American Fiber Story: My Rhinebeck Weekend

Good morning and happy Saturday! Who was at Rhinebeck last weekend? Is it me, or do those Saturday crowds get bigger and bigger every year? My friend Dave and I arrived on Saturday just as the gates were about to open and had just a few minutes of waiting in line until we were in. By the time we did get in and into Building A, which was probably at about 10:15, the crowds were so thick you could barely move, and long lines had already formed for all the usual vendors.

We squeezed our way through the swarms of rabid shoppers to check out a few booths. In Building B I stopped in to see Dan Tracy of Dan Tracy Designs. Dan is a very talented woodworker and he makes a variety of fiber related tools like threading hooks, WPI gauges, darning eggs, tapestry bobbins, suspended and supported spindles, and many other decorative non-fiber related items such as bowls, vases, and more. As we approached the booth I saw a wooden stand full of Russian spindles and I don’t think Dan had Russian spindles the last time I had seen him, so I couldn’t resist trying them all out. They were all beautifully made, as I knew they would be, but one spindle in particular seemed to sing for me when I tried it out, so it was pretty clear right then what my first purchase of the day would be.
Dave and I didn’t get much farther than building B by 11:00 AM, and the crowds in the buildings were so thick it was starting to make me a little uncomfortable, so I got my sign for the Men’s Knitting Retreat meetup, and went to sit on the hill in our usual spot where I kept myself occupied for the next hour with a spindle and some fiber that I bought with me.

Shortly before noon some of the guys started to arrive for our meetup, including my friends Robert and Kevin from Maine, who would be overnight guests at our house on Saturday along with my friend Dave who was staying with us the whole weekend. The purpose of this meetup is partly to share information about the Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat as well as some of the other upcoming retreats in the fall, but mostly just to socialize. We had a number of long time retreat attendees and quite a few guys who had never been to a men’s knitting retreat before, and who are hoping to be able to attend in the spring. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and meet so many new ones that I hope will be able to join us in the spring, and as with our meetups in years past, we gathered for a group photo that I couldn’t wait to share on Facebook.

After the meetup I made a short trip to the car to stow my sign and some things that I didn’t want to carry around for the rest of the afternoon. By this time, the food area by the Mulberry Street gate where we were parked was as packed full of people as the vendor booths were in the morning. Having had a hearty breakfast just before arriving that morning, Dave and I decided to skip lunch and try to do some shopping. It wasn’t long before we met up with some other friends, some of whom were at the meetup, and we browsed the barns together for most of the afternoon, meeting up with some other guys along the way, until we found a quiet spot on the lawn to sit and chat, have coffee, and show each other our purchases from the day.


Photo by Robert Lewis

One of my afternoon purchases was a lovely braid of fiber from Gnomespun for myself, and one as a surprise for a friend who couldn’t attend Rhinebeck, but was ogling this particular colorway one on of Gnomespun’s facebook posts. My friend Rob, who we met up with that afternoon at Rhinebeck, also bought one for the same friend, also as a surprise. I am a notorious and unapologetic enabler, and I hang out with Rob enough that it is apparently rubbing off on him.

As the afternoon went on and closing time approached, we ventured back out to visit some more barns and vendors until it was time to say our goodbyes until we see each other again. Dave, Robert, Kevin, and I returned on Sunday for some more shopping. Sunday is usually always the quieter day but in years past, it never really seemed to be much different than Saturday. This year, it was definitely less crowded on Sunday, and I was grateful for that as there were things that I really wanted to look for. I was also excited that Clemes and Clemes were at Rhinebeck for their very first time as