Maryland Alpaca and Fleece Festival 2022

One of our favorite fiber festivals! It’s still going on until 4 and tomorrow 9-4 at the Howard County Fairgrounds if you are local. It’s free! I think it was quite a bit bigger this year, it’s still fairly compact but they opened up at least one new space and had 17 new vendors.

Last year we ended up with a few odds and ends but this year we both had some projects in mind and went to shop!

Matt really wants to try felting so we picked up a cute felting sample set of roving from Bauer Family Farm featuring a bunch of basic colors. He wants to try some projects from the Woolbuddies book I bought him and this will help! I also got some roving to spin from them in an unexpected for me pumpkin colorway and something more in my usual color palate.

We bought some larger bags of roving and felting needle holders from Alford Family Farms and Spinnery.

I really need to get on my spinning and get good! I’m glad I bought a bunch of fiber the last couple months though because it will be months before it’s fiber festival season again. I don’t love buying that sort of thing online.

I bought a skein to use as weft on a scarf I’ve had warped on my Wolf Pup for months. I really had a hard time matching a yarn to the color I have as warp. I thought it would go well with some yarn I already had but it didn’t. My goal is to really use my floor looms this winter and get really good at warping then so I can go to MAFA and take a class without slowing people down.

I bought a skein of hot pink splotchy yarn from 7th Floor Yarn to go with with some hot pink I bought earlier in the year. Both times they were on clearance; am I the only hot pink lover?

The Chesapeake Fibershed was there with fun examples of natural dying with various mordants. It was great to see how the different they were in person and not just a book. I’ve been following them online (I think they are pretty new?) so it was neat to see them have a presence at the festival.

We just really like the alpaca festival! Everyone is nice, there seems to be more colorful yarn/fiber for sale (more our speed) and is big enough to get what you want without being overwhelming.

A few sellers had darning eggs of various sizes. I’m sensing a moment!

After we drove 10 minutes to pick up some kimbap for lunch. How I missed them! Since it’s cold, it was perfect to bring back and eat at home. All in all a very pandemic friendly outing and we were back by 1pm eating and watching Bake Off.

Fall Frederick FiberFest!

Today was a perfect fall day and we drove the hour or so up to Frederick to go to the FiberFest. It’s totally free, there’s a raffle, plenty of parking, food trucks and real bathrooms. What more could you want?

We went in the spring and I think we had better luck today!

One of the reasons I thought it would be fun to spin is because there isn’t a ton of things for weavers at these festivals but they are fun. There is always a lot of fiber for spinners though! We live in a area with a lot of farms and producers.

I’ve been busy with my black walnut project and haven’t spun much but I’d like to have some fiber ready to go once I can move off of my practicing. It’s so much more fun to see and touch it in person and as a bonus there is no shipping costs.

This time I bought 8 oz of alpaca from an alpaca named Raven from Artemis Grange.

I was tempted by some rabbit fur but passed.

I did get some fiber from Polymorph Dyeworks. I talked to the owner and she said last festival they didn’t sell any but it was selling fast today. It really was. I saw what I wanted early and came back for it about 15 minutes later and most of it was gone.

I think the vendor with the best idea was Northwood and Pine which had vegan fibers (cotton, bamboo etc) that you could chose from and they made a batt for you right there! Super cute idea. I don’t think I will be ready to use it for a bit but I couldn’t resist. I love an interactive moment.

I also got a vintage latch hook kit. It’s a Christmas ornament that bizarrely says “Hello”. I did latch hook as a kid and thought it might be something easy to do on some dark night. Fingers crossed it’s in good shape. The box doesn’t look like it was ever opened.

My only disappointment with the festival the festival doesn’t seem to have a mailing list or actual website, just a Facebook page and that really gets lost in the shuffle. Apparently there was a spinning class today but I didn’t see it until too late. I put it on the calendar in the spring to check the page before the spring event in case they offer it again. They did have a rigid heddle demo and a fiber crafting demo this time which I feel like was new but didn’t require signing up. It’s still a very cute little festival but a spinning class would have taken it to the next level.

We actually went to the downtown area and got sandwiches at Crabapples and ate outside then returned to the festival for the one o’clock drawing. I feel like we have to make the most of these sunny days when we have them! Especially since we aren’t doing many indoor activities and winter is long.

While walking to lunch I “stole” some marigolds and mums that had overgrown into the walkway near some businesses. I think it might be just enough to eco print my walnut scarf!

Then on our way home I noticed someone in the neighborhood had posted they were sharing some flower arrangements in squash for free and we swung by! A mysterious voice from the house told me to take two. How sweet is that?

All in all a very successful day! I’m still hoping to go to the Alpaca festival next month but at least I got some fun things now in case it’s too cold or the event gets canceled.

