Sunday, October 25, 2009

We didn't do it!

So I made it to my first fiber festival and back home again in one piece; exhausted, broke, and deliriously happy! I'm already kinda plannin' ahead for next year's festival!

Yesterday morning, my alarm clock started me off at 4am. The car had already been cleaned up the night before, my purse was packed with a portable knitting project and a balanced check book, and the programmable coffee pot was cheerfully waiting for me. This much yarn and fiber shopping was not to be taken lightly.

And yeah, I was the first one to arrive at an empty Borders parking lot at 6:50am (chuckle). But the others arrived right on time, and by 7:30 a minivan of six and my car with three more were eastbound to Fletcher, North Carolina for the SAFF: Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival. After a stop at McDonalds first, just right around the corner. It was kinda funny when the cashier looked at a lobby full of predawn women covered in knitwear and asked, "Are you all together?"

Folks, just the drive over there was something to remember. Good company and breathtaking fall colors in our decidious foothills of the Smoky Mountains. The colors popped under dark cloudy dawn skies that were underlit by the sun still being so low. If you've ever seen hills glow on a day like yesterday, you'll know what I mean. It just got prettier and prettier as we drove on.

We got there and parked around 10-ish. The air was crisp, but not chilly, and the breeze was gentle: the perfect autumn mood-setter for knitterly things . . . and the agricultural center's grounds were packed with knitters that I would guesstimate to number over a thousand. Seemed that way in a good way. I would later observe to my husband that large groups of any other kind of people wouldn't have been such an enjoyable experience. All day, strangers browsing the goods beside me would comment to me as if we had been shopping together all day. Well, I reckon a bujillion of us were doing just that.

Before the magical moment of walking through the door of the first building, we decided that we would meet there at those doors every two hours, just to check in with each other.

And then we entered . . . my first fiber festival ever . . . and I was squealing already just five feet in the door! Gasp! Little miniature sheep dolls made of fleece. SAFF t-shirts and mugs, knitters' jewelry, and then . . . the first booth with yarn . . . and fleece . . . and more yarn . . . and more fleece . . . dyeing kits . . . spindles . . . wheels . . . needles . . . patterns . . . things to put them things in . . . ! Oh. My. Gawd! By then, I was about 30 feet inside the door on the first of two levels (with several more buildings and barns to go yet) and just a little dizzy. I'm not sure if there was an agreement amongst us Fertile Turtles to split off and start shopping, or if I just wandered off in a daze and just . . . started shopping.

Next thing I knew, I had a bulging bag of sock yarn from just that first level. I stopped buzzing enough to realize I was awfully thirsty and in need of a cigarette. That, and there's the other level and them other buildings, and wasn't there supposed to be some animals around here? And a 'sales' area? What time is it, anyway? I got me a soda, made the check point, and felt normal for the first time since we'd gotten there. We all played show 'n tell with our purchases, compared notes as to what all we had found and where, and devised individual gameplans as to where to go next.

Heard tell that the sheep shearing barn (the blue barn) had little goody bags they were giving away, so I headed up there with Daphne and Jason. We walked in just in time to see the last one given away - oh well. But what I ended up coming away with, was soooo much more precious and generous than any ol' goody bag!
You know I want a spinning wheel. Anybody who's spent more than just a few minutes with me knows that. And there I was among acres of wheels. Sooooo . . . . I politely asked this lady in that blue barn (found out her name is Barbara) if I could just tredle on hers . . . just to feel what's it like to work double tredles. Okay, if you're not a fiber person (and somehow still reading this), this is not an unusual request in such a festival setting. Or so I had read in beginner spinning books.
Anyhoo, she did more than allow that. She pulled her work off of it, loaded up an empty bobbin, snatched up a handful of wool (from thin air, upon thinking back on it), and gave the three of us an impromptu beginner's lesson! She explained the parts of the wheel (it was a Lendrum), how and why to adjust all them parts, what she was doing with her hands, and in turn what that did to the fiber, etc. She's done this before, it showed. And she was the most comfortable, soothing, empowering teacher I've ever met, paid for or stumbled upon! Then she stood up, and handed me the rest of that little fluff of wool. She simply said, "Now you do it," and let me have her wheel for a few precious minutes.
It was clumsy and comical at first, with me somehow pedalling the wheel back and forth instead of round and round. Without saying a word, she reached down and with her hand spun the wheel to keep me from backing it up. She did it with the body language and nonchalance of a mother dusting off a fallen toddler. That little boost and straightening out gave me a few moments from the constant motion (hands and feet and whirling things all at once) to think. And then I was spinning. As simple and magical a moment as that. I forgot about my feet and just turned them loose. The wheel's speed found me, or I found it, but we matched up and I was spinning. If I can do that in just a few minutes (with a spinning guardian angel nearby), think what I could do if given a lifetime to bond with a specific wheel! It was nearly spiritual. Okay, no 'nearly' about it. It was a glorious recognition of sorts, that's what it was.

