Monday, August 20, 2012

The Michigan Fiber Festival and Marr Haven (and of course, at the end, Third Coast)

Have a look at the post just before this one, and you will learn that my pictures have vanished.  So I can't show you what happened yesterday -- at least I can't until one of us figures out what happened to those photographs. 

The Michigan Fiber Festival occurs annually at the fairgrounds in Allegan, Michigan, which is not quite at the western shoreline of the state -- a short jaunt up a good state road from I-94, which is becoming THE most unpleasant freeway in the region, second only to the nightmarish I-75 between Detroit and Toledo (I have come to believe that this is part of an out-migration scheme designed to keep people in Michigan). 

Once you leave I-94, you enter some of the prettiest countryside imaginable -- gently rolling, mostly prosperous, studded with sweet farms and even sweeter small towns that sometimes have painted lady Victorian homes and little cafes (of the sort that have waitresses names Mabel).  I especially like to drive through Gobel, Michigan, where I usually stop for a cuppa at one of those cafes.  It takes me back to girlhood in towns like Worthington, Minnesota, with its array of small-town cafes (Bill's Soda Fountain, for god's sake, where I used to order vanilla phosphates, or Norton's Cafe, where I actually worked for an entire summer for forty cents an hour). 

I first went to Marr Haven Farm, a few miles south of Allegan, to meet up with Barbara, who lives on a piece of land the likes of which I've rarely seen.  Wish I had those pictures -- I even took one of her in front of her darling house and shop.  As you drive in, you see an incredible old barn and silo, gardens everywhere and some well-kept, old shed and other out-buildings.  She told me that, when she and her lovely husband bought the place so many years ago, it was virtually uninhabitable, covered with sumac and saplings and weeds.  You'd surely not know it now.  What a gem! 

The sad news is that they aren't going to be making their signature wool yarn anymore.  REALLY sad.  This is a rare product.  It's made without chemicals.  The colors are muted, in keeping with the milling and spinning, which involve using half-natural and half-colored wool.  So "burgundy" is a kind of rose, though still richly colored.  What they have in stock in heavy worsted-weight and sport weight (the latter mostly coned) is what you can buy -- but no more.  Her prices are kind of silly -- Barbara, raise your price please.

So here is what I did:  I bought twenty skeins of each of 5 or 6 colors.  I'm going to mark them up a bit -- Barb doesn't do wholesale anymore -- and put them dead-center in the shop so that people can have part of what's left.  If we run out, I'll get more until she can't supply me anymore.  Made in Michigan, no chemicals, mule spun -- what more could you want?   It's from their own sheep -- a mix of merino and Ramboullie (which I just misspelled).  Don't miss out on this.

Then I went to the festival, spent a few hours walking through the many buildings, hugged my old and dear friend Ellen of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm (Vermont), chose a large number of amazingly gorgeous skeins of wool-silk and then some fingering skeins for socks (I chose 'boy' colors because people keep complaining -- though I think women should rethink some of their assumptions about what men will wear!).  I found Rita Petteys of Yarn Hollow, who may well do another trunk show at our place sometime after December.  I ran into a couple of my Woolgatherer friends.  Lots of hugs as I walked along.  I got some stunning glass buttons from a woman who once worked at a glass factory -- they are miniature works of art.A lot of the festival was given over to roving and other spinners' supplies, which surprised me -- it seemed to me to be more than last time.  But.  Spinners have to be happy, too!  I couldn't find my friend Riin Gill of Happy Fuzzy Yarns -- where were you, Riin?   

But then I went back to Marr Haven, where Barbara and company were still labeling and bagging the enormous piles of yarn I'd bought.  We finally got them loaded into my little rental car, a Kia Soul, which is DARLING.  I have to find out if they're assembled in the United States.  This could be a candidate for purchase -- though I'm still thinking a Ford Focus or Fusion.

Love to everyone.  More about Third Coast when I catch my breath.  Classes are filling!!!!!  And we have an on-line mechanism now for market-only tickets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! at


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