Rhinebeck 2011

Be warned, this is a cranky post.

Well, I wish I could say I was as enthusiastic about my Rhinebeck experience this year as I have in years past, but I can’t. The company was superb: I went with my good friend Susie, of Knitting Knoobie fame.  The view was as lovely…

The sheep were just as cute…

The donuts were as yummy…

But the weather was an issue this year; heavy rains the night before rendered much of the grassy parking areas unusable due to flooding. This means it took earlybirds like myself an hour and a half to drive the short distance from the Rhinecliff Bridge to the fairgrounds. After a long drive from the city, that’s torture. My first stop, needless to say, was the restroom. I consider myself lucky – those who arrived later than I did had an even longer wait.

I have written & re-written this post over the past 2 weeks, as I was unhappy with the tone of it. Suffice it to say, that there were numerous things the fairgrounds staff could have & should have done better. And I don’t blame them, the folks who should have been managing & training their staff to accommodate their customers didn’t prepare well. This is a large, popular festival & people come from all over the world to attend. It’s unfair to make people wait for so bloody long to get in. Unfair to those waiting to get in, and to the vendors inside wondering where their customers are.

After the positive experiences of last year, I had planned to go to Stitches East to do my major yarn shopping, and use my Rhinebeck time for socializing & shopping more for non-yarn items: buttons, tools, gifts, foods. Alas, most of the vendors I really wanted to see [Tess’ Yarns & Sanguine Gryphon] said they wouldn’t be going to Stitches this year, only to Rhinebeck, which is a pity. Stitches East is an indoor, well lit, spacious shopping experience. Last year I wound up buying a lot more than I had expected to because it was laid out so well, I got to see more yarns than I knew I would find there. So I spent my time at Rhinebeck hunting for yarn & nothing else.

After the frustration of getting there, I must admit my enthusiasm had waned a bit. I didn’t get to see all of the vendors I had planned to, and the popular ones booths were so crowded, it was hard to get in to shop, and harder still to find what you wanted. But I managed to get a tidy haul for myself.

Tess’ Designer Yarns was in attendance this year, and I was happy to have found them. I first discovered them at Stitches East last year, and I loved the Superwash Merino I had purchased from them. I turned it into a February Lady cardigan. I was pleased with the yarn & was determined to get some more this year. Their booth was a bit small for their needs, and navigating it was difficult due to the crowded layout & the throngs of people. It didn’t help that their location was misprinted in the map of vendors & no explanation was available in the location where they were supposed to be.

I bought this lovely Superwash Merino in a deep cranberry red for a Christmas sweater for my Mum.

Sanuine Gryphon was even more crowded than Tess’ booth, with a line of patiently waiting customers that extended out of the building, and wound its way around & around. This was too much for me after the traffic fiasco, so I decided to spare myself & leave them for the next day.

The next day, we arrived early & were first in line for Sanguine Gryphon. They booth was decorated as festively as we have come to expect, the yarns were put out and ready & the girls were in costume. By the time they opened, the line extended out of the building. We waited, ran in & grabbed whatever we could of whatever was left over from Saturday.

It. Was. Chaos. Pushing & short tempers are not what I associate with knitty folks, but that’s how it was.

Here’s what I bought: A sweater’s worth of beautiful Bugga in Ruddy Daggerwing…a beautiful coppery color that embodies autumn…

…+ a couple of skeins of  purply Vampire Moth for contrasting trim.

Considering the sad news of Sanguine Gryphon’s closing, I’m glad I got as much as I did.

There were other vendors that I never got to see: Blackberry Hill Farm has some beautiful yarns, Melissa Jean makes handmade ceramic buttons that are both beautiful & affordable, Bartlett Yarns  makes a nice sport weight in cones, but they didn’t have many colors with them this year, Miss Babs who I found at Stitches East last year & has such pretty colorways. And it didn’t help that I came down with a cold & left early on Sunday.

I will go back to Rhinebeck next year, but if it’s as crazy & inconvenient as it was this year, I think it will be my last. Without the room to move, shopping becomes a chore to be endured, rather than an experience to savor. These days, you can shop online anytime. I used to wait for the festivals & buy there, but I think I’ll be happier just buying what I want online or at my LYS. I pray that next year is better than this year.

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Rhinebeck: the stash

I was a busy girl this year! I bought some great yarns & some really beautiful buttons at Rhinebeck. Wanna see?

From the Sanguine Gryphon: amazing yarns from really lovely people

Sarah & Gryphon came in Renaissance dress!

now for the goods: cat approved

Little Traveller in Eastern State Penitentiary

Q.E.D. in Schrodinger's Cat

Q.E.D. in Mandible

Free Range in Ruffled Grouse

Free Range in Woodcock

Traveller in Tenochtitlan

I’d never bought any yarns from Sanguine Gryphon before – every time I checked out their website I had timed it badly, so that the colors I liked were either sold out, or in quantities too low for sweater-making. I’ll be watching their website more closely from now on, I assure you!

