.....Well, I went to Maryland. I left on Friday in mid-day, and successfully navigated between all of the semis and potholes and construction zones on I-75 and I-80 and I-70 and goddess knows which others.....got to Somerset, PA, for the night, and then to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at West Friendship, Maryland, more or less without incident. This is one of two of the nation's largest fiber festivals; the other is in Rhinebeck, New York, in the autumn. (And don't forget about our smaller but wondrous festival in the near future at Allegan, Michigan -- check out the events list at www.KnittersReview.com )
In the past, I have driven to both -- but in recent years, I skipped Maryland. I had thought that the vendors were looking pretty much the same. So, while there are wonderful artisans in the Maryland event, not to mention HUNDREDS of them, I thought I'd give it a rest for awhile and see if the vendor list shook out in some way. Rhinebeck has also seemed to me to be a bit edgier, a bit more innovative, though that could have to do with taste.
Now, I'm less sure. This was a wonderful, varied festival -- and I did notice signs on some vendors that said "New Vendor." So perhaps the organizers had much the same idea......
The problem is that I had trouble with my camera. So -- here is what I got before it no longer worked (the lens cover wouldn't uncover -- stuck in some bizarre way). When you come into the event, you are guided by a fairly large number of cops with lights flashing....in lanes, which can take up to an hour, particularly if you are silly enough to come early on Saturday morning for the first day (and the best pickings). I learned that lesson, so I showed up a bit later, hung around in Somerset, PA, for a couple of extra hours. I arrived at maybe 12:30. And STILL -- acres and acres of cars. The license plates indicate that the place is a magnet for every state east of the Mississippi, including the deep south -- and I did spot a Wisconsin plate. I'll bet I could have found more, had I made a study of it. Here is a sample -- you would need a panoramic camera to capture the whole thing:
.....Along the LOOOOONG path to the gate, some brave souls had yarn-bombed the railings in strips and pieces and both knit and crochet:
....and here is the rather uninspiring area just inside the entrance gate -- a number of small booths in tents -- cheaper than any of the many big buildings, but also less protected (it rains in Maryland!).
After that, no camera. If you look hard and long at the end of the path shown here, you will see a large building. To the left of it is a lower road lined with yet more booths and dozens of food vendors -- and then there is an upper tier composed of very, very large exhibition buildings (this is the Howard County Fairgrounds). I think there might be eight such buildings. My good friend from way back, Dalis Davison of Dancing Leaf Farms is in one of the tents in the photo above, with all of her gorgeous handpainted yarns. I bought a large number of her big, multi-yarn skeins (called "Biggie"). She has a cult following in Maryland, and for good reason. When I lived in the District of Columbia, I could visit; now, I'm just too far away. But she's still turning out beautiful stuff.
In the very farthest (and biggest) building was my wonderful Ellen Minand of Half-Pint Farm in Norwich, Vermont -- and of course I stocked up. I got some really lush, saturated skeins of Tencel and Wool in sport weight, 1100 yards to the skein -- enough to do up a Vitamin D cardigan or a lacy alternative (we have patterns downloaded from Ravelry). I got some of her new colorway, Pretty Bird, in Falkland Wool -- very bright, the kind of colorations that can wake you up. Some other things stuck to my fingers as well as I made my way from building to building -- and, because I am trying to help artisans stay alive, I passed up some things that I will talk to artisans about later. It's always better if small small small producers can try to sell at full price; I need to secure at least a modest discount to resell (which can be as low as 20 or 25%).
Anyway: That's the report. I drove home, avoiding the same array of potholes and semis and lane closures. Americans ought to be MORE ashamed of their highways than they seem to be, and MORE willing to step up to the plate to put things right. I tried to find antique shops in New Market and Mt. Airy (I was assured they were hotbeds of such shops), but the fact of the matter is that both towns looked to be hollowed out -- it was pretty depressing. So I gave up the hunt for vintage buttons, at least for this trip. I confess that I also was a bit TOO tired -- you start to feel your age after long hours at the wheel. Pulled into the shop late on Sunday and unloaded my treasures to much applause. Had the idiotic camera performed properly, I could have had some really cool images. I think it's time for a NEW ONE. Hugs to everyone. svb