Saturday, May 19, 2012

Great Lakes Fiber Festival

I'm off to teach the Great Lakes Fiber Festival in Wooster OH next weekend, and I'm in a nice position.  I'll have a few hours free each day to visit the festival, and a few hours teaching.  I love teaching all day, but it's nice to be able to attend the festival part, too.

So what happens at a festival?  If you've never been, here are some festival basics:

Usually you'll arrive in a setting like a county fair site, or a larger public park.  There will be dozens (or hundreds) of vendor booths set up, sometimes inside large enclosures but often outside like a street fair.

The vendors are often small-batch artisans with hand-made wares you'll never see anywhere else.  There will be hand spun yarns, hand-dyed yarns, hand-knit finished products, hand-turned wooden knitting needles, a variety of hand-made wooden fiber craft implements like niddy-noddys and spindles, hand-made buttons and shawl closures...  The work is usually spectacular, and I always take tons of photos and business cards from everybody.  It's nice to follow up with folks on Twitter or their websites to see what they're doing next!

The vendors will be dotted with folks who make non-fiber things, like soaps and lotions, artisan papers, and sometimes artisan foods and wines.  All those crafty people tend to know each other, and they spur each other in new creative directions.  (More photos and business cards.) Very cool.

There are usually some free public events: a lecture or how-to workshop, live music, sheepdog demonstrations or competitions, or a charity auction. I try to attend the things I know the least about, but I'm also a sucker for the dogs.  How they are trained to do so many things so well is a mystery to me.  (My dog is 6, and still hasn't mastered coming to me if he can see a squirrel.)

At most of these events there are skill-building classes, and I usually am teaching at the festivals I attend. Other classes usually include spinning techniques, various styles of dyeing, crocheting, pattern design, needle felting, and more.  Many instructors travel long distances to offer classes not usually available at your Local Yarn Shops, making these events a unique opportunity for learning.

Book-signings are fairly frequent, and giveaways of books, patterns, yarns, and tools keep things interesting.

I know, now you want to go to one right now!  Where are they?  Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review maintains a pretty thorough list on her site.  Find it here.  Bring: money, your camera, a tote bag to carry your cool new stuff, comfy shoes, sunscreen, and maybe a couple of patterns you've been wanting to match with the perfect yarn.  If you're a fiber artist, bring lots of your own cards and give them to everyone whose cards you take.  Take out or leftovers for dinner will get you off your tired feet sooner - the better to play with your new acquisitions!  Enjoy.  And I hope to see you at a festival soon!


Melissa Leavitt said...

Elisabeth, what you described sounds like heaven! What a treat to go to festivals like that. Sadly, not many in my area, but all the more motivation to get my passport and head south!

Your "what to bring" ideas for fiber festivals are excellent. I'm making note of them for the future.

I laughed out loud about your dog! Sounds sorta like my girl Zora. She is 9 and a doggie school drop out. But skunks are her favorite critter to chase. Unfortunately, she's really talented at it too. :P

Elisabeth Marino said...

Ewww! I'm glad squirrel chasing isn't a skill Max has mastered. Thanks for sharing!