We just got news that DCSWF, commonly known as Rhinebeck, will be cancelled for 2020. Clearly, this decision makes sense: Dutchess County has a high caseload of Covid-19, and a festival where 60,000 attendees walk around in close quarters could be an invitation for disaster. From a vendor perspective, Rhinebeck is an expensive and time-consuming show to attend. It would have been challenging to attend Rhinebeck in a context of building occupancy limits or limited attendance and still have made the revenue we need to cover expenses. Earlier in June, we were informed that VT Sheep and Wool Festival was also cancelled for 2020. While we have signed up for a few other shows, those were our main events and an important source of revenue .
It’s really hard to envision exactly how we will sell our yarn in a world without fiber festivals. Customers need to feel the yarn. Yarn is a tactile experience . I am convinced that exposure to natural textures makes fibercraft as relaxing and soothing as it is. Moreover, fiber festivals connect our customers to the sheep. At the VT Sheep and Wool Fest, customers would often pet our sheep and then buy the wool the sheep gave, creating a beautiful, complete circuit. If one in one hundred visitors considers raising sheep and a few of those folks follow through, the future of sheepraising is a little more secure.
Both festival directorships are currently planning a digital festival. I very much hope that it will help fibersellers salvage this year. At the same time, I worry that with online shopping as their only option, fiberists and fiberistas will not branch out from familiar vendors and yarns. It’s easy and tempting to stick to old favorites, and reassuring that superwash Merino is as predictable as the sunrise. I hope, though, that our patrons will take a little risk to try something new even when touch is unavailable. It would be a great shame to see smaller self-raised vendors die off.
Just so we’re not leaving on such a glum note, I have two creative solutions to my worries above. One is that we offer samples of our yarn. I’m happy to send you a few yards to touch and knit up so you can touch the yarn before committing to a larger purchase. Second is that I offer simple websites to folks who need a helping hand getting their fiber flock online. I can also advise folks about setting up a webstore and choosing a platform. Get in touch if you are a fiber-seller who needs a little help getting online.
At 7pm Sunday night, I rolled in to our lumpy driveway after a two hour drive home from the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. The frustrated lambs in the passenger area of the truck murbled slightly as I directed the vehicle down the farm field road and out to pasture. I turned off the fence, tamped it under the truck doors and released our patient lambs back into pasture. After two days of petting and poking, they were grateful for a return to green grass and friends.
I am also grateful for a return to green grass and friends, though mine actually happened at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. Vending at the festival for the fifth year now feels like coming home to friends and family. I see familiar faces and remember conversations from prior years. Visitors come to my booth to say that they have driven by my farm recently, or to share the project they made with yarn from my farm. I am always floored by this – I never take for granted that people might take the time to seek me out to show or tell me that my work has had a little, tiny influence in their lives.
As always, Mom handled the complex knitting questions and helped to bolster the confidence of people who were timid about tackling colorwork projects. She really has a gift for encouraging and teaching. I appreciate my mother’s help so much.
Every year has been a little different at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds in Tunbridge, VT, September 30-October 1. Even if you don’t knit, it’s a ton of fun with great food and lots of opportunities to learn more about fibercraft.
In the past, I have brought natural-color Cormo X yarn – soft yarn in natural white, gray and brown shades. Additionally, I’ve brought some hand-processed batts for handspinners and felters.
This year is a little different. The last run of Cormo X yarn will be for sale, available in eight (yes!) attractive and wearable colors plus three natural shades. We will be debuting our Bluefaced Leicester yarn, which is soft and silky with a subtle sheen. I hope you are as excited as I am to touch this awesome yarn. Our BFL yarn comes in two natural colors and supplies are limited.
We will also be offering raw fleece in several formats. We have small packets of hand-selected Bluefaced Leicester and Border Leicester locks for crafting. Border Leicester fleece is on offer in larger volumes. I know many handspinners with they could sample more fleeces with a little less commitment to a whole sheep. I have chosen to offer fleece in smaller purchase units so that you can enjoy a pound or three of quality fleece without being tired of it by the end. I’ve been there.
Additionally, gorgeous and intriguing pelts made by Vermont Natural Sheepskins will be on offer in both white and natural shades.
So please come by our booth in the animal barn. Friendly lambs want to nibble you, and I want to hear what you think of this blog.
The ram lambs left on the 12th of the month, so the flock is down to the girls all dining in the Donkey Pasture, and the boys, banished to mow the lawn and subsist on shrubs in the periphery of the fields. The guys were quite large when they left, and I’m looking forward to a goodly amount of Chorizo sausage in the near future. You should be, too – let me know if you’d like some!
We sheared Fred and the ewe lambs on the 21st. I am gradually getting better at shearing, though I’ve only done it assisted by some sheep-holder-downers. With Phoebe, Matt and my parents involved, we were still not actually overstaffed for the project. The first two sheep looked a little gnawed-on, but the second two looked great. Now that I feel comfortable with the blade, I’ll work my way up to doing it mostly on my own!
We had a good scare from little Fred. We FAMACHA’ed all of the lambs, and his lower eyelids were WHITE. I’m not sure if the recent rains gave him an extra large dose of worms or if he has lower innate resistance, but some giant doses of dewormer and some NutriDrench seem to have straightened him out. I was pretty worried for the first day or so until he really brightened up.
While I’m going to start flushing the ewes (feeding increased nutrition to help stimulate large lambing rates), I am also starting my preparation for the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. Because Michael is having knee surgery, it seems uncertain as to whether I’ll have raw wool or yarn to sell from the Cormos, but I’ll have some gorgeous, cuddle-able BFL on offer at the show in any case (unless it vanishes first- I sold a pound of it today!)
Even though having only three ram lambs for meat sales means that this year will be a wash financially, I’m still really thrilled to be poised for good lambing and a better showing next year.