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!

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