The only other yarn I bought was from an indie producer called Blackberry Hill Farm.

Beautiful, undyed worsted from Blackberry Hill Farm

They had some nice looking fleeces, but this yarn really caught my eye. This yarn looked handspun to me, but apparently it isn’t. Still, it’s beautifully made, long staple & it has that new-sheep smell. 😉

And finally, I also found some fantastic ceramic buttons from Melissa Jean Design. I have a hard time finding buttons that I actually like. At this booth, I had trouble making a final decision – I wanted them all!

handmade buttons from Melissa Jean Design

I had a wonderful time at Rhinebeck & a fairly productive shopping trip, to boot. I can’t wait ’til next year. *sigh*

Ahhh, Rhinebeck.

Ahhh, Rhinebeck. Also known as the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival to those with lots of spare time on their hands. I dreamt of it for a whole year, and it finally came.

This year’s festival was just as much fun as I had anticipated, but the pleasant weather provided an unforeseen twist; crowds. Last year was my first time at Rhinebeck, and the weather was decidedly…damp. Not so this year.

What attracts folks to this festival? The promise of beautiful new yarns? The chance to meet up with like-minded people? The chance to see a breathtaking parade of hand-knit garments and their creators? Or is it just the donuts? 😉

The weather was glorious & folks came in droves. It’s amazing that in a sea of people you can still manage to run into people you actually know. I managed to see Susie (KnittingKnoobie), Allyson (Thru the Back Loop), Ann (Pinneguri), and a whole bunch more people – some from Ravelry, some from Twitter, *all* of them, lovely, but having missed both Ravelry Meetups, I feel the loss of those I missed (like Kristin & Mary Jane!). Why did I miss the meetup? I had an EXCELLENT reason. I was standing in line to make a purchase. It was *the* longest line I had seen in the whole festival, and it was long for a reason. The yarns that folks were waiting to buy were divine.

I believe this was the Sanguine Gryphon‘s first year at the festival, and I really hope they return next year. Their sense of color is unparalleled, and their yarns are really beautiful.

Sunday was less crazy than Saturday, and I got to hit the vendors I really liked for a second time, and enjoy more of the scenery. I didn’t take any classes this year, instead I came away with a very nice little stash of new yarn and other knitting-related goodies, which I will show you next time.

I’ll leave you with some piccies of the sheep, goats & alpacas we saw. The sheep & goats had been friskier the day before, but they had been sheared & I guess that makes them a little cranky. :p

Goin’ to Rhinebeck!

I admit it – I have been waiting impatiently for this weekend ever since I left Rhinebeck last year, but at long last, the interminable wait is over. Tomorrow morning I’ll hit the road heading north in a quest for unique fibery treasures & as-of-yet unknown delights. I’ll post again when I return with lots of pics & things to share about this year’s wool festival. Stay tuned for what I hope will be a fun update!

Rhinebeck – addendum

Did I mention the class I took at Rhinebeck before the big weekend? No? Well, I’ll do it now. I won a free class courtesy of ShepherdSusie who held a contest on Twitter, and I chose to take a class with the amazing Kathryn Alexander.

kathryn_alexander(photo from http://www.kathrynalexander.net)

I chose her class because her style is the exact opposite of mine. I gravitate towards solid colors, and traditional forms. Kathryn takes color & shape and makes them dance. It’s an awesome skill to behold, by one who does not possess it. I figured I’d learn the most from someone whose fiber muse is so different from my own! Her technique is heavily influenced by entrelac, and her sense of color is amazing. Her designs exude joy.

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The pretty little haystacks of colorful yarns were arranged on the table when we arrived – hand dyed & prepared by Kathryn herself – and a stack of project instructions & tips.  She showed us how short rows can give a twisted shape to a piece of knitting. We also picked up stitches in order to incorporate the pieces we made together. If you haven’t noticed, those are the elements needed to create entrelac – a technique I’d been intimidated by for years! We also switched colors about, carrying the yarn behind – the technique needed to create fair isle – the other knitting technique I’d been intimidated by. In one short afternoon, I learned the techniques I needed to (basically) close up the remaining holes in my knitting education.

whatshoesock copy

(photo from http://www.kathrynalexander.net)

The other knitters in my class were from all over the country, and of varying skill levels, but were all basically the same age as myself, or a bit older. We were amazed at how everyone’s individual knitting style made for very different results. Looser/tighter tensions yielded different forms, and degrees of curvature. Individual color choices & color changes made for truly unique results from all knitters. Gauge was not interjected into the instructions, and thus didn’t hamper the creative process. I left feeling creatively charged – I think the next major project I take on will be a shetland fair isle – something I’ve wanted to try for years, but now I have the guts to take it on. Pretty good for a free class, huh!

