Well, Larry and I drove all the way to Asheville, NC, this past weekend -- It's a very long haul, but punctuated (as usual) with stops at various antique malls and shops along the way -- beside the freeways, but also in small towns, where the real treasures can be found. We returned, to give an example, to the marvelous shop in Candler, NC, where we found yet more entire cards of stunning vintage buttons at fabulous prices -- just as before. In Candler, there's a button collector I'd like to meet in person! I left before the haggling over prices started. Larry is MUCH better at it than I am.
It's impossible to photograph the mountainous scenery, the advancing autumnal colors -- those warm sepia and orange and reddish and chartreuse tones (yes, chartreuse -- as green yellows, there is indeed quite a lot of it which , in combination with other fall colors, I've tried in vain to capture in free-form knitting. Something is elusive -- maybe the strokes of charcoal and dark brown, but more likely the very bright values where the sun strikes darker colors, and maybe even the blue tones of the sky). Here are two poor examples of what we saw:
This time, I bought a motel room at the Asheville end of things from HotWire. DO NOT USE HOTWIRE. First: The so-called bargain price was only 20 dollars less than full price. Second, and more important: The godawful room we got at the Ramada Biltmore West was so bad that I considered just leaving, prepaid or not -- Larry complained about the worn-out rugs, the sway-back beds, the general slum tone -- you don't expect to be in a slum for 120 bucks a night. Surprise surprise: They moved us to a slighty better room, although the electronic door barely worked (they have some problems with maintenance) and the bathroom sink had a faucet that was about to fall off. The beds were better, so we stayed. I'll ignore the time when the electricity went out. Suffice it to say: Hotwire probably means (contrary to the ads) that you get rooms nobody else wants unless you complain. So I'll just do it the usual way from now on.
Asheville's Southeast Wool and Fiber Festival has expanded significantly since I was last there several years ago. It's now well over a hundred vendors, approaching 200 in fact, some of whom still only show primarily at this fair. NOT the same cast of characters, in other words, as one finds at, say, NY's lalalalooza festival or Maryland's. It occupies the HUGE agricultural expo center (really a mammoth, circular indoor arena) and out-buildings in Fletcher, NC, which is an Asheville suburb immediately across the street from the Asheville airport. When you are expecting to buy yarn, though, it's best to drive -- it's hard to find UPS or FedEx stores on Sunday! Far better to load up a rental car and avoid trying to explain to airport authorities why your baggage is full of yarn and how an extra bag full of wool (you need to take an empty one along) can weigh as much as lead.
And the real joy, something I've been looking forward to for at least a year, was meeting the brilliant Stacey Budge, the driving force behind UrbanGypZ Yarns. We got to hug!!!! She was THE first indie dyer that I put in the shop when we opened. I learned this weekend that I was also her first wholesale account! Here she is:
The particularly good part: It's always best to see yarn before buying it, and even better to see an artisan's full line before deciding what to buy. So this time, I could SEE everything she makes. I chose a boatload of her light-weight yarns, including fingering and lace-weight merino wools; but I also picked up some luscious wool-silk for makers of shawls and maybe cowls. The semi-solids were a surprise: I associate Stacey with variegations, and they were wonderful, but I LOVED her semis. So I actually picked up more semi-solid yarns than variegated. See? THAT'S why it's important to go to the horse's mouth, so to speak. No, that's not to call Stacey a horse. It's a SAYING, dopey reader!
Everywhere, Larry took pictures of yarn and people and oddities. Some important discoveries: First, I did not know that Amy of YarnSmith (Ohio) had reorganized her yarn business as Pandora Yarns. Apparently the wondrous Amy, who is a GREAT handpainter, got very tired of running a mill during a recession; now, she dies in her own studio and is MUCH happier. I was particularly taken with some buttery lace-weight merino, which I bought too much of, and of course with her sock wools. Here she is -- and don't miss the small sliver of the parking lot shown behind her. This is a VERY big exposition:
And then -- TA DA -- an example of WHY I go to the festivals. I found a replacement for the raku buttons by Tia of Olympia, Washington, who stopped making them. Two amazing women are making raku buttons and jewelry (!!!!) that is actually more interesting, and just as well crafted, as Tia Matera's work. We bought up a small supply to show our clients -- but -- blare of trumpets -- they are gong to send a trunk show on or about November 7, so we can select a lot more at our leisure. It's also important, if we mean to support small producers, to let them try to sell goods at full price at the festivals and make arrangements to buy what's left at prices we can deal with. So that's what we did with this delightful mother and daughter team (get a load of the chunky bracelets in the photograph, and the picture behind them!):
They aren't afraid of color, but they also seem to understand color. So the beads, buttons, and jewelry are eye-catching and original without being either gaudy or predictable.
And here's one of the out-buildings (the actual expo building is multi-tier and HUGE):
As to whimsical moments: Get a load of these, courtesy of the splendid Larry! More later. Come into the shop and see what we bought!!!!!!!!! svb