Landis Valley Museum Harvest Days

We visited the museum back in August and enjoyed it. I had checked out their events and class calendar (I wish we were a little closer, their classes all look great) and noted their biggest event was in October. Since it was nice weather this past weekend we thought we thought it was worth a drive.

We went to Flying Fibers and then drove about 25 more minutes to the museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect, the descriptions were a little vague—food, demonstrations, pumpkins—and it said it was family friendly. Family friendly is great but when you don’t have kids it can be a red flag—is it code for “this is really for toddlers”? We came up with some back up activities in nearby Ephrata and figured it was worth the risk.

I’m glad we went! It was actually a lot of fun. It was kid friendly and they had some small kid activities but it was largely groups of adults and older elementary or middle school aged children. One little girl was dressed in an old fashioned dress and bonnet with a cloth doll and seemed very excited to be there which was fun to see.

Neither of us were really expecting vendors but there were a lot of niche vendors what sold niche crafts and were showing off their goods. we bought a sassafras bowl/dipper from a cooper (who also teaches coopering at the museum at times!), some wool from a spinner, had a long chat with a woman who canes chairs (my husband now really wants to do this) and a woman who made jewelry out of human and horse hair like Victorian hair work. I think she might be a good speaker for my weaving guild next year! It was very interesting to see the weaving process. There were also farmers with pawpaws and different types of apples, potters and gourd artists. One table was selling tape looms (even fancier than the ones we had bought at the museum before with an extra decorative hole section), pot pie noodle rolling pins (I was tempted) and other wooden handcrafts.

The museum had a lot of artisans out doing cooking demos in the wood ovens, butchering and making scrapple over a wood fire, apple cider pressing and the Lancaster Weaving and Spinning Guild was there. They talked to us about their sheep to shawl competitions in the PA Farm show and we bought one of the shawls they made during practice runs. I never really thought about them practicing but it makes sense, it’s basically a relay race but with sheep and wool!

The woman we talked to suggested I join the guild because they have frequently talks with guest speakers and it’s all over Zoom. Apparently they have some members who live further out in PA and only make the big in person events so my hour or so away in MD isn’t that big of a deal. Honestly, it is quicker for me in Northern Baltimore City to get to the Lancaster area than it is to get to the area where the “Greater Baltimore” weaving guild meets/holds their shows heading down towards DC/Columbia.

I went ahead and joined. I can’t imagine I could come to too many in person activities but their offerings are plentiful and still largely online. The woman told us how having them via Zoom has been a boon because they don’t have to pay for travel and lodging for their guest speakers because people can remote in from anywhere. I love my current guild and of course will remain a member there but for $25, the membership benefits of the Lancaster guild are great. They even have a private YouTube channel with old classes on it.

I’m really glad we went! It was a beautiful day, everyone was so nice, we were so inspired and I even foraged some black walnuts to try to dye some yarn for my local guild’s dye challenge.

Spring Frederick FiberFest!

We drove out to Frederick for the FiberFest. It was free if you pre-registered and you got entered into a drawing. Parking was free too! I had never been to the fairgrounds there before but it right before you would head into the historic Frederick area coming from Baltimore.

It was overcast but in the upper 60s so perfect festival weather! The yarn was all in two big buildings. I’d say about half the people were masking.

It was 99% knitting and crochet which I expected. The place in Catonsville that does some rigid heddle classes was there but only had yarn. I did see some woven scarves for sale and some (possibly twined?) place mats. One place had Zoom Looms for sale and a couple of pin looms and I saw a lot of people looking at them. I think there would be more interest if people were more exposed. Some woman was also there selling upcycled wool clothing art.

I was hoping someone would be selling shuttles but no luck.

I did get some half price hot pink yarn that I think will work with the reed I have for the Wolf Pup.

The Frederick County Master Gardeners were there having a plant sale and we impulse bought some fish pepper, pepperoncini and habenaro plants for us and a lemon boy tomato plant for my dad.

Then we got sandwiches at the Firestone Market and ate in the park. It was fun getting out and doing some Covid friendly activities. It’s been a long time since we’ve been to Frederick. I sort of wish we had run into the yarn store that’s there, I think they sell need punch/rug punch items but I don’t think they sell any weaving stuff and I don’t need to invest in rug punch right now! Maybe we will go back in the winter. I’m pretty tied up with the temperature blanket, making the t-shirt rugs and learning the floor loom.

Weaving Woes Part 2: Why I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Attend Maryland Sheep & Wool Again

Part of why I wanted to start this blog beyond documenting my progress is to share my journey into the world of weaving. I truly enjoy all types of weaving! I’ve loved trying out pin looms, my new giant rug loom, my rigid heddle after making about 20 frame loom tapestries of various sizes in Winter-Spring 2021 inspired by reading about this loom in the Strategist. I am sad I didn’t find weaving sooner!

