Hudson Valley 2021 Fiber Festival Highlights
October was the month for all things Autumnal in Upstate New York, and that includes sheep! The Hudson Valley officially kicked off the cozy season with a series of events, and the nostalgia of events past was real and palpable. My fellow “fiber” folks are still talking about it and sharing photos and videos on their social platforms. They experienced and shared their joy of a wool community that was again able to safely gather to celebrate the farmers, the animals and the beautiful fiber they produce. By the way, this “fiber” isn’t the kind you eat; instead, the term is used to describe the raw material from animals like sheep and alpaca or plants like cotton or linen.
But first, a few words about wool production.
The process begins with shearing the animal. Let’s start by saying, no animals are harmed during the skilled shearing process. Indeed, sheep and alpaca must be shorn to maintain proper hygiene and optimal health. Goats and rabbits are also shorn to provide foundation material for beautifully soft cashmere and angora garments to keep us warm during upstate winters.
Shorn wool fiber is scoured (washed) then spun either by hand or machine into yarn and used in weaving, knitting, and crocheting to create clothing and other textiles. Unspun fiber (“roving”) is also used in “felting,” a process that causes the wool to fray slightly and fuse to the other fibers around it, creating a more solid appearance. The natural palette of shorn wool fiber is typically a gorgeous off-white, grey, or brown color. It can also be dyed in a myriad of colors using a variety of processes.
Now on to our celebrations!
Sheep & Wool 2021 | Website
Like many events worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the live Sheep & Wool event in 2020, and a Zoom version valiantly filled the void. Thankfully, the celebration of this beautiful material called wool resumed this year in a hybrid version of the 41st Annual NY State Sheep & Wool Festival (Insider tip: It is lovingly referred to as just Rhinebeck), held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck.
This grand festival typically draws tens of thousands of farmers, artists, ceramists, authors, food vendors, makers and textile enthusiasts from across the country and beyond. It’s an event for the entire family, and those in the Fiber Arts community especially look forward to it each year. If you knit or crochet, perhaps you are already thinking about or have even cast on your 2022 Rhinebeck Sweater.
Kristy Glass, an actress, prolific knitter, knitwear designer, and host of Kristy Glass Knits on YourTube, began interviewing festival-goers about their Rhinebeck Sweaters in 2017, and it’s become a tradition. You can view this year’s “Tell me about your Rhinebeck Sweater” video here, which epitomizes what “Rhinebeck” is all about. (I dare you not to smile, fiber enthusiast or not.)
Kristy Glass Knits
For many vendors, the Sheep & Wool festival provides the bulk of their annual business income. Those vendors who could not be in Rhinebeck with a booth this year had the opportunity to participate online, making for an inclusive event despite the challenging Covid circumstances we continue to navigate.
The Hudson Valley Textile Project is a local organization that celebrates and supports a sustainable model of regionally sourced, processed and manufactured fiber products while supporting a farm-to-fashion fiber chain that supports local growers, processors, artisans, manufacturers, and consumers. They interviewed NYS Sheep & Wool festival organizers on their “Common Threads” podcast a few weeks ahead of the festival. To say it was a challenging undertaking to plan, organize and execute an event of this magnitude amid a global pandemic is an understatement, and it was done with aplomb by volunteers with full-time day jobs.
Up to 60,000 festival tickets are typically sold in years not threatened by a global pandemic, a number that was drastically reduced this year to keep people safe. In addition to limited ticket sales, precautions were taken to help ensure a safe event, including socially-distanced vendor booths and moving more vendors to outdoor tents. Masks and vaccinations were encouraged but not mandatory, with the expectation that festival-goers maintain pandemic safety protocols, be patient and respectful while in attendance.
I can say from experience that the event was different than years past in that it was not as crowded; on the other hand, this meant you could see more. While not quite sweater weather, the temps were a balmy 75+ degrees, and the forecasted rain mercifully held off until the end of the day on Saturday. See you next year > 2022: 10/15 and 10/16
Wool & Folk 2021 | Website
Another fiber festival made its debut on Thursday, October 14th, ahead of the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool festival. Wool & Folk, a music and fiber festival, was held at the Hutton Brick Yards – a Kingston hotel and event venue along the Hudson River, with views of Rhinebeck on the opposite shore. Two Brooklyn-based business owners produced the event on a much smaller scale than Rhinebeck, but with a higher ticket price – a $50 entry fee vs. Rhinebeck’s $13. There were 26 vendors, a food truck, a coffee truck from Kingston-based Village Coffee & Goods and live music. It was a fun inaugural event, and we look forward to seeing how it evolves.
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Indie Untangled 2021 | Website
On October 15th, Indie Untangled hosted an all-day hybrid fiber shopping and social event that showcases independent yarn dyers at HITS on the Hudson – an equestrian venue in Saugerties, NY. In-person, tickets were between $10-$35 and $7 for those attending online.
Jessica’s Rabbit| Chocolate Bunday, Satin, and English Angora blended with superfine Alpaca.
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Wovember 2021 | Website
It’s not over yet! November 1st marks the beginning of Wovember, a continued celebration of wool and all that it is. Exciting!
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Fall is arguably the best time of the year for fiber enthusiasts.
And what timing, as we gear up for a cozy, Upstate New York winter season.
See you next year!