Over the course of my exploration of textile arts I've learned about various events that occur over the year. Some events are local, some regional, and some have a national flavor. Some events have a cachet that attracts folks from all over the world. In my discussions with people from the diverse communities, some of the events have grown from quiet gatherings known by word of mouth to extravaganzas that are advertised in the various media focused on textile arts people. The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, known to the fiber community as Rhinebeck (for its location at Rhinebeck NY), has become one such event.
Rhinebeck, held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, attracts hundreds if not thousands of people to it. When the prospect of being able to visit the booths of 267 vendors from all over the US is available for only the price of admission, people seize the opportunity. And who wouldn't when you have the chance to find something that is not easily found at your local shop? For others it's the opportunity to meet up with friends who share your passion. That was one of my reasons for my going to Rhinebeck this year. People I know online meet up there every year. There was also the chance to finally experience Rhinebeck, an event I had been warned would potentially overwhelm the senses with all of its treasures, and visit vendors that don't come to my neck of the woods with their wares.
My preparations prior to going to Rhinebeck paid off. I did my research, talked with friends who had been there before, and printed out the necessary things I knew would be needed for the event: a map and the list of vendors. The vendor list helped immensely because it not only told you who was going to be there but also where they were located amidst all the buildings of the fairgrounds. I planned to leave early to avoid the traffic as best as I could and get a decent parking spot that wasn't far from the gate. Getting there was easy from where I was staying, Saugerties, and the drive there was beautiful with the fall foliage in full display.
Once at the fairgrounds it was a case of looking for the vendors I wanted to visit early to get the best choice of items. Gnomespun and the Tsock Tsarina were going to be at Holiday Yarns and I knew that one would be popular. On the way I passed by Briar Rose Fibers and saw their booth overrun. When I arrived at Holiday Yarns it was empty of customers so I snagged up a beautiful teal braid of Dorset wool from Gnomespun and a claret colorway kit of the Tsock Tsarina's Vintage socks.
The next stop was to Golding Fiber Tools. If you've been reading this blog for a while you may remember on a previous trip to Vermont I visited Tom Golding's workshop at Saxtons River. The handspindle I came away with is a favorite of mine for heavier yarns and plying, but I was looking for one of lighter weight for spinning thinner singles. Sure enough by the time I got there his booth was crowded with people looking at his wares. It took patience for me to be able to see what he had, and he had some real beauties ranging from his simple RingSpindles of finished exotic woods to worked pieces done in antique metals and stones or painted discs set in wood. He's a true crafter and his spindles are known for their speed and precision. At first I thought I would have to settle for one that was close to the weight of my favorite Spindlewood, 1.5 oz., but then I saw after someone moved spindles done with laser etched wood whorls ringed in brass. They were done in a Celtic cross design that I'd seen on his website and considered getting. Three were left, two in somewhat darker woods and one in a golden brownish wood. I seized the golden one for it really stood out to me and found it was made of butternut with a walnut shaft. Here is the beauty that came home with me and have been spinning on since.
After that it was a case of trying to find my friends. I was to meet up with them around 9:30 but by the time I had made my purchases and went to where we would potentially meet up there was no sign of them. The crowds were getting thicker and thicker as time went on. I took a place on one of the benches in the concessions area, sitting next to a lady who was taking a break from making the rounds. She was knitting on a sock. I took out my knitting and worked on the shawl I had taken on the trip. We chatted a while, watched people with their beautiful and in some cases outlandish knits, and kept warm for while the sun was shining the wind was pretty fierce and cold.
By the time it was around 1 pm I decided I'd make my way to the place, Red Maple Sportswear, where I was to meet up with someone else. As a favor, I had brought with me a stitch counting bracelet that MonicaPDX had made for someone in one of the groups we are in on Ravelry. She had conveniently put the Ravelry name of the person. Foolish me had forgotten to bring my Ravelry pin so it was going to be a challenge to meet up with this person. I wasn't going to be meeting up with her until 2 but who knew when that person would show up, so I found a place where I wasn't in the way of the booth's patrons or in the aisle.
While I was there, I ran into a fellow knitter, Jeri, who wasn't in her customary blue but wearing her lovely creation Ingrid. She told me she saw the people I was looking for heading toward the booth slowly. At last I would see them! Sure enough, the crowd parted enough for me to be able to recognize Joe, Marilyn, and Carol, all making their way slowly through the madness to get to David and Mel's booth. I waited as they looked at the goods and watched as Marilyn slowly made her way through. As she started to leave the booth, I said, "You can't leave without talking to me." She looked at me blankly. When I told her who I was she let out a squeal of delight and hugged me. It was like two friends who hadn't seen each other in ages. Joe and Carol saw the commotion and came over to find out what was going on. Carol didn't know me but Joe did from our years of online correspondence. I suggested meeting outside the building where there was a place to sit and talk (I still had time to wait for my other meetup) and they agreed because it was truly insanely crowded in there.
Outside, I was able to give to Marilyn and Joe the swag I was carrying for them: dyed fiber and Tillamook cheese, as well as a package I was delivering for StitchJones. Unfortunately, Marilyn found that the Golding spindle she had purchased earlier had vanished. She was heartsick because it was a beautiful spindle, one of a kind, and when she went back to Mel and David's booth to see if it had fallen there there was no sign of it. The swag took the edge off the loss, but I felt for her. Chances of it turning up amidst that crowd were small. I talked with Marilyn and Joe for a short while, then Joe had to leave for a meeting with his Men's Knitting Retreat peeps. I needed to go back in to meet up with my Ravelry person. I got information for the diner where Marilyn and Carol were going to meet up with others for dinner, then headed back.
Back at Mel and David's booth, I resumed my post, holding up the bag with the Ravelry name displayed like a sign held by an airport driver. In that mayhem it was necessary. It worked because a young gal came by, looked at the bag, and said, "That's me!" The bracelet reached its recipient, I met a fellow Raveler, and my deeds were done. Tired from the crowds and the effort of getting around, I decided to head for my car and drive back to the motel. It was a good decision because the traffic was starting to build up with people leaving the event. I managed to make it back and get in a short nap before going out to dinner.
Finding the diner was interesting. I had taken my notebook computer with me so I was able to look up directions to the place. Before going back to the motel I had done a dry run to see if I could find the place. No luck. So armed with instructions I went on my merry way. I saw a sign saying "Diner" but it didn't have the name of the place I was looking for. I went in, hoping that perhaps I had been mistaken and had found the place. While I was looking around to see if my group was there, the proprietor came up and invited me to sit down and eat. I told him I was looking for the Olympic Diner. "This isn't the Olympic Diner but you want to eat here." I told him I was meeting people there. "Tell them to come here." I asked him if he knew where the Olympic Diner was. "No," and the attitude from him I was getting was more like forget your friends come and eat at my place, not helping out someone who looks lost and is trying to find a place. I left, feeling annoyed at the guy. I commend him for trying to drum up business because the place was pretty empty, but if someone's trying to get directions it's a lost cause.
I did find the diner at last and got to meet folks from the Knitting Retreat group as well as friends of Marilyn. As the evening progressed, we got sillier and sillier. Marilyn had gotten a call from someone who had found her spindle and wanted to get it back to her. By the end of the evening we were exhausted but happy and fed. A fun night with new friends.