Y’know what going to Disney world is like for kids? That’s what fiber festivals are like!
Essentially, they’re conventions for fiber artists and crafty folks. There are vendors, classes, workshops, and tons of people who are excited about the same things you are. They tend to draw tons of vendors from all over the country, and you can find things that you can’t get anywhere else. Meet dyers, designers, farmers, and lots of people who enjoy your hobby!
Typically held on fairgrounds or convention centers, and smaller cities (like Pittsburgh) might have smaller fiber fairs and markets in fire halls or community centers.
What can you expect to find?
- Lots of vendors! Tons of indie dyers that you might not be able to find at your Local Yarn Shop, farmers, and lots of related items that you might not initially think of – local food vendors, potters, and woodworkers.
- Farmers, especially at Sheep & Wool festivals. You can frequently meet the sheep, buy whole fleeces, and meet the farmers themselves.
- Demonstrations of different techniques; most festivals will give you a schedule of demonstrations that you can check out.
- Classes; large festivals will draw big teachers to teach in depth classes. Most classes will need to be registered for beforehand.
How do you find out about fiber festivals?
- The Knitter’s Review Calendar
- Ravelry, of course! You can search groups and events by your zip code or city.
- Utilize your Local Yarn Shop! They can probably tell you about local events.
Some of the big festivals (in the United States, mainly)
- Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival
- New York Sheep & Wool Festival, aka Rhinebeck
- Stitches West (and the other Stitches events)
- Vogue Knitting Live
- SAFF – Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair
- Black Sheep Gathering
- Oregon Flock & Fiber
There are probably small local events close to where you live – have a look around online to find them! They’re less crowded, less rushed, and it’s a great way to find the really LOCAL vendors, who produce things in your area. Here in Pittsburgh, we have the Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival, Waynesburg Sheep & Wool, Indie Knit & Spin, the Raggz Fiber Affair & Wool Market, and several others.
How do you prepare for the fiber festival?
- GIVE YOURSELF A BUDGET. Decide ahead of time if there are projects you’d like to buy for specifically, or only take cash with you. If you’re planning on spending a large amount, it might be a good idea to give your credit card company a call.
- If you have to buy tickets in advance, or reserve a hotel room, try to do so early.
- Make a plan for what you’d like to buy, so that you know what weight, color, yardage, or fiber content that you’re looking for.
- Lots of larger festivals will have a map of the vendor locations, so you can make a plan about where you’d like to go.
- Pace yourself! It’s so easy to run in and spend all of your money, but slow down and enjoy the event! Talk to vendors, talk to other crafters, and take your time. There are very few things that you won’t be able to get later, if you absolutely need them.
- Double check the fairground rules, but it’s a good idea to bring water and snacks with you. There are usually food vendors, also.
- Wear comfortable shoes!
- Plan a way to carry all of the stuff that you’re going to take with you. I like to take a backpack; Sarah likes to use a big totebag or grocery bag; don’t count on vendors to give you a bag. However – be careful not to whack people with your bags, since fairs can get crowded.
- Come prepared for the weather. Wear boots if it’s muddy, wear sunscreen if it’s sunny, and it’s always a good idea to wear a sunhat if you’re going to be outside most of the day, it’s a good idea to dress in layers.
- Take a notepad! Other knitters or crafters can tell you what pattern or yarn they used, or wear their Ravelry name on a button. You could also take notes on your smart phone.
Let’s wrap this up with meet ups! Talk to your Ravelry groups about meeting up if you’re planning on going to a fiber festival, it’s a great opportunity to meet some of your online friends in person.
As always, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time we go Behind the Wool.