Posted on August 30, 2013 at 7:41 pm

On twitter this morning, @LornasLaces asked

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Interesting question.

“Rhinebeck” refers in this context to the The New York Sheep and Wool Festival. It is one of the two great in-gatherings of wool-oriented folk on the Eastern seaboard, especially since the advent of knitblogs, Ravelry, and social media chatter has made it the place to be and be seen in one’s sweater of the moment.

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Maryland, aka The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, is held in May on what is reliably the hottest weekend of the spring. It is seldom a place to sport cozy woolens, and knitters often show up in with colorful shawl that spends most of the day balled up in the bottom of one of their shopping bags. I’m breaking a sweat just thinking about it.

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Rhinebeck, on the other hand, is an October event, when the calendar has just rounded the corner into fall, and while it can be hot as all heck, or rainy enough for foul weather gear, it is often prime sweater wearing – and viewing – temperature, at least for part of the day.

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The phenomenon of “The Rhinebeck Sweater” can be traced back to the exchange between Claudia and The Yarn Harlot in 2004 over their respective knitting of beautiful sweaters in what seemed to be an impossibly short amount of time, all with the intention of wearing them to Rhinebeck. You can read Stephanie’s side of the story beginning here. As with many things among highly read bloggers, the idea caught on quickly, and the annual rite of The Rhinebeck Sweater was born.

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Often knit as a kind of achievement, or with a slightly competitive quality to it, The Rhinebeck Sweater should be strut worthy, featuring a new skill or a particularly hard won yarn. Cables, colorwork, and/or handspun are all particularly prized among the Rhinebeck crowd. But to return to the question: Must a Rhinebeck Sweater be one never worn before?

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In a word: no.

A Rhinebeck Sweater should be worn first for personal comfort, second for your personal satisfaction in demonstrating that this is your milieu and these are your people and they may know your membership by what you are wearing, and third, for the pleasure of the general viewing public.

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Is it really fun to wear something you’ve just finished and are really in love with? yes.

But does it have to be new? no

So please feel free to contribute to the festival quality of the day by wearing a sweater of acheivement, be it freshly off the needles or a resplendent wardrobe staple of many years. And by all means: STRUT! This is the knitter’s Coachella after all. Retail street style is for sissies. We make this stuff ourselves, and we are awesome for it.