Almost everyone I know refers to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival as simply ‘Sheep & Wool.’ Let’s face it, it’s much easier to say. It also sums up what we are thinking about when we talk about it: Sheep & Wool. There are classes, competitions, and loads of things to do when you go. This year I was on a schedule that required me to skip over the farm side of things in favor of … well, in favor of shopping. Sheep & Wool is home to two big barns, four glorious aisles of every kind of accessory and material you might want or need to spin, knit, & weave with not to mention arts related to these endeavors.
This is one quarter of the shopping. Wowza. It is really quite a special place.
Usually I attend this event with my whole family. The kids love seeing the sheep & the working dog trials & we make a whole day of it. This year, however, we had commitments that wouldn’t allow me to drag the whole clan, so my husband very graciously requested Friday off of work so I could go solo. I missed having everyone there with me, but in all honesty it worked out quite well. I was able shop at my leisure, not needing to rush back & do the after-school pick-ups. Thanks, Mr Knitting Sarah!
I didn’t have unlimited time though, so I did have to have a plan, a system going in — I think everyone that attends does. Mine went like this:
1) Arrive early (9:30am as it opened at 10am)
2) Procure coffee
3) Sweep through all the booths once, making note of where I am interested in things & want to return
4) Go back through all the booths making my final selections & purchases
5) Leave deliriously happy & find a late lunch
6) Drive home trying to not explode in excitement
7) Put feet up & try very hard not to talk off Mr Knitting Sarah’s ears, reliving every glorious detail of the epic day (I do that when I am excited)
Points one & two were easy and really, point three was pure joy. Sheep & Wool really attracts such a fantastic group of vendors. Everyone was very helpful & friendly and I had just the greatest time browsing, learning, & touching all the beautiful yarns & fibers and visiting with everyone. I ran into a few friends & past students which was lovely, too. I even managed to arrange a meet up with one friend in order to hand-off this skein that I had purchased for her a few weeks ago:
When you have a knitting friend who works at Horicon Marsh whose desk includes a view of an osprey nest, you find a skein of Quince & Co Osprey in Marsh to give to her. You have to. It’s just what you do.
She, in turn, handed me this:
Handmade by one of her friend’s talented husband, this beautiful little tool spins in circles, unwinding your cake of yarn nice & evenly as you need it.
I just love the two tones of the different kinds of wood — so lovely! I’ve seen these in use often, but never tried one. I can’t wait to give this a whirl!
Taking home a gift was unexpected and, relatively speaking, easy compared with making the final decisions on what I would be buying. It was like mission impossible. Obviously, I could not take home everything I fell in love with — my checkbook would not appreciate that & I drive a small car — so I took a lot of cards for a lot of talented vendors in hopes that over the coming months I can get back in touch with them & place orders. The beauties that are in my home though are pretty fantastic & I am pretty stinking happy about their presence here. I am also beyond stoked to share them with you!First, a yarn gauge. I have one, but am not too fond of it. For under $10, I am ready to try something different. Here’s hoping this one does the trick!
Next, this beautiful SW BFL from Sun Valley Fibers. I saw this dyed on some of their sock yarn & LOVED it, so I opted for some of the roving. I love the colors & the name, ‘Gone Fishin’. My son is currently addicted to fishing, so it made me think of him. I’m a total sucker for that kind of thing — you know, colorway names that connect me to the fiber. It’s a little absurd, but I think we all do it on some level and hey, whatever works, right? I even got a cute little tape measure to go with. I had the nicest chat with the folks in this booth and I was quite happy to hear The Sow’s Ear in Verona stocks their yarns. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for their yarns the next time I am there.
Then I picked this lovely Merino & Silk roving from Fiber Optic Yarns. This booth was literally bursting with people — gradients are all the rage at Sheep & Wool this year and this booth had them in spades. This one is called Thunder to Lightning.This one is Chocolate to Aqua.
And this one is Bitter Lime to Rose. Thunder to Lightning is for me, but the latter two I’ll be spinning up for my mom for Christmas. I have never worked with Fiber Optics Yarns, so I am anxious to try this dyer out.
It took me a third pass to the Green Mountain Spinnery booth to get up the nerve to purchase a sweater’s worth of yarn, but I finally did it.
Spending $30 here and there on roving is easy. Buying 10skeins of this beautiful wool almost gave me a stroke, but I am so incredibly glad that I did. I have been really impressed with the Mountain Mohair I’ve been working with on my Rusted Root sweater & had made a note to visit this booth. There aren’t any local shops that carry Green Mountain Spinnery yarns & I really wanted to see their stuff up close. The tenets they run their business on are really in line with my own — buy local, be gentle on the Earth, and have your hands in every step of the process — & I was really happy to discover that the ladies in the booth were as sweet & kind as I thought they would be. It left me without a doubt that I wanted to support them…
And knit with their beautiful yarns. This Weekend Wool is sourced with US wool & milled in Vermont. I am very much looking forward to knitting Cape Cod by Thea Colman with this gorgeous greyish blue. After I chose it, I was double-checking dye lots when I noticed the name of the colorway… Blue Jay. I have only one word: Fate.
And finally, I saved my first purchase of the day to share with you last. It is by far the most extravagant…
A set of DPNs from Signature Needle Arts. While it’s true the price tag is high and I’m afraid they may be a bit of a status symbol, I am just in love with the story of how they came to be. These needles are 100% made in the USA in a family-owned company based just a few hours from my house. I have interchangeable sets that render needle purchasing mostly unnecessary with one notable exception: US size 1. I have a long circular size 1 for magic loop, but there are just times when I feel like knitting socks with DPNs. And aside from a cheap set of bamboo DPNs that I really don’t care for I don’t actually own size 1 DPNs. I have gone back and forth on whether or not I wanted to try the Signature needles for years for obvious reasons — great reviews vs scary price tag. When I saw them at the Yarns by Design booth at Sheep & Wool, I didn’t think. I just jumped. Time will tell how I feel about them, but I can’t wait to try these out for myself. Finally!
All in all, Sheep & Wool 2013 was full of inspiration, friendly faces, and many goodies to try out over the coming months. I can’t wait for 2014, but in the mean time I had better getting knitting & spinning!
PS — If you haven’t gone yet & you are in the area, the WI Sheep & Wool Festival runs through tomorrow Sunday, September 8 — you still have time to go!