WI Sheep & Wool 2015 Recap

Well, despite the extra large cup of syrup my daughter ingested on her pancakes right before Wisconsin Sheep & Wool yesterday, the subsequent sugar high that ensued, and the fact that both kids had handled taking my mom to the Quilt Expo in Madison the day before & were pretty much hitting their patience limit, we all had an incredibly wonderful time. Of course we did. Of course.

First of all, what an amazing treat it was to meet a few people I’ve only ever ‘talked’ with in emails or Ravelry forums or via Instagram. I swear every year that part of the Sheep & Wool festival gets better and better. It was also great to see a few familiar faces, even if I couldn’t always remember how I knew them — whoops & sorry! I’m the kind of person who will recognize faces pretty quickly, but names are often another story. If you were in that boat please know that’s just how my crazy brain works. In any case, to put it plainly I go to the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and I always feel right at home. What an absolute treat and what great fun!

You probably want to see what I picked up though, don’t you? Okey, okey. I’ll share because I’m really excited, too!

First, it’s worth saying that my mom and I have been going to this festival together for a few years and we kind of have a system. Along with highlighting ‘must-see’ stores, we walk through both the East & West Country Stores entirely before purchasing anything. We take notes on things we might want to purchase including what the item is and where it’s located. Then we take a break, figure out what we want to take home with us, and make a final sweep to the shops where we want to buy. It’s a system we’ve been honing for 3 or 4 years now and this is the first year it ever felt like we really had it down. It made the whole experience much less crazed than I’m used to feeling which was fantastic and made the whole day way more fun for me.

In any case, on to the fun stuff, right?!

One of my first stops was Bijou Basin Ranch where I met Lindy from Balwen Woodworks. I thought she was awesome over email and she’s even awesome-er in person. And she helped me find the perfect buttons for the sweater I’m working on for my son.

balwenThey’re made from vintage tool handles and the edges have little flecks of blues and a little red, too. They couldn’t be a better match for this project. I was so excited about these I totally broke protocol and bought them on the spot. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do!

After we toured the rest of the country store pavillions — which took us a couple hours — we headed over toward the dog trials so the kids could have a snack and watch the working dogs do their thing while my mom and I could figure out what stops our final sweep required. Along the way, we were walking past some working dog owners and met one of their dogs who was a little skittish. Because we’re us and we’re lucky like that, these kind folks said, “Hey, we have some puppies back over in their pens — do you want to play with them? We’re working on socializing them.”

Do we want to play with puppies?

Um… YES!

So we made new friends.

IMG_0662Meg and Hawk were very, very playful.

IMG_0663And very friendly.

IMG_0665And this little lady could not have been any sweeter. I would scratch her chin and if I moved my hand, she’d scoot up to it so I wouldn’t stop. She was kind of tired and I was kind of in love with her. I didn’t catch the name of the folks who owned these pups, but I just want to say that the owners of Meg & Hawk really made our day with their generosity.

Having played with puppies, had a snack, and checked out lists, we headed back to business.

We made our way to the Wheeler Clay Studio booth where I proceeded to fall in love with one of each item. Eventually I narrowed it down to this beautiful mug.

alison wheelerI thought it was gorgeous immediately, but when I heard it was microwave and dishwasher safe I was 100% sold. As soon as I took this photo, I gave it a quick wash and I’m drinking my tea out of it right now. I just couldn’t wait! I can tell this booth will be one I revisit for many years to come.

We spent a good deal of time chatting with Natalie in the Cloudlover booth where I spent far too much time trying to decide on which of her new Halloween colors to take home.

cloudloverIn the end, I picked Cauldron (on the left) and Smolder (on the right). They are kind of really close in their colors, obviously, but I was really feeling the grey/orange/purple thing and I don’t have anything like these at home so I went with it.

From here, we finally made it to Bumblebee Acres. I meant to visit this booth last year and somehow missed it. I’m so happy I didn’t miss them this year!

bbacresAt the last moment I found these two batts in the Avalon colorway. This photo doesn’t do justice to their sky blue/purple/grey/magenta majesty but trust me when I say these will make some incredibly beautiful yarn someday.

And finally, we stopped at The Woolgatherers booth where we got to meet Scott Snyder of Snyder Spindles. He could not have been nicer or more patient as he showed my mom how a Turkish spindle works. She’s never spun before and he did a great job of demonstrating even with all the distractions of the festival and my kids starting to meltdown. As she was picking her spindle (her first – yay mom!), she asked what a certain design was — it was a sperm whale. In my slightly overcooked brain after a day of wrangling children and being bombarded with looking at awesome things, I thought this Moby Dick of spindles was the bee’s knees and I brought it home.

moby dickI believe he said it is redheart and it’s purple hues will deepen as time goes by. I really do love it and it’ll go so well with the narwhal spindle I already have.