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Unlike the weather this weekend, the weather on Thursday was on the treacherous side. I had to leave the class a bit early because I saw that the snow that was supposed to descend after midnight had arrived early. I drove carefully through the first soggy snow of the season, and hit so much traffic when I hit the city, that by the time it was all over, it had taken me 4 1/2 hours to cover a distance that normally takes 2 1/4 hours. Not pleasant, but still worth it, I think! Next year, however, I will be retreating to a nearby hotel room. I’ve learned my lesson!

Rhinebeck

Well, after years of planning, I finally got to go to the NY State Sheep & Wool Festival, more commonly referred to by knitters as ‘Rhinebeck’ for it’s location. It was thrilling & disappointing in doses, but overall it was lots of fun, and worth the trip. Allow me to expand on that…

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When you first arrive, it strikes you that the place is huge. The trek from one end to the other is daunting when you consider how many temptations lie therein. There are many buildings full of vendors waiting to thrill you with their wares. And so many of the people attending had rolling carts with them, or numerous cloth bags hanging from their shoulders, or market baskets, or even old-fashioned split-ash backpack baskets. I came with just one small backpack, and that was already a bit crowded with the extra sweater I brought to fend off the chill – singularly inadequate if I would have found a stash-worth of yarns to buy, but I was hoping not to break the bank – my stash is too large for my tastes right now, and while I’ve set upon working through it, I’m still too weak-willed to say no to a lovely bit of new yarn.

Unfortunately, this year I’d say it was a spinner’s paradise – it seemed most vendors had more roving for sale than finished yarns overall. I suppose it’s more cost effective for them, but not being a spinner, I was pretty disappointed in this. There were lots of crafted items, too, which were beautiful, but not what I was looking for. I did manage to buy some lovely wool from Bartlett Yarns (from Harmony, ME). I got two 1lb sport weight cones – one in charcoal & one in cream. They didn’t make mention of the kind of sheep the wool was shorn from, but it has a shetlandy feel to it, which pleased me to no end. The colors are lovely, the yarn is beautifully plied/processed, and I’m looking forward to casting on with it soon.

I was really surprised & disappointed at how hard it was to find simple DK or sport wt. shetland-style yarns, since that is my current obsession, but the array of handspuns, hand-dyeds, and gorgeous alpaca yarns was both beautiful and overwhelmingly tempting. If my stash wasn’t as large as it is, I’d have purchased some of the very fine alpaca yarns I had seen – dyed & undyed, and amazingly soft.
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The biggest surprise for me was the sheep. Eventually we came upon pens full of every kind of sheep & goat imaginable, and they stood up in their pens & bleated at the passers-by. I never knew sheep were such sweet, curious, gentle, social animals – especially the merinos. I enjoyed petting them & letting them sniff at me, and would someday love to keep a few as pets. (We’ll see about that one!) Amazing creatures.

There were also bunnies & alpacas!

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The drawbacks? Amazingly long lines at the food court, and the occasional bad manners in crowded corners (I had my mother-in-law & aunt with me, & I bristled when they got shoved out of the way of a silly, giggling 20-something who was trying to get by & thought it was an acceptable method – VERY sorry I didn’t catch her).

food court lines

Unfortunately, I also missed the Ravelry get-together. I saw the group picture being taken from a distance, and I REALLY wanted to meet some of the lovely people I’ve met on Ravelry, but I didn’t want to leave my party to take part – ah, well. Next year, I guess. And there WILL be a next year.

dejuner arielle

For lunch, I wanted to give my mother-in-law & aunt a chance to rest & warm up, so we went to Arielle on Market Street for a nice French lunch. They brought me tea in one of those cast-iron Japanese teapots, and it was so nice to wrap my hands around it to warm them up! I’ve decided to get one of these little pots for myself. I had balked at at the small size of them in the past, but I now see the beauty & benefit of the iron makes them worthwhile.

The weather was perfect – we left the drizzle behind us in the city & enjoyed the colorful display of leaves from the highway as the sun emerged, and the sight got more impressive the farther north we went. I wish I could have returned on Sunday, but I had gotten sick from some coffee I had gotten on the road home, and I thought it better to rest. I know it was the right thing to do, but it was hard to stick to it! I’ll have to wait until next year to enjoy this again, and in preparation, I will try to de-stash enough to accommodate more yarn purchases from the vendors I enjoyed from this trip! Resisting temptation – no matter how practical – is no fun.

Well, that’s it. Sorry for the crappy photos, but I was trying to travel light, so I opted for the iphone camera instead of a real one. I wish I had gotten some pics of the amazing sweaters I saw people wearing – if the lovely yarns weren’t enough to rev your creative mojo, the display of FOs would certainly have done it. It was a really great time, and I’m already looking forward to next year.