Julia Farwell-Clay


Rhinebeck Comes Once year


I didn’t get to Rhinebeck last year since I had a teaching conflict, but I resolved to never book against the New York Sheep and Wool Festival again. I understand from all the chatter about “last year” that it was hot and uncomfortable, and that Indie Untangled had turned into a pressure cooker of an event, finally outgrowing their tiny conference room in Kingston for once and for all.


I dropped by the new venue only briefly to hand over my Field Guide #7 samples that I had borrowed from the Mason Dixon crew for a trunk show with Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep at Gather Here in Cambridge the night before. The Indie Untangled staff insisted I leave immediately since I didn’t have a ticket – this process was entirely mysterious to me since I had never signed up for the newsletter, having always helped vendors but never BEEN an actual vendor or attendee myself. I will admit for all the unsavory stink eye I got from the folks in charge, it looked like a superior event, one that may soon match the Sheep and Wool in gravitation pull if it doesn’t already. The Saugerties Performing Arts Center is really beautiful, and was decked out in festive seasonal attire. It felt a little like last summer’s London Pomfest all over again, but with more windows and a Hunger Games countdown clock.

They were serious.

After a little lunch, Brooke and I drove to the fairgrounds to set up her yarn and help Lan and Morgaine unpack the Carolina Homespun booth.


I don’t usually arrive at Rhinebeck with a shopping list, which is good since I think I would be heart broken for the most part. All my favorite vendors seem to be everyone else’s favorite vendors, and the push and shove then wait and wait involved in acquiring yarn or pottery mugs or knitting needles of the moment is a draining way to begin a weekend. Instead, I generally expect that if there’s yarn I need so badly that I would ruin my good mood for the sake of it, then I could check out the colors from my tall point of view in the aisle, squeeze someone else’s hard won purchase for the moment of delight, and order it online later. This particular approach to Rhinebeck and yarn has saved me a lot of money in the twelve years I have been to the fair, although I usually end up with a few impulse yarn buys anyway.

Instead, I have a couple of cups of coffee, I shuffle along with the crowd in the barns, looking left and right at the colors and the booths and the beautiful knits everyone is wearing, I get falafel for lunch, I tour the food building for good snacks and buy an unusual apple from the farm stand. This year I made sure I got a copy of the next issue of Pompom (the Norah Gaughan one), and picked up a copy of Emily Foden’s dreamy new book, Knits About Winter. I also bought a single skein of the new Harrisville Nightshades yarn, happy to have just one for a desk pet. I’ve been a little partial to the darkest of black yarns with just a touch of color ever since I saw my first skein of the Ravens Clan from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. Harrisville were almost sold out (apparently a dash was underway to re-stock the booth) so I said I didn’t care what color it was, I just wanted one of anything they had. I came home with “vcr”, the hunter green inflected one.

image from the Harrisville site

image from the Harrisville site

About midway through Saturday morning, I was delighted to run into Michael Hampton of Hampton Fiber Mill, wearing his own “Not a Prada Sweater”. TM.


I think Michael summed up the encounter best in his Instagram post, so I urge you to click through. I was excited to talk to him a little about our differing solutions to the puzzle, but one can only stand in the middle of a thoroughfare for so long at Rhinebeck before you realize you’re blocking traffic.

And speaking of traffic, Saturday evening Brooke and I settled into the car for the long wait in traffic to cross the bridge to make it to my first Jill Draper Open Studio ever. There, I met a few long-followed blog and instagram heroes and added a few skeins to my Kingston and Daughter of a Shepherd collection. Everything I had heard about Jill’s party is true: I stood outside on the sidewalk for about an hour chatting with knitters new and familiar while watching people file into the building. Jill must have some kind of quantum spell on the place because no one came out, and yet people continued to arrive and slip through the door.

There’s more, but it all happened on Sunday. So I’ll have to wait to tell you in my next post.

Julia Farwell-Clay