You may notice that there’s no yarn here. No, I didn’t miss anything. I actually didn’t buy any! I did find sweater yarn at Green Mountain Spinnery to fit a pattern I really want to knit up, but since I’m not sure when I’ll get to it I thought I’d wait and order it a little later. I also meant to go back for a skein of Xanadu from Bijou Basin Ranch, but I remembered that as I got into the car to leave. That was my one little misfire for the day so it looks like I’ll be ordering that a little later as well.

Many thanks to all the folks in booths who chatted with my super-talkative kiddos while I shopped — everyone was so patient. In a world where it often feels like the unpleasant outweighs the pleasant, I have to say I got home today feeling very fortunate to have been surrounded with that much kindness. Kindness and beauty and inspiration and fiber and puppies and family and friends — what a great way to spend a day.

The WI Sheep & Wool Must-See List

The Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival in Jefferson, WI kicks off tomorrow and I will be there with bells on. As in my tradition, I thought I’d take a moment to on this festival eve to share my survival guide and ‘must-see list’ with all of you. For the most part I go to for inspiration — I don’t get to any other fiber festivals really and it’s just so nice to be around fellow yarn & fiber addicts. As relaxing and fun as this event is for me, I do go into it with a plan. I could easily just say that I want to see all the things in all the booths because that’s the honest truth, but I thought I’d narrow it down to the vendors I’ve highlighted in my guidebook to make sure I don’t miss them. I’m listing their location in the Country Store East and West buildings, too, just in case you want to jot them down.

  1. Bijou Basin Ranch (Booth 616-617E): This booth is inspiring and terrifying to me all at the same time. Inspiring because there is never a shortage of gorgeousness and terrifying because if I’m not careful I could easily spend my entire budget here. I’m going in specifically (but not exclusively, of course) to check out Xanadu, their new 100% Mongolian Cashmere. At $35/400yd skein I think this might be prime gift knitting yarn, especially when paired with the freshly re-released Miya Shawl from Mari Chiba. I’m looking forward to the chance to check this yarn out in person. Also in this booth you’ll be able to find Lindy Sinclair, of Balwen Woodworks. If you’ll remember, Balwen Woodworks sponsored a giveaway here on the blog in June. Not only will Lindy be helping out in the booth, she’ll have some of her beautiful wares for sale, too. I will definitely be looking for buttons for my son’s sweater I started last week.
  2. Bumblebee Acres Farm (Booth 687E): I meant to stop here last year, but somehow missed them. I’ve been following this farm on Instagram and browsing their online shop pretty frequently, so I’m excited to see some of their unique fibers in person.
  3. Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber (Booth 732W): Of course. Of course, I have to stop in and check out one of my favorite dyers! I may have one of almost every color she dyes in my stash, but that’s only an ‘almost’ so there’s definitely room for another braid or two.
  4. Green Mountain Spinnery (Booth 739-740W): It has been another little tradition that as a huge treat I get sweater yarn here each year. Unfortunately, even though I have a pattern all picked and ready to go, I haven’t quite made it to last year’s sweater yarn. I thought about attempting to crank out a sweater during August, but I simply ran out of time. Regardless, I’m looking forward to visiting this yarn. This year I’m actually hoping to take a look at their Sylvan Spirit and Cotton Comfort yarns.
  5. Wheeler Clay Studio (Booth 776W): Last year I purchased buttons here, but there is no shortage of absolutely beautiful, locally made pottery. I’m especially excited to check out her yarn bowls and mugs this year.
  6. The Woolgatherers, Ltd (Booth 656-657E): Another local shop, this one I’ll be looking specifically at spindles. I’ll have one eye open for spindles everywhere, but I’m interested to see if they bring a selection of Snyder Spindles since I’ve been very pleased with the one I have.
  7. Yarns by Design (Booth 668-689E): This shop always has great kits and a gorgeous selection of yarns. Last year I managed to avoid buying my weight in Mrs. Crosby, but it was restraint that could be categorized as ‘heroic.’ Always lots of delicious temptation and friendly customer service here, so even though I don’t need anything specific I can’t pass up stopping.

I’ll be there most of the day Friday soaking up all the awesome. I hope you get some time this weekend to attend and enjoy, too. If you’re there Friday, give me a shout-out — I’d love to say hi!

IMG_0637

And The Winner Is…

Today is the day I get to announce the winner of the Balwen Woodworks + Jen Lucas Designs giveaway!

Hooray!

