. Not only are they two of the nicest human beings I have ever met, they have an incredible story and fiber. You know I didn't leave empty handed. Please check them out - you will NOT regret it. 

Then I made a mad dash over to Steven Be's booth for what can only be described as fiber fabulosity and the birth of our fibar antics and mayhem! At this point, I had to resort to using my auxiliary shopping bag because the yummy fiber finds were just to good to leave. I needed to get All. The. Yarn. It was my introduction to Freia Fibers and I have never looked back. And of course there's always time for fun fiber antics with Steven.

I hopped over to Yarn Culture New York where I met Patti and discovered her amazing fibers, including Crave Yarn. I was immediately in love with the colors and textures of Crave Yarn, appropriately named by the way because I was craving it on sight and it was SO SOFT! I also had to grab some of her Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino because it was very interesting and a bit heavier than most DK weight fibers and the colors are so vibrant. Total score!

A quick haul to the car to unload the day's finds and then a yarn break to recharge. It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car. Convention entrance seemed to be a good place to park for a minute.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

Fully recharged I was super excited to stop by and see what the gals at Dragonfly Fibers had for me this year. I also finally got to meet Nancye, the other half of the magnificent dyeing duo!

And I was not disappointed. Normally I am drawn to their bulky Super Traveller but the new gradient kits had me swooning over worsted & dk weight like never before. Their colors are always so vibrant and fun.

 

Before heading out, I wanted to stop by the Halos of Hope to thank them for all they do. I have been partnered with Halos of Hope since 2014 to make and send chemo caps to cancer centers nationwide. You can read the full story here. 

Even though I had partnered with Halos for years, I had never met Pam in person. It was such a treat to see her there. She is spunky and fun and fabulous and genuine and exactly all the things you can imagine of such a kind person.  I was blown away by this beautiful woman and sharing a few minutes with her.  We bounced around Stitches Midwest booths and laughed and it was so much fun to connect. The absolute highlight of my day and a perfect way to cap off Stitches Midwest 2016.


When the Early Bird registration email for Stitches Midwest 2017 arrived I was ON IT! I was particularly excited when I realized Shannon & Jason (The Shibaguyz) would be back teaching the classes I missed last year. SCORE! And they added Jason's photography class. Um... HELLO please take my money and sign me up!

Now... before I get into the market madness and all my fabulous finds (and trust me, this may have been the BEST YEAR YET), let me do a little classes review first. Short review: THEY WERE SO GOOD. I learned so much. Longer review...

The Alter to Fit class was great to fill in some gaps in my self taught design knowledge. I also learned so much from hands on measuring and what I call Designer Math. If you ever want to get a pattern but Alter it to Fit, this is the class to take. If it comes to a town near you sign up, you can also get started online here.

Fab Crochet Fabrics was so good, though it did fly by. The class was small enough that Shannon & Jason taught a bit more conversationally than by following a strict layout. I feel like we could have gone on all day. It was such a joy to discuss and learn about texture, drape and how to determine the right yarn and stitch for your project. What a great thing to be in a room full of creative people on the same page as you. I just didn't want the class to end. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

The photo class was great but definitely too short. What was super cool is that it was interactive. Learning stances. Learning about lighting. Not from seats but from being up with our cameras or phones and doing it. It was great to have a photography class that focused on FIBER. What we are trying to show and feature in our work. So many great tips tricks and hacks too that I am blown away.  OK... so that is the classes.

 

Now on to the market... and Oh - Emmmm- Geeeeeeeee. If you follow me on Instagram you saw the awesomeness as it happened!

One of the best parts of Stitches Midwest is seeing fiber friends who are too far to see often. One of my faves is Steven Be. At first when I didn't think I would make this year's event missing out on a shopping day with Steven be was the worst part. But then when I was able to attend, well it was of course a highlight. His whole team, Missy, Pippin, Erin and the King Bee himself, are all so much fun to play yarn with.

And they curate some of the most FANTASTIC fibers that make me swoon. Colors and texture... it is a sensory overload upon arrival in the best way.  I may have stopped by a few times over the course of the event, going back for more each time. I even got a new Blue Sky Kit for the most incredible cocoon I cannot wait to make.

Speaking of seeing fiber friends, of course I stopped by Dragonfly Fibers a few times and may have left with 2 large bags of yarn. Thank you Nancye!

 

I made my way over to Yarn Culture New York to visit with Patti and see all her new fibers. Oh my goodness, her offerings are always so classic and modern all at once. It is that perfect balance. The new "joy" weight of Rosy Green Wool Cheeky merino is so fabulous and is indeed full of joy. Of course I had to grab some in shades of blue and cannot wait to design something fabulous... for the Fellas! We had time to chat a bit and cook up a few new ideas together so stay tuned... because some fun things from us are coming soon.

