Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Newport News to Baltimore, Train #94, Track 1

I really love riding the train. Today I'm taking my second ride, this time to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, or MSWF.

When I first heard about MSWF, I thought it was up on the Eastern Shore, and I thought it was...well...probably pretty lame and small time.

Little did I know.

This is a big deal, probably second only to the NY festival in Rhinebeck. Folks just call it "Rhinebeck." MSWF is alternatively referred to as just "Maryland Sheep and Wool." As in, "Are you going to Rhinebeck this year" and "No, only Maryland Sheep and Wool." Go figure. I know people who go to multiple festivals each year. I just go to Maryland. Although, if I were in the vicinity of one I would go. There are two other festivals I would like to attend, though, and are on my wish list. One is SOAR (Spin-Off Artists Retreat) in Portland, OR, and the big jewelry conference in Albuquerque, NM. Artistically, there's a great deal going on west of the Mississippi and another compelling reason, among many, to move back West.

MSWF ain't small time and is anything but lame. There are a couple hundred vendors spotting everything from raw fleeces to spinnable to fiber to pinning wheels to needles, yarns, dye supplies, and, yes, sheep and goats. There are herding demonstrations (missed it last year, WILL watch this year), Alpaca available to pet, Llamas too if you can get close enough without being spit upon. The angora bunnies are fluffy and adorable. And fast. Last year I helped catch an escapee. There are lamb kabobs galore and I can't bring myself to eat it. I'm not big on lamb anyway, and eating them during a sheep festival seems a little weird. Not wrong or right, just weird. For me. Y'all do what you want.

I cannot help but compare last year to this year. Last year: complete newbie, totally overwhelmed. Doesn't mean I didn't spend some money. I bought my first 3 ounces of merino/silk fiber and an awesome tote bag. I got home and realized pretty quickly that the only thing to do with that fiber was spin it...but with what? And so it began. First a spindle. Then a little more fiber. Then a new magazine subscription (Spin Off) and a bunch more fiber. Then a spinning wheel, then DH gives me three pounds of beautiful Gotland locks, and now I have to buy more tools to manage that (oh darn). It takes over your life. I was totally unprepared for how attending the MSWF would alter my world.

This year I'm a pro. Or, at least not a complete newb. I have a wish list of yarn and the hope that some of the big name yarns I want are marginally on sale through the larger vendors. It's mostly sock yarn because I dig knitting socks, and love using the thinner yarns. Why yes, I think I will get some spinning fiber. I've been saving up for this. I went on a yarn diet so I could splurge at MSWF. And I have a pantry full of yarn so I'm not exactly starving. I was only planning to get a couple of tools - a really nice Golding spindle, a pair of Signature Needle Arts knitting needles (or at least eye ball them, they look delicious). I thought about getting a Charisma print, they are so so so cute. And I want to test some of the spinning wheels. A wheel is not in my budget. Nothing that large is in my budget unless it washes and dries clothing.

Until last Saturday.

Knitters are enablers, and they love shopping vicariously. The very definition of a modern major enabler: Knitter. Spinner. Vicki. Probably crocheter too but that's a different breed we don't discuss.

Saturday was the Sheep Shearing Party at the Juniper Moon Fiber Farm. Shepherdess Susie has done an outstanding job of creating a relaxing, fun, and informal environment for us shareholders. I know that raising sheep and goats is serious business but when we all decend onto her farm you almost wouldn't know it. She smiles. She laughs. She invites you (insists, actually) that you remove your shoes before you enter the house. No sense in tracking sheep dip everywhere.

So,: Kent, me, Cheryl & Rick, Vicki and Cuin, Romelda & John...we're sitting around in our folding captains chairs, laughing and talking about everything, and somehow we get to the topic of drum carders. We're fiber freakazoids so this isn't exactly a stretch. Drum carder=expensive piece of equipment that brushes shorn sheep locks into beautiful spinning fiber...and no, you can't just use a hair brush BUT I TRIED. A drum card is to spinners what a pneumatic drill is to a mechanic. You can use a wrench, but the pneumatic drill is so much more efficient. Anyway, turns out Vicki is in the market for a "little" drum carder. Let's call. it a sporty little compact, like a Prius. We throw idea that around for awhile, and she says how the one she really wants is the Lexus. I suggest how it would be cool to have five or six people buy "drum carding shares" to make the price palatable and be able to afford that Lexus.

Vicki is a world class enabler. I am too. We do it to each other. I bought a netbook and she drooled, then bought a netbook. She had a wheel, and I drooled, then bought a wheel. this is the big stuff. Let's not even talk about the small stuff. I learned my skills from the Mother of All Enablers, my DH. "Of course you want that honey. Go ahead." "Just get the whole thing, no sense in paying more for bits and pieces." You know these people who encourage you to do it, spend it, grow it, make it, attend it. And it's fun, so I'm not complaining. Vicki got to see my maker in action. I am not complaining too much about the Lexus drum carder I will likely take home with me from MSWF. There are, in fact, more expensive drum carders out there, but a girl must draw the line somewhere, even this girl.

I bet I get to spend more time with Vicki. Because why buy it now when Erin has one?


  1. No worries, my personal enabler (Rick), has been talking to me about getting into the whole fiber "business" kind of things. I don't think he really knows of what he speaks. Unless of course he was there for the drum carder discussion while I was off getting things from the car (3 or 4 times)...

    We really had a great time with you guys and would love to get together again sometime soon. Movie night with wine and home made bread... maybe even some home made cheese and fresh local veges.... ymmmm

    Have fun this weekend!!! Think of me.

  2. Oh man - I waas on that train too!! The 9:10 one that left at 9:40? Met my husband who works in DC during the week - just got home. I got just what I wanted and made it out alive, though sweaty. The train up sure beat the tunnel traffic on the way home today - ugh. Hope you had a great time!

  3. Love reading about the enabling! Enabling could also be described as "support". You have a supportive husband and a supportive friend in Vicki. Good people!