Monday, April 29, 2013

Back from Kentucky & Indiana, y'all....

....Just back from the Indiana Fiber and Music Festival, 3rd Annual (I have not gone to this one before).  I keep forgetting that southern Indiana is really southern -- and it was much the same this time, lots of pickup trucks, southern drawls, in both Kentucky and Indiana.  But some other things surprised me:  I had forgotten how gorgeous the drive from Covington, Kentucky, to Louisville is in the early spring, when baby-green leaves appear in maybe twenty different hues, all of it peppered with generous doses of drop-dead-beautiful mauve from full-bloom red bud trees.  Honest to god, it was enough to make you want to weep -- to my eyes, much more beautiful than autumn because it's so much fresher, so full of promise.....and as last time, I was wishing the whole time that I was a dyer.  I can imagine a fingering-weight yarn, for instance, that would blend those soft greens, that exquisite mauve, with some kind of gray-brown (there are trunks and limbs mixed in to temper the mixture).  But I'm not a dyer.  Too bad, to say the least.

I spent the night in a nice motel north of Louisville (pronounced LOO'vul by the locals), and got off to a nice, late start on Sunday morning, more or less in time for the opening in Charlestown, Indiana, over the border but not by much.  The weather had turned unpleasant, and when I got where I was going, I was horrified to see that none of the promised outdoor vendors were there -- a bad sign.  That often means not just that the weather was about to turn, but that people haven't shown up.  It's a good thing I go to these things as much to take a road trip and check out antique malls as to buy handcrafted yarn -- the vendors indeed were fewer than the website had promised.  And there were a lot of crafters selling their wares -- ruffled scarves made from big-box yarns, crocheted baby gear in big-box acrylic, etc.  This is not poke fun.  It's to say that I personally don't come for that kind of thing, and so it narrows the field substantially.  And only two of the dyers were doing work that I thought was first-class work -- the problem with hand-dyed yarn is that it requires more skill than a lot of people realize to get the borders right between colors, without blurring or ending up with a motley collection of brown zones.  

Here's a glimpse inside the first building (there were two buildings plus a half-dozen vendors in a livestock enclosure): are some wonderful, gifted spinners:

....and here are the amazing Riin Gill and friend Robert -- from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and two of our best friends.  Riin's line is called Happy Fuzzy Yarns.  She is one of THE most imaginative and technically proficient indie dyers I've encountered in all of these years.  So here they are, here is a shot of part of her booth, and HERE is the pile (part of it) that I ended up buying.  We have quite an array of her stuff in the shop -- as well we should.  It doesn't get much better.  Click on photos to get a closer look.  Plus, Riin is involved in the small-farm movement in Michigan, so much of what I bought is Michigan wool.  Part of what makes Riin an exceptional dyer/retailer, by the way, is her gift for labeling and naming.  It matters.  If people find the colorway name engaging or funny, they will identify more readily with the yar.  One of the colorways I bought this time is called (are you ready?)  Death and Taxes.  

BUT THEN the real fun began.  I left the festival a tad disappointed -- not in Riin, but in the fact of so few choices beyond Riin.  A wonderful alpaca grower from Kentucky did catch my attention, but she had only a few broken lots of beautiful, achingly soft alpaca (she has since taken on a new mill and the newer lots are not as soft, and are mixed with wool and also plied too tightly).  So -- I left without the usual sense of mission accomplished.

But then I went to Florence, Kentucky.  I knew there was a truly amazing antique shop there, so I turned off the GPS and decided just to look around.  LO AND BEHOLD.  I did NOT find the antique mall, but I DID find the old, original Main Street from the early 19th century, and there I found a series of businesses built up in what I gather is called Stringtown.  Look at this!!!  It's called Yesterday's Cafe and Tea Shop, and the yellow building is the old Florence Hotel.

This is a woman-owned business comprised of a tea room (above, in the middle), a gift shop with teas and all manner of gift-y stuff, and then a separate café and coffee shop with outdoor plaza.  Here are shots of the owner Susan (in black polka dots on the right) and the incredible Erin, in front of the array of coffee and tea-making equipment in the separate café operation.  I had a delectable lunch, and left without some of their Matcha green tea, which I passed up only because I was stuffed to the gills with gorgeous chicken gumbo.

I left reluctantly.  What complete joy!!!  Often, this is the best part of one of these trips -- finding truly unique, high-quality operations that have nothing to do with the fiber arts.

If you're in northern Kentucky or southern Indiana, for heaven's sake find this place.  Everything is delectable.


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