The lucky winner will receive one beautiful Denim Closure from Balwen Woodworks…balwen clasp

AND

One copy of Jen Lucas Designs’ eBook, Gradient: A Shawl Collection.

And the winner is…

Diane Wolak

Congratulations!

Diane, I’ll need you to email me at knittingsarah[at]gmail[dot]com with your mailing address and Ravelry ID at your earliest convenience so we can get your prizes on their way to you!

Congratulations to the winner & many thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.

Extra special thanks to Lindy at Balwen Woodworks & Jen at Jen Lucas Designs for making this giveaway possible!

Balwen Woodworks Review & *GIVEAWAY*

One of the best aspects of doing what I do here with my blog is that I get the chance to work with some really talented people who make some incredibly beautiful things and I get to share their work with you, my readers. A couple months ago I was introduced to a new shop, Balwen Woodworks. I was told that the shop was specializing in some really amazing buttons, closures, and shawl pins and that I should check it out.

The slogan, “new life for materials with a story to tell” immediately caught my attention as did the truly unique items in the shop.  This ruler closure, created using vintage folding rulers, touched my heart and brought back a wave of nostalgia.

IMG_9850Some of my favorite memories of my childhood were those days when my mom sent me to go hang out with my dad in the garage, where his tools were kept. He’d work on whatever woodworking project or repair he was in the middle of, never far from one of these folding rulers, and I’d hammer nails into a 2×4, pull them out, and then hammer them in again.  I think I’ll always associate these rulers with those summer days, so it’s pretty cool to me that Lindy Sinclair, the woman behind Balwen Woodworks, found a way to bring them new life as a beautiful closure. Obviously, when I had the opportunity to showcase her beautiful creations here on the blog, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve never actually met Lindy in person, but I can tell you that from our correspondence in setting up this review & giveaway (yes, I said review and giveaway) that she is as awesome as a person in general as she is talented in her work. From the start, she was easy and fun to work with and did a fabulous job of not only suggesting a tie-in with an indie designer, but she found said great designer. That’s on top of her top-notch craftsmanship and incredibly creative & professionally made items. When I see someone that committed, the least I can do is rise to their level. I offered to knit a sample to showcase both artists.

Jen Lucas DesignsGradient: A Shawl Collection contains six very lovely designs. Meant to be used with gradient yarns, this collection of shawls boasts a very innovative style that I loved right away. Having no gradient yarns in my stash, I opted to go a slightly different way with my selected pattern, Bandwagon. With feedback from both Lindy & Jen, I settled on a skein of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber merino/nylon in the Mr Bates colorway.

IMG_9428The pattern was great summer knitting — well written, not too complicated, but still interesting. I really had fun with it!

bandwagondetIt definitely takes asymmetrical to a whole new level and I love every minute of it.

Now, we’d discussed me using a ruler closure to go with this shawl, but as I knit I saw that the yarn had these gorgeous little pops of a slate-y blue…

bandwagon2And I had this feeling that one of the Balwen Woodworks Denim Jewel Closures would be perfect.

balwen claspThese closures are insanely cool. They are hard and have a really unique texture — if I didn’t know better I’d think they were made from some sort of treated wood. But they aren’t. They are made from recycled blue jeans! To read the ingenious process that goes into making these crazy beautiful closures, you can check out this new blog post in which Lindy shares her process in words and photos. It is so cool!

In any case, Lindy graciously agreed and I’m so glad she did because check out the finished project…

full sideThe closure fits perfectly with this shawl, if I do say so myself. I’m not usually one to be great at using shawl pins and closures, but this project has completely converted me. I truly love how it all comes together so nicely!

Now we have two special treats for you today.

First, hop over to the Balwen Woodworks website and sign up for the mailing list (click the orange ‘sign me up’ button in the lower right hand corner of the homepage and follow the prompts to enter your info). Anyone who does so by July 8th will get a special coupon code for 10% off their next purchase which will be valid through August 31, 2015. You’ll get the code when you confirm your email.

Second, one lucky reader will receive one of the fabulous Balwen Woodworks Denim Jewel Closures…

balwen claspAND

A copy of the Gradient: A Shawl Collection e-book from Jen Lucas Designs.

To enter, you will need to go peruse the Balwen Woodworks website and share in the comments below your favorite piece and why you love it. One entry per person please!

Entries will be accepted through 11:59am CST July 8th, 2015 and the winner will be announced later that day.

Enjoy & best of lucky to each of you!

Many thanks to Lindy Sinclair & Jen Lucas for making this giveaway possible!

For those interested, you can also find Balwen Woodworks on:

Facebook and Instagram

Jen Lucas Designs can also be found on:

Facebook and Instagram