08 May 2007

Saturday at Sheep and Wool

A _____ sheep. Starts with a C.

When I returned home from MD Sheep and Wool, I knew how Scrooge McDuck felt diving into his Money Bin. I resisted the urge to toss bits of roving up in the air and burrow through piles of it like a groundhog.

But, let's start at the beginning. I set my alarm, woke up early and drove out to the fairgrounds with time to spare. It only took about 30 minutes to get there, and I wasn't sure if I'd have to queue up to get in or what, and I'd rather be early. I'm not much of a crowds person (says the woman who went to Sheep and Wool). I understand that the public isn't allowed until 9am to allow vendors time to set up and get settled and all that... but as it was open, I wandered in and started looking around.

Although I was not mindful of it at the time, this is the exact point when it was a good thing that I withdrew a set amount of cash from the ATM prior to arrival. At that point, I saw Misty Mountain Farm's tent [link]. And my eyes locked onto a long, lofty skein of gorgeous grey tweed.
The color grabbed my attention; the softness made me grab my wallet. I bought two skeins of their Prime Alpaca. The price wasn't even a consideration. I wanted it, and that was all there was to it. It was the yarnaholic's first taste of fiber; I did not fall--I leaped off the wagon and hit the ground skipping in a yarn-drunk delirious haze.

C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, now touch me babe...

The next tent I wandered into was Apaca [sic] Fun Fiber Works, where there were yarns and objects in colors that did not interest me. Then I saw, waving in the breeze, delicate tendrils of vanilla-colored roving peeking out of their light blue bags. I touched. I wanted. I bought. Three ounces of 70/30 camel down/silk roving went into my shoulder bag.

New mission in life: become good enough spinner
to spin this fiber so I can knit it into a scarf and wear it
almost continuously (except while bathing) during the winter
until it disintegrates like a toddler's baby blanket
and I can pack the shreds away in acid-free tissue paper
and reminisce about what a marvelous fiber it was.
Or, um, I'll knit it into a scarf to give to one of my friends.
One of those.

This was followed by half a pound of Leicester Longwool from Grazing Herd Sheep & Wool Co [link] in a gorgeous French Blue. A split second later, I grabbed the remaining two pounds in that dye lot. I didn't know what I was going to do with it; I had a vague idea of what it would look like spun up; I had a clear and definite vision, however, of it going home with me and us being extraordinarily happy together.

Imagine me and you, I do...

Then half a pound of cobalt blue 100% merino top.

Then half a pound of sky blue merino top.

Then two skeins of Peacock [ratio here] merino/tencel from Stony Mountain Fibers. [link]

oh, god. I'm the Hunter S. Thompson of the fiber industry.
"We had three ounces of camel down, two bags of merino,
two and a half pounds of Leicester Longwool,
a whole bag of multicolored Corriedale, and I had a feeling we'd
be getting into the Tencel blends pretty soon."

As I put my selections on the counter, I took a glance over my shoulder at the wall of Corriedale roving, sorted according to color. Like a candy store with the big tubes of M&M's, you grab a bag, fill it with what you want, and then pay a flat fee per ounce. I dashed back, grabbed a bag, and started pulling out the cotton-candy roving -- blueberry, indigo, cobalt, light blue -- and as I stuffed the bag I envisioned a gorgeous plied yarn, or at least spinning random bits of each color in succession to make a multicolored single-ply yarn.

I looked at a textile dealer who was selling new kilims, hand-woven from vegetable-dyed yarns. I was seriously tempted to buy one... as I have started to collect antique Turkish rugs and textiles. I usually get them from my godmother, who is a textile expert--and since this one was new, I had no idea of whether it was a good deal. That, and I wasn't sure whether haggling was allowed. In Turkey, it's customary -- but does that apply when buying Turkish goods in America? I decided not to buy it. After all, I was there for yarn and roving.

I went to the main exhibition building. I tried on some gorgeous shawls from The Textile Museum, but didn't buy. They're right off... one of the Metro stops... so I can go by there anytime.

I bought some pretty Brittany needles from Woodchuck Products, along with one of his hand-turned orifice hooks in Cordia. I completely forgot that a pretty wooden niddy-noddy was on my to-buy list--I would have liked to buy one from him. I have his catalog, so perhaps I still will. I had a brief conversation with a delightful lady in line with me about how she had been buying his products for years, and said that whenever she knitted or spun with them, she felt good. I can understand it.

Knitting with pretty needle increases your skill level. True.

I was so excited to see Morehouse Farm Merinos' booth. I had been eyeing their Crinoid Shawl online for a couple months, and put it on my "to buy" list for after S&W. However, instant gratification, especially when unexpected, is so much sweeter. Crinoid Shawl kit in a beautiful deep crimson lake is mine!

Then I visited Marilu, my spinning instructor. She's a wildlife artist and had all sorts of pretty scratchboard drawings and watercolors and paintings of sheep and other animals for sale.

My stomach started rumbling at that point, so I wandered into the screen-doored building where the Boy Scouts were selling sausages and sandwiches. Next to the Boy Scouts was a man selling hand-made sheep milk cheese.

On a one-to-ten scale, my love of cheese falls somewhere slightly short of a Wallace and Gromit-level obsession. It's one of the chief reasons I'm so fond of France--what's not to love about a country that's home to over 200 types of cheese? Anyway, I was a bit skeptical, as the man selling cheese didn't have any samples to try. When you go into a cheese shop in Paris, for example, you get to try it before you buy it, and the people behind the counter move about in their white lab coats to carefully select exactly the right cheese, testing them to decide which is ready to eat. I grilled the patient cheese man on the flavors and styles of his cheeses. I demanded particulars on the Metsovo's taste relationship to Gouda, and the Fromage Blanc's taste relationship to Manchego. Satisfied, I handed over my last $100. I bought a hand-molded lump of Metsovo cheese, a smoked cheese that tastes very much like Gouda at the beginning, but quickly develops a complex and powerful tang, and finishes smoothly. Here's a picture I took Tuesday morning... I guess you can tell I liked it:

Next was Fromage Fermier, a semi-soft basket-molded cheese wrapped in paper, with a natural mold rind.
If it's covered in mold, it must be good!
(Incidentally, that was the motto of my alma mater's food service, Aramark)

Last was Fromage Blanc, a wheel of hard, sharp red wax-covered cheese.

With the change I bought two roasted leg of lamb sandwiches from Greene's lamb on the other side of the aisle, had them wrapped up to go, and walked back to my car.

The change was astounding. There were people lined up 60 deep just to go into the barns where I had already wandered freely and purchased fiber. As I walked through the entrance gate, I was the only person going out, and a hundred or so were going in. Where before there had been four rows of cars, the entire field appeared to be full of parked cars, with new arrivals streaming in the drive and slowly circling around them. I had no idea so many people were coming. I was glad I was on my way out.

**Editor's Note: There's even more to this entry that I could write about the wonderful farmers/shepherds I met and in general about how friendly people there were, but that's for another post**

I stopped by my LYS and rented a spinning wheel. The owner said she had had people from New York and Michigan stop by the store who were in town for Sheep and Wool. Crazy. I bought yarn for Bryan's hat and called it a day.

You might be surprised that I didn't buy anything fuchsia. I was on a blue kick this time around. A few months ago it was lavender. Who knows what color will grab my fancy next. I hear there's another fiber festival somewhere in Virginia this fall... I had better start spinning!

1 comment:

Nick said...

LOL to the Fear and Loathing reference. Your buying habits for this "little hobby" are OUT OF CONTROL! (grin to the hobby reference, but seriously...)