If you're a knitter, you know that there are many sheep and wool festivals each year. The two big ones on the East coast are Maryland Sheep and Wool (in May) and Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. That is in October. I attended Rhinebeck this weekend, for the second year.
My intention was to attend with a good friend and two other local women. One by one, they all had other things pop up that needed their attention more than a weekend away. I sadly accepted that I would not be going, until an online friend mentioned that they had room in their hotel, and would I like to join them? I jumped at the chance.
I drove to the two hours to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to meet up with three of the other travellers. It was a married couple (Missy and Doug) and Liz, who lives near to them. Missy and Doug have two dogs which needed to be dropped at Missy's parents' house in NJ for the weekend, so we loaded them up and headed up there. Doug and I in Doug's car, Missy and Liz and the dogs in Missy's car. I'm allergic to animals, and the dog hair already in the car would have probably caused me to die a little bit. Not a good way to start a weekend.
We dropped the dogs, after about two hours' drive, in I-don't-know-where, NJ. I met Missy's mom and after only about three minutes managed to surprise her by using the word 'penis'.* We then headed back out and drove to Poughkeepsie, NY. Our hotel was ok, a Holiday Inn Express, which was ridiculously overpriced. $250 per night for our rooms. They had a breakfast bar, which is always nice while travelling. There were several other knitters staying there, and we met up with a few in the lobby after getting dinner and making a beer store run. Doug is a big beer fan. I bought cider.
After dinner, the rest of our party arrived by train from Newark. Abbie lives in NY, on Long Island. Jen is from Toronto, and flew in to Newark. Missy went to pick them up from the train station. The rest of the evening was spent chatting and knitting in the lobby, getting to know one another and some of the other knitters. There was Tammy, a fifth grade teacher from Connecticut, and Alice, a former ski instructor from Idaho. Bill and Toni of The Fold (a well-known yarn/weaving/spinning store in Marengo, IL) arrived. Bill is a delightful fellow, about 6'6" tall, broad, blonde, very Viking looking. Toni is a good friend of my friend Lauren, and I passed along greetings. Sometime around midnight we all headed up to our rooms, after making plans for the morning.
We were up around 6:30 and left for the festival grounds at about 8:30. The Festival opens at 9 am on Saturdays. We had a lovely drive along Rt 9. The leaves in upstate NY are absolutely gorgeous. Very different from what I grew up seeing. The Vanderbilt Mansion is along there as well as the Hudson River valley. I enjoyed not driving at all, and just watching the scenery go by. After about a half-hour, we arrived, parked, and stood in line for our tickets.
While waiting, Abbie spotted Anne Hanson, a knitting designer. As Abbie was wearing one of Anne's designs, I took her over to meet her. Abbie was sort of reticent to go but I said "what's the worst that she can say?" and forced her. We introduced ourselves and had a short chat. Anne was gracious, and actually adjusted Abbie's scarf to better show it off. Missy, who is a photographer, had her camera out in a hot second and Anne kindly posed for a picture. I'm not sure if I managed to get out of the way or not.
We went in and headed directly to The Fold's booth. I picked out a 'rare gem' skein of Socks That Rock. The booth was mobbed, and we waited about fifteen minutes in line. Afterward we wandered for a few hours, stopping by The Sanguine Gryphon's booth to say hello to Sarah and Gryphon. They had been given the opportunity for a booth only a couple of days before, and they jumped at the chance. I worked for them and I know their immense popularity, but I wasn't really prepared to see the line. One woman mentioned she had waited an hour in line. I'm so pleased for them both, they have been working at it for years and they have really hit it big. It's really lovely to see people do what they love for a living, and be able to not only make a living, but be successful. The girls I was with didn't want to stand in line, and decided to return on Sunday.
We spent the day wandering the festival, occasionally running into people we know and visiting with them. We noticed a neat sweater we had seen on Twist Collective, and as the woman wearing it walked by, we engaged her in conversation. Her companion commented on my sweater (Clasica Coat from IK Fall 2009) and we began to chat. I was carrying a bag from Homespun Yarn Party and she asked what it was. I described it a bit, she asked me to email her information about it, and handed me her card. She asked me to not give out her phone number. At that moment I looked at the card and realized that she was Kate Gilbert, a well-known designer. As my only Rhinebeck goal had been to buy yarn for one of her designs (I did not accomplish it) I was sort of tickled. Her friend gave me a Twist Collective pin for my collection and we parted ways.
We met up with the rest of our went to have lunch. For lunch I had red beans and rice with chicken, from the New Orleans Cafe. After we sat down, we realized that we were next to Vicki Howell. I told her how much I had enjoyed working with Craft (a yarn with her name on it) and she apologized that it had been discontinued.
Around 3:00 we left for the day. We sat in the car trying to get out of the parking lot for nearly two hours. That's insane! Missy and Liz picked up pizzas on the way back to the hotel, so we didn't have to go out to find dinner. I showered and changed and we headed to the Ravelry party in Red Hook, just past the fairgrounds (a half-hour drive from our hotel). Jen was tired and elected to stay back at the hotel.
When we arrived at the party site, we were directed to a parking lot about a mile from the party, from which we would catch a bus to the party. We saw several people walking toward the party. When we arrived at the parking lot, we understood why. The wait looked to be obscene. There was likely to be a wait of an hour, so we chose to walk. We arrived too late for a goodie bag, they had only 550 to give out. The woman at the door told me that there had been 400 people RSVP, and there were already more than 550 there; people kept arriving, too. We found seats, and settled in for the night. We spent the evening knitting and chatting and wandering, eating and drinking, all the things that one generally does at a party. We made it back to the hotel around 11:30 and crashed hard, having been walking all day.
Sunday morning was more of the same. We packed and checked out before heading to the fairgrounds. Again we wandered and shopped and visited. I ran into Gail, who I have known for about ten years, but never see. We went to the Sanguine Gryphon booth again and I stood in line while the girls shopped. Only about ten minutes wait that time. In fact, Jen went back later in the day and there was no wait at all. We left around 2:00 and headed for home after leaving Jen and Abbie at the Poughkeepsie train station.
After driving for a few hours, we picked up the dogs and headed back to Pennsylvania. The trip to their place seemed to take forever. I unloaded my things from Doug's car and into mine, and after saying my good-byes, hit the road. Two hours later I made it home to my lovely husband and my own bed and my real life.
I bought three skeins of 50/50 merino tencel from Ellen's Half-Pint farm, 8 ounces of roving from Potosi Farms (who are Yarn Party participants. Went all the way to NY to buy locally!), and some Socks That Rock. I also brought home some apples, Maple cotton candy, biscotti, and a few assorted small things. I spent way less than I had expected to, or budgeted for. Notice how I completely failed in my prime objective of 850 yards of lovely hand-painted worsted weight for Clapotis. Oh well, I'll dye it myself.
Perhaps next year, we'll rent a house. Some of my local girls did that and it worked out well for them.
* Really? The woman has been married for 30+ years and has two children. The look of shock she gave me was priceless. I hadn't meant to be vulgar in the least, I was referring to the note my husband had left on a sweater while I was blocking it. It has a weird construction and part of the hood sticks up from the body of the sweater's back. The note said 'is this a sweater penis?' I assured him that it was not.