There is something extraordinary about an entire fair ground that consists of only fuzzy things: Sheep, alpacas, llamas, goasts, the craziest looking rabbits you’ve ever seen, and fiber products with no limits on imagination. And everyone was wearing wooly things. Except me.
I spent three solid hours at Maine’s Fiber Frolic – which drew vendors from as far as Pennsylvania and Vermont – to a small fair ground in Windsor, Maine.
Farm Name: (In this case Event Name) Fiber Frolic
Primary goods: Wool, felted goods, clothing of every sort, yarn, etc., etc.,
Sell to the Public?: Vendors of every sort were selling directly to the public, so yes.
My personal favorite part of the farm/event: This baby goat that was passed out on top of a bale of shavings. Or perhaps the felt hangings by Hope Spinnery.
Most interesting part of the farm/event: The absolute myriad designs for sweaters. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how many there were. FYI, they’re copyrighted.
CAVEAT: ALL DESIGNS ARE COPYRIGHT TO THEIR RESPECTIVE CREATORS. PHOTOS OF DESIGNS AND GOODS CREDITED AS CAPTIONS, A LIST OF ALL VENDORS CAN BE FOUND ON THE MAINE FARM CHICK FACEBOOK PAGE (LINK AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST)
So, my sister decides to invite me to the Fiber Frolic last week. After I enthusiastically reply with a yes, I wonder what it is. When I think fiber I think of leafy green vegetables, so I was enthused. When I realized that it was heavily based upon sheep, I was ten times more enthused. In fact, I decided to make a MFC post about it.
So, we drive up to Windsor. By the way, if you don’t have a GPS, bring your sister who knows where it is. No map struggles this time! Although as we approached the fair grounds, they looked super empty. We almost thought we had the wrong date, but with a tiny bit of patience (AKA driving three hundred more feet) we saw an entirely full parking lot. Fiber people were swarming. YES.
Upon entry (Only $5 and well worth it, with kids under 12 being free.) the first thing one sees is a pasture with a small flock of sheep and a small herd of goats. I see a trailer with this sign on it:
So if I thought I was in sheep-heaven, I was ten times more excited at this point. The Neurotic Border Collie could learn a few lessons from these dogs: They were incredible. The shepherd was incredible as well. Was anyone else aware you can control a sheep “simply,” by inserting your forefinger into their mouth behind their teeth? No? Well, now you are, and now you can do amazing party tricks at farms.
It’s probably a lot harder than that, but this man made it look easy. He literally had a sheep sitting, looking ready to be shorn, with one fluid bodily motion and only two fingers.
Facts from this man about Border Collies:
1. Want a pet? Don’t buy a Border Collie. I believe his words, paraphrased, went something like this, “A Border Collie needs a job. If he does not have one, he will find one, and you won’t like it.” (I can vouch for that.)
2. A Border Collie should never be taught to sit. It is the least effective position in terms of sudden take-offs. (I count my failures as a Border Collie owner stacking up.)
3. As they get older, they get more stubborn. (Hard to imagine, The NBC only listens to me about 50% of the time as it is.)
4. Border Collies are independent thinkers, and you can’t let them get away with one thing or else next thing you know they’ve stolen your wife, kids, and you’re paying them rent. (He didn’t say that, but it’s true.)
Then he proceeded with a demonstration of how awesome his collies were. One of his dogs was 13 years old, no joke.
After making mental notes of all the things I need to do with the Neurotic Border Collie, I meander off in the direction of the vendors and display animals.
My first stop is at a booth inside a barn. The vendor, Hope Spinnery, caught my eye with the beautiful felted tapestries, done by a woman named Kate. The man was sitting there, knitting away, eyeing my camera and camera bag. I explained to him what I was doing, and he let me take a few photos.
He explained that his Spinnery is wind-powered, and sadly he was closing down his mill work.