You do know, now, that there will be no living with me until I get a wheel of my own! All the way home later that day, I kept chanting in a childish voice, "Iwannawheel, I wannawheel, Iwannawheel!" Daphne and Jason were good sports about it, and let me carry on. But ya know, it's hubby that's gonna hear me whimper until I get one . . . and it's out there somewhere, just waiting for me to bring it home. Hang in there Love, I'm saving as quick as I can.

Okay, so we left the blue barn, I shook it off, and the exploring recommenced. I wandered back to the blue barn at the posted once-a-day shearing demo time, and learned the story behind the sheep they were going to shave. They were rescue sheep, and the one for yesterday's demo was named Elsabeth. She had been two years without shearing when they found her, but the handler said she believed that Elsabeth had once been a show animal, by her behavior.

Elsabeth was a very good sport too. Her poor fleece was so overgrown! So the shearing wasn't like one of those Australian things we see on TV. It was a kinder, family-ish, healing, downright mothering kind of thing to watch. The handler's helpers were her family, it turned out, and even the youngest little girl was perfectly comfortable following the older woman's instructions in handling the animal, while she did what had to be done. She got some vaccine syringes ready while telling the crowd Eslabeth's story. The younger women and girls got into place to help secure the sheep, and then the shearing began. We the crowd had grown very empathetic towards Elsabeth in those few minutes of hearing her story, and were anxious to see her freed from that overweight encasement.

And the first glimmer of freedom for Elsabeth was a tail that could finally wag freely! Yeah, she got a little knick on her leg, but it was okay.

Our new sheep friend just munched on her grain while the ladies continued giving her a makeover.

And then the alpaca's caught my eye in the next barn over. Just look at those faces and those ridicously huge brown eyes!

And um, yeah, some were for sale. Could you just see me coming home with one of these in the back seat of my old cadillac? Yarn Boys, you have competition!

So, I scored some sock yarn, three skeins of Dream in Color's Smooshy.

And some of the elusive Bugga! came home with me too.

And some dyed alpaca roving . . .

and natural, undyed alpaca roving . . .

And a nifty little basket just made for drop spindle spinning.

oh yeah, and a new spindle too.
And then this morning, while browsing the 'net, I found this on our local news station's homepage: Rock slide closes I-40. I just want to go on record as stating that it had been at least eleven hours since we drove through there, so we didn't do it!


  1. I was so happy I got to join the group for SAFF. Since I had been to SAFF before the most memorable part of the day for me was the drive over. I'm staying on Spivey Mountain less than two miles form the North Carolina border so I drove down Hwy. 19 and then back up I-26. I didn't have to leave as early as everyone else since I'm just over the mountain and the view that morning was breathtaking. Hwy. 19 is pretty narrow with trees flanking both sides and they were as golden as the sun. The farther down the mountain I went the more blue sky I could see.

    Having been diagnosed with depression, I have to say that that drive, followed by a day spent with (what I feel are) long lost friends was better for me than anything in the world short of a cure for Alzheimers. Thanks guys.

  2. It's so much fun to read your account of SAFF. I've been going since it was in Winston Salem and always love hearing new folks as they are introduced to SAFF. It's a grand little fiber festival, growing leaps and bounds.
    If you're around in April, come to Thistle Cove Farm for sheep shearing day. Saturday date to be announced on my blog

  3. Misty, it was bonus having you with us that day!
    And Sandra, thank you for the invitation; looking at your blog made me squeal as I realized you're awfully close to my hometown of Middlesboro, Ky!