I really thought this would be a fun time. I finally am in a place where I have some time and money (unfortunately thanks to my mother’s death and my fee from handling her estate and a slow down of work due to a global pandemic) to try out a new craft.

However, I have been unpleasantly surprised at how oddly difficult the process of getting into weaving has been as a beginner. I don’t want to come across as whiny or bitter but it has been bizarre how at nearly every turn I have run into some strange, unforeseeable issue that was completely out of my control.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know any who does any sort of weaving. I live in Baltimore City. There are no weaving stores here which is a little surprising because we have an arts college, MICA, where you can literally major in fiber. We have some yarn stores in the general metro area and some carry some very basic supplies like shuttles and cone yarn and one offers occasional rigid heddle classes but that’s about it. I know there are weavers here because I see weaving equipment sold on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace all the time. I’ve even bought some!

We do have a weavers guild, the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore which apparently, during non-Covid times meets about an hour outside of Baltimore. I have contacted them multiple times over months for help and asking about membership and do not get a response. I’ve emailed and called the local yarn stores for advice about learning to weave, looking for other weavers, and asking about ordering supplies, and was either ignored or brushed off. I also reached out to various community members and groups about getting a t-shirt loom made was ignored by two places, ghosted another and then finally got lucky on Facebook Marketplace by cold messaging people until one answered.

But I keep going!

I have been on the Maryland Arts email list for years and have attended some of their folklife programs in years past. I knew they do a grant for Maryland Folklife Traditions each year where a novice apprentice pairs up with a “master” to learn a new skill. I thought that might be a great way to learn to weave. Back in early November 2021 after being ignored by the yarn stores, the guild and not finding anyone via Facebook weaving groups, I contacted the Folklife committee directly and asked if they had any suggestions on how to find a “master” weaver. They put me in touch with a woman who was helping another woman learn about fiber arts as a recipient of the 2021 grant.

She got right in touch and I visited her in her studio about an hour and 15 minutes from my home. Her apprentice arrived a few hours late for our meeting but the “master” showed us how to use a reel. She told me to get a floor loom, specifically the Baby Wolf. She said she would be the “master” for the grant (for which she would receive $3000, I would get about $1000 and we’d share an amount for travel) if I was willing to do the written portion of that application. She told me that she would help me learn how to weave even if we decided not to apply for the grant or we weren’t chosen. She wasn’t interested in helping me with the rigid heddle and told me to buy a floor loom as soon as possible and that I could either travel with it to and from my house or leave it in her studio for lessons. I ordered my Baby Wolf right away from the Woolery. When I heard about the Red Stone Glen sale, I drove the 90 minutes there to buy yarn and supplies, saw and bought a used Wolf Pup for $800 which I felt would be easier to transport to her farm studio for weaving lessons than the Wolf. The Wolf, as I’ve shared, was back-ordered so I thought it would help speed along learning to weave.

This woman is the chairperson of Maryland Sheep and Wool, the massive fiber and lamb festival we have in central Maryland each year. While we were talking about weaving and killing time until her apprentice arrived she asked what I did for a living and I told her that I develop recipes and write cookbooks. She was very excited about this and right away said to come to the Sheep & Wool meeting the next week (about an hour from my home) to introduce myself. She really wanted to put together a cookbook for the 50th anniversary of Sheep and Wool in 2023. I was very upfront that I can’t work for free and that this would be paid work for me. She readily agreed. I attended the three plus hour meeting and was introduced.

I was invited back out to her rural farm/studio to meet with the general manager of the festival and the committee chair for the 50th anniversary. They were all very nice and excited about the cookbook. We talked for hours. They agreed to my fee (an extremely discounted friends and family rate with no royalties for one year’s worth of creating, editing, testing, and writing the book) and we went over what the book would look like. We talked about getting a grant they had received in the past from the Lamb Board to help with costs. They assured me they would handle it and to get started on the project.

They had me send them a contract they said they would return when I saw them next. I got started on the project and provided them with regular updates in writing. As the new year began I really had made some headway and even had a historical/local interest press interested in publishing the book vs self-publishing it. This is a huge coup! Countless hours of work. I had not started developing the recipes yet as it wasn’t yet lamb season (the committee was going to help me source lamb from local farms) but I kept in touch.

I wanted to update them as to what was going on and to get the go-ahead to work with the publisher so I asked if we could have a Zoom meeting because the Covid rates were high again. They set one up. I spent hours creating slides and a presentation. Then when I logged into the meeting, they informed me that the meeting was over, they didn’t want me to present, and that they decided that “no one buys cookbooks anymore” and that they didn’t want to do the project.

This was after I worked on it, with their full knowledge for two months. I had turned down another project to do this because they promised this project was going forward. I didn’t apply for or pitch other work in December and January (when you pitch work for the spring/early summer) because I was ready to work full time on this cookbook. They knew all of this. At no point did they tell me they were having second thoughts about the cookbook.