The other great thing about Stitches Midwest is discovering all of the amazing new Fiber Friends. I found an incredible hand carved size S Crochet Hook when I met Sandy & Dennis from S & S Camelid Co. They have an Alpaca Farm and sell the big Bump's of yarn! Rugs will be made!!!

making important yarn decisions with Dami of Magpie Fibers

I also met Dami from Magpie Fibers. Dami gets me. I had breezed by Magpie on my first trip as I must have been in a daze and missed her offerings. Thankfully she tagged #StitchesMidwest in an Instagram post and it caught my eye as I searched the hashtag. So I made a point to head to her booth.

After staring at her fibers for what must have been an eternity, she came over. Clearly I needed assistance lol. You know how it goes... you see a fiber you REALLY want to work with but you don't have a plan yet? Lord knows I don't need to grow my yarn stash. So the staring game begins. Between me and the yarn. It tells me to take it home and I tell it I must first devise a plan. Dami could see I was clearly in over my head staring down her incredible offerings so I am glad she came over to introduce herself and help.

I think what made me an instant fan of hers was that before she asked me if I needed assistance she offered to join me in the stare down. THIS IS SOMEONE WHO GETS IT! So we stared. Then we chatted. Then she helped me come up with a plan and I cannot wait to show you what I make.

Truth be known, there was no way I was going home without some of her fibers. But at least I can feel better about it now with a plan. :-)

So many incredible finds. Over the next few months I will be showing you some close ups and launching special collaborations and projects that showcase some makers and finds from the Stitches Midwest market. We have some really special stuff planned for you guys and you know that means a few AWESOMESAUCE giveaways too.

Click the photos below to get to the vendor site of some of my fave finds. 

If you have ever considered attending an event like Stitches, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Being around YOUR people. Supporting small businesses. Learning and meeting fabulous humans.  It's been 5 years since my first Stitches Midwest. Some years I took a class and some I didn't. Every year was different. Some vendors the same and some new ones to discover. Always awesome. Always worth it.

And of course... when you go... make some time for antics and a hat lesson with Steven. Enjoy.

Taking A Trip With Super Traveller

Me & Kate in the Dragonfly Fibers booth

I attended my first Stitches Midwest event in 2013.  I had no idea what I was in for though. I arrived early the first day to check out the market place before my class. It was instant sensory overload of the most magnificent kind. Yarn, tools, supplies, more yarn and so many wonderful people. It was fabulous.

Though a bit overwhelmed, one Fiber Artist's booth stood out. I was drawn to the amazing vibrant colorways of Dragonfly Fibers. And once I started touching and felt the texture of the merino... well, thankfully I was in my element or I would have gotten strange looks I bet.

Kate Chiocchio, the artist is a wonderful woman and I knew I had to start working with her in an instant. Within a week I placed my first order and have been placing more orders since.

The items I create with Dragonfly Fibers are always well received in my shop and everyone loves the colors. They are some of my biggest sellers at the Chicago One Of A kind Show each year.

Bags Of Yarn Make Me Smile

In 2014, when I visited Kate again at Stitches Midwest to pick up my most recent order, I got the idea to design patterns for the Super Traveller which is my favorite of her offerings.  I just cannot get enough of it. It is a super wash merino bulky fiber that works up so wonderfully. The rich colors come alive with each stitch. I wanted to bring the personality of the color of the fiber to life through a collection. 

Of course, you know how it goes, add an idea to the To Do list and get back to work on other projects and eventually try to get to that idea on the list of many.

Rockin' The First of The New Roma Traveller Puff Stitch Hats

 

Then, about 8 weeks ago I got my latest shipment of Dragonfly Fibers Super Traveller and it spoke to me. The colors, the texture... So inspired, it stopped me in my tracks and I got to work on some new patterns right away. No more delay!

I had been working with the Puff Stitch (one of my favorites) when my yarn arrived and I knew it would lend itself so well to the bulky texture of the Dragonfly Super Traveller.

I started with a new beanie. It is actually an update on an old pattern of mine that I never really loved. It worked up so quickly and so perfectly it was like magic. Now, it is my fave hat instantly!

And, that magical combination led me to design the Puff The Magic Stitch Collection. It is divinely cozy, works up so well and takes you on a trip through the rainbow of color with variations on a stitch.

So, pick a pattern, get some Dragonfly Fibers Super Traveller and you too will fall in love. They are available on Ravelry, my site and Etsy pattern shop.