Today’s post (text and photos) is from guest blogger Katy! She is known as @kpknitty on Instagram. She is a brilliant knitter and all-around great person 🙂
As a knitter of 10 years and new hand spinner, I decided it was the perfect time to pay my first visit to the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in West Friendship, MD. As a long-time knitter and now spinner, I have been feeling an urge to connect with these crafts on a deeper level lately. What better way to do so than through a festival that celebrates every step of the journey from sheep to shawl?
After a 2.5-hour bus ride from PA, I was amazed by how many cars packed the giant field in front of the fairgrounds. Entering the fairgrounds was exciting and there was immediately so much to see!My first stop was the Main Exhibition Hall, as three of my favorite dyers hadbooths there. We made our way through and on to a line of smaller barns, some of which housed more vendors and some were full of sheep of many different breeds. Yet more vendors stood in tents lining various parts of the grounds!
After I blew my budget to pieces, I stopped to watch a sheep dog demonstration, where several border collies took turns showing off their ability toherd a pack of 5 sheep around based on the direction of the shepherdess. We also saw a sheep shearing demonstration with commentary and Q&A from another shearer in the audience. Another stop was a fiber arts demonstration barn, where stations included spinning, weaving, knitting, tatting, and angora rabbits… including a demo of spinning yarn directly from a live rabbit! Finally, what sheep and wool festival is complete without a sheep competition? It was neat to see some of the rams and ewes I had already met in their barns being shown by the farmers that raise them. The judges provided very informative commentary explaining what they see in each animal in terms of their class and breed.My day was but a sampling of the festival activities!!
The bottom line? If you are a fiber lover of any kind, take time to experience a sheep and wool festival near you!
- Do get there early – they draw crowds and parking is likely at a premium.
- Do take time to explore – the vendors are amazing, but you’ll also learn so much about the animals there and from the people who care for them.
- Do plan for spending money! Not only are there many beautiful yarns and fibers for sale, but it is a fair and food and souvenirs are priced accordingly! If you have a strict budget, I recommend bringing that amount in cash and leaving the credit card at home.
- Do plan ahead. These events can be large and it helps to have a rough plan of everything you want to see. The festival website can be a great resource.
- If you’re looking for any equipment (spinning wheel, looms, hand or drum carders, etc.), see if there’s an auction or sale of used equipment that will take place. You’ll also find several vendors that allow you to try out that new spinning wheel or loom that you’ve had your eye on.
- Do follow your favorite vendors on social media – many of them have special sales on their websites over fair weekends for those who aren’t able to make it in! They’ll also provide great sneak peaks about what you’ll find at their booths if you do attend.
- Don’t stress! Expect a large crowd and that you may have to wait your turn to get into your favorite booth. If the event spans two days, it’s possible Sunday may be the less crowded day.
The rain showers were intermittent all day, but nothing could detract from the experience of Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. One day out, I can hardly wait for next year’s event. I felt part of a different world, one in which people from all walks of life came together to celebrate wool – farming, sheep, fleece, spinning, weaving, knitting, dying, leather, and the many tools we crafters use. I only wonder why I waited to long to experience it myself.