Of course, people do buy cookbooks,  the NYT is reporting a 17% total increase in cookbook sales since 2019 and a 127%  increase in sales for “general cookbooks” like the Sheep & Wool cookbook we planned. I’m not sure where they got their data about cookbook sales or why they felt the need to tell me that no one wants to cook or make recipes anymore as that is literally how I make my living.

They said it was not a reflection of me and I know it wasn’t because they didn’t see any of my actual work or let me speak at the meeting I asked for but it was incredibly unprofessional of them to waste so much of my time if they weren’t serious about the project.

What seemed to have happened was that they didn’t loop in the rest of the festival board about the cookbook and made me promises they couldn’t keep.

They ultimately were sort of apologetic about how they handled it but again, they approached me. After they pulled the plug on the cookbook they asked if I wanted to work for free in some other capacity for the festival (and potentially contribute free recipes to their history book) instead. It’s clear they don’t want to pay people for their labor and I got the impression that they felt like I should want to work for free.

I was very upfront from day one that while I was giving them a steep discount but that I can’t work for free and why.

Recipe development and cookbook writing is incredibly costly (ingredients!) and time-consuming. I did ask them to pay a fraction of my discounted rate for the months of work I already did. They did give me a small amount of money but I am truly appalled at how they handled all of this. I have done freelance work for the last 15+ years and I’ve never dealt with a more poorly organized, unprofessional group than Maryland Sheep and Wool.

Now I am out of a job, never got the weaving help I actually was looking for when I first met them, the deadline for the grant I wanted has passed and I am still unable to find anyone to teach me how to weave or even troubleshoot with. The chairperson never contacted me after to help me with my weaving or to offer any sort of apology for dragging me into this mess. Maryland Sheep and Wool still sends me regular emails asking me to volunteer for the festival.

Even if this didn’t affect me personally, I truly do think they are making a mistake. They could have sold that lamb cookbook for literally decades both in person, online and as an ebook and kept all the profits and instead decided to cobble together a 50th-anniversary history that has a shelf life of one year and is written by volunteers.

I am really left with the impression that weavers in my are very clique-y and uninterested in welcoming new weavers into a community. I am always polite, friendly, responsive, and respectful but I have been ignored and mistreated at nearly every turn. It is really disappointing because I feel like these organizations and businesses give a lot of lip service to being inclusive and wanting to attract younger weavers and members. That came up every time I saw or talked to anyone from Sheep and Wool–the need to attract younger and new members (the “younger” ones were still largely at least in their 50s) and get new interest in the festival. I’m in my early 40s but decades younger than these people and willing to work at less than minimum wage to help them bring back more food content to Sheep and Wool just because I thought it would be a fun project and they treated me like dirt.

I am slightly hesitant to post this but it is the truth. I am not only out of a job because they couldn’t bother to be honest with me about the project or go through their own proper channels to hire me but I’ve also spent thousands on looms that I wouldn’t have invested in now if I didn’t think I had a willing teacher. Obviously, some of this is on me, I shouldn’t have done anything without the signed contract but they told me many times they were 100% invested and would return it to me when we met again. They knew I was already working on the project. Time was of the essence as I needed to secure a printer and format before doing any written work on the book and publishers were citing a 4-6 month lag time for printing. They wanted the book out before May 2023. I was very clear and upfront about what I was doing and they just strung me along. I feel like I have to put this out there just in case anyone else wants to work with the organization in the future. I’d feel sick if they did this to anyone else. I’m tired of this sort of thing happening to creatives who put their faith in these organizations. I had googled them looking for this kind of issue before I met with them and couldn’t find anything.

I’m not sorry that I have the looms but now I’m back to teaching myself from a book and old DVDs from the library. Stay tuned!

Maryland Alpaca and Fleece Festival 2021

Fiber festivals are back! We drove the 45 minutes to the Howard County Fairgrounds Saturday and wasn’t disappointed.

We had gone to the festival at least once before but of course, they have all be suspended due to the pandemic. This one required masks in the buildings but not the barns.

Everyone was masked and it was pretty crowded despite the damp weather! Lots of yarn and alpaca goods. I bought a skein of hand dyed yarn and so did Matt. I bought two bags of colorful roving to maybe try with my drop spindle. We also got some knitting nancys (aka spool knitters) to try out. He’s already been practicing on one.

I also bought a 12 inch triangle pin loom. I have a three foot one I bought on Facebook Marketplace but thought it might be nice to practice on a smaller one. Continuous thread weaving does not come naturally to me! I haven’t found a person who does good videos for most pin loom projects to be honest.

We got to see quite a few alpacas, including some in costume for a children’s parade.