Design Credit to Hope Spinnery
I also noted that the colors of his fiber were beautiful. To be frank with you, when I think of fiber and yarn and spinning materials, I think of neutral or VERY bright colors. This is just not the case, and is an entirely misconceived notion. Some of the wool colors were inspired by nature, and looked as if they could have been picked right from a flower or the ocean herself. My first vendor set the tone for the entire Fiber Frolic, and that was the idea that maybe there was a bit more to fiber than a group of ladies knitting, if you can pardon my awful stereotype.
I also wanted to do a bit of education on sheep. Some basic facts:
– There are meat sheep and there are fiber sheep. There are also multi-use sheep.
– Sheep have front teeth, a large gap, and then molars, which is why you can hook your finger into the back of its mouth and maneuver it around without getting bitten.
– Sheep, in terms of skeletal structure, are literally identical to goats, and archaeologically speaking, indistinguishable between one another.
– Below, see a few examples of the MANY breeds of sheep:
So while these aren’t terribly explanatory, you can see a slight (out of focus) difference between the three. I must be honest, when I saw the Merino, my heart melted. This guy was extraordinarily handsome, and while I was snapping away at him – he was highly photogenic – the lady next to me started getting a bit jealous. She stuck her nose right through the bars and stared at me until I finally took her photo. I’m going to assume it was a she as there is nothing to make me think otherwise. But anyway, here she is:
Angora rabbits. Did you know how incredible they are? Interesting fact: (Credit to Acker’s Acres Angora for this juicy tidbit…) From a 10lb rabbit, you can get 1lb of usable fiber. That’s a crazy ratio. That’s like saying… I weigh 115 lbs, and that’s like saying my hair weighs 15 lbs. (It does not, for the record.) They are space-efficient in terms of their yield compared to pasture animals.
There were some rabbit farmers there with twenty five angoras, and there were some with up to a hundred. Rabbits made up a substantial part of the Fiber Frolic, in fact. Their hair is incredibly soft, far softer than sheep’s wool. And good grief, are they cute. On top of that, you don’t have to stick your hand in their mouth to get control of them, you just pick them up. Easy as pie, no dogs involved. No hands in animal’s mouths.
I was told other ratios in terms of warmth vs. thickness with sheep and rabbits, but honestly I can’t quote the validity. It’s fairly safe to say that angora fiber gives you the most “bang for your buck,” You can wear an ear warmer made of angora that is probably 1/3 the thickness of a sheeps wool ear warmer and garner the same effect.
And they’re so CUTE. Look at the absurd ears on this thing:
Right, so onto an equally as fun looking animal: Llamas.
The person to come up with the most amazing caption for this photo wins a bumper sticker.
Now, llamas are big. You might think they’re funny looking, a bit of a pushover: NOT the case. One time, this is not a joke, our family inherited two llamas. First thing it did? Spit in my sister’s face. I laughed for a week.
Ok, but let’s look at the facts, shall we? Llamas and alpacas both originate in South America. This means they’re hardy creatures. South American mountains are not cake-walks.
Alpacas and llamas alike (Now don’t you get the two mixed up, Alpacas look a lot more poofy around the head area…) are big animals. They produce beautiful, enormous fleeces which can sell for well over a hundred dollars a piece. Well over, depending on the quality.
Surprisingly, for their size, they’re somewhat easily controlled. Once you have their head in a halter, most of the time they’ll do circles around it and won’t go anywhere. They can also be used as pack animals, which is a main function they still serve in South America to this day.
That is the entire fleece. There were six of these laid out, and I must say, I was seriously impressed.
The things people do with fiber is incredible. I mean, you can use sheep and goats for milk, meat, cheese, yogurt, soap, and fiber. And of ALL of those virtues, if you pick ONLY fiber, here are some things you can make with it:
Mittens, gloves, scarves, sweaters, tunics, pants, linens, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, socks, blankets, jackets, tapestries, hooked rugs, any number of decorations, felted goods, dolls, hats, finger puppets, yoga mats, backpacks, bags, belts, etc., etc.,
Design Credit to End of the World Farm
Design Credit to Attic Heirlooms
Design Credit to Black Locust Farm
This is a tiny portion of the things you can make. I wish I could impress upon you how versatile fiber is. It’s like what you can do with Silly Putty but a hell of a lot more useful and cool looking.
Something else that struck me was the concept of color. I hate to bring up the fact that my only contact with yarn is the neutral color that everyone seems to favor, which is beautiful don’t get me wrong, but the color palette that I saw at the Fiber Frolic is somewhat astounding.
What’s your favorite color? The color of the ocean before sundown? The inner part of a sunflower? That funky color mushrooms get when you leave them in the fridge too long? The tail of a peacock? Well lucky for you, you can dye wool – with MANY different processes – to be any color you want.
You catch my drift? Gorgeous colors that pretty much go from entirely natural to entirely psychedelic, and pretty much everything in between.
I’ve kind of skimmed over the sheep on here because I feel as though I’ve schooled you children well in the past posts, what with vocabulary lists and reproductive habits, so I won’t bore you again with all of that. But there is much to be said for the presence of sheep at this event.
Sheep are what people think of immediately when you think of wool. You think of big fluffy sheeps running about in a field somewhere, and their wool being spun by hand and then lovingly knitted by your grandmother.
…. Well, that’s what I think of.
And speaking of spinning, there was a couple from Vermont who, if you are EVER in the market for a portable spinning wheel, will be able to help you out.
Yes, folks, these people figured out how to craft absolute pieces of workable art – spinning wheels – which fit into…
… a canvas bag.
I’m not even kidding, check out how small this thing is.
Spinning Wheel by The Merlin Tree
And let me tell you, this woman’s hands were twisting and feeding fiber about a mile a minute into this thing. She was so deft, it made me somewhat envious that she could do it. She also made it look super easy, which I know is not the case as I’ve completely botched wool before on my aunt’s spinning wheel.
– Spinning wheels have origins in Asia.
– Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on one, which immediately sent her into a dragon-guarded coma, so I’d say be careful.
– The conceptual design of a spinning wheel has not changed much over time, it is still a very basic machine.
– Most spinning wheels won’t fit into a canvas bag. In fact, most of them are much larger. Some can have seats built in.
There are other methods of spinning, such as drop-spindles. In my limited experience, drop-spindles can be hard and simultaneously easy to use. One vendor hand-crafts beautiful, simple, beginners drop-spindles right at home. These are the MacBook Airs of spinning wheels in terms of portability, considering they’d easily fit in a purse.
Credit to Highland Handmades
So I really could go on forever about this event. I mean it, forever. There was a lady blacksmith there, a sleeping baby goat, and more things I could have bought than I could have fit in my car.
It was a great day, and I leave you with a few parting remarks.
A. If you are taking photos of people’s designs (Sweaters, tapestries, anything) make SURE you inform them you are going to be giving them credit. These are oftentimes copyrighted designs.
B. Llamas spit.
C. If you need to meet your daily quota of adorable, I will overdoes you with it here:
So what did I get as an overall impression from this farm/event?
People are very knowledgeable, and funny enough, oftentimes have fallen into being sheep/llama/alpaca/goat/rabbit farmers. They strive to explain to you processes and information about their animals, and many vendors seemed to have an extremely strong connection to their animals and the earth itself. No one was trying to make millions off their goods, but they did want to make sure you were well-informed.
What was the biggest impression?
The creativity displayed here was enormous. People had one medium to work with: Fiber. And the variety of goods and crafts being displayed was just astounding. I can’t say enough for the creativity and hard work these people put into their passion and livelihoods.
Ps. I wish I could have gone over ALL of the things and people I saw. For more, please see my photo album with links to various vendors here:
Fiber Frolic Vendors and Photo Gallery