Monday, August 22, 2011

To Allegan and back.....and back....and back....

Well, my wonderful studio employee Lois and I took off for the Michigan Fiber Festival this past Friday, very early in the morning -- too early, if you ask me! -- and had a wonderful, sunny time driving along the freeway (which can be prettier than in other parts of the state) and back roads to Allegan, a sweet little town almost to the western shore of the state, but not quite.  The festival is now a fixture in the lives of fiber fanatics in Michigan and surrounding states.  I have noticed with interest the growing number of non-Michigan vendors from neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Indiana -- but also the absence of vendors who used to travel long distances.  No doubt this has to do with travel costs.  In my little rented car, it cost about 50 bucks just to drive across the state and back.  Imagine if you were driving a truck or an RV full of merchandise!!!

We briefly met up with some other friends of Artisan Knitworks, and then prowled the one big building and then a second, smaller one in search of wonderful things for the studio.  I also talked for awhile with Ellen (Minand) of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm, whose gifted sister Carol Buskey has been diagnosed with cancer and is slated for additional surgery on September 16th.  Ellen has a darling little pink book that people are signing for Carol's pleasure -- we all wish her godspeed, and if there is justice, she will be FINE.

I will publish a small boatload of photographs tomorrow or the next day, once Larry has loaded them into the computer (I can't figure out how to do it -- I do NOT know why my once-formidable mechanical skills are slipping away, but they are).  For now, let me tell you that Lois and I found wonderful, wonderful yarn.  One bundle is made of Merino Wool and DOG -- yes, as in puppies -- the kind of wool found in double-coated dogs, the down only, not the upper hair.  Lois was, shall we say, unsettled by the whole thing.  I think it's wonderful.  Maybe you have to like dogs.  I bought ten skeins of lovely undyed, fluffy doggie and wool-blend yarn as an experiment.  I also bought thirty cookie cutters in the shape of sheep (Lois again was unsettled -- "This isn't yarn!!!!!") -- an armload of Bag Smith's wildly expensive but wonderful mega-crochet hooks for Tunisian and other varieties of big-gauge stitching (think 5 strands at once!).  I'd love to play around with wide strips for coats, jackets, ruanas.  And I will, when time appears -- maybe I"ll do what I've done with big knits -- simply work with two balls at a time and let the yarns run out, then add other balls.  What a coat that would make in Tunisian! 

[[NOTE added later:  The doggie yarn is NOT being received very well -- people say, WHAT?  A dog?  I wonder why they don't say WHAT?  A musk ox?  instead, they pay 40 bucks a yard...I'm smiling.  Probably has to do with the absence of musk oxen in the living room....!].

The vendors hadn't all arrived, which surprised us -- usually there are 3 or 4 buildings full, but on Friday, there were only 2.  I hoped, as we walked around, that it was not an indicator of waning interest.  I didn't think so then, and I don't now.  It has to do with costs.

But then disaster struck.  We got about a third of the way home and poor, conscientious Lois  (who had offered to carry heavy parcels) discovered that she had left behind the bag of big, expensive hooks.  I thought for a minute that she was going to fling herself onto the highway.  We kept going.  No point in worrying -- I have SO much faith in fiber people.  In this world, we worry about things that matter -- viciousness, racism, sexism, people who lie, people who kill other people, and so on.  Fiber people don't bounce checks.  Lois doesn't make any more mistakes than I do.  Knitters return things that don't belong to them, and so on.  In five years of business, we have had one bounced check, and it was written by a scam artist who, we learned, was known to the police.  NOT a fiber person.  We then had a sumptuous, old-fashioned supper at Schuler's in beautiful downtown Marshall, Michigan, which really IS beautiful, the streets lined with dazzling painted ladies and other astonishing reminders of a bygone time.

The next morning, bright and early, I simply drove back by myself, while Lois manned the shop.  I secretly loved having to do it -- Three hours to think about matters of importance (at least to me) and to listen to the Coffee House station on Sirius, more time to look at the verdant countryside, to smell the late-summer cornfields -- a pungent, grassy-polleny odor that gives a kid from Minnesota great pleasure.  I confess, dear readers, that I got out of the car on one occasion and walked for maybe 15 minutes between the rows.  We'll ignore the terrifying thunder storm that sprang up out of nowhere near Allegan.  I simply waited it out under an overpass.  I asked for and received a big black trash bag from a coffee shop to use as a raincoat (you simply punch out the eyes, or make a neck slit!), but by the time I got there, the rain had stopped and sun had reappeared.

....and of course the green tote bag with those expensive crochet hooks had been turned in to the main office.  Of course.  We're dealing with knitters and crocheters, after all.  Thanks to Audrey, if she's reading this, for helping me find them!!!

More later, when I can offer illustrative images!



  1. I love walking corn rows, too! We have lots of them West of Ann Arbor. But on to yarn stories: A friend of mine received as a gift a hat made entirely of the spun, knitted undercoat fibers of his own beloved dog. It is soft and beautiful. And so warm that he can only wear it while ice fishing! I wonder if I could learn to spin dog fiber...?

  2. I gather that it's tricky -- they use only double-coated dog DOWN, the undercoat. But why not try? It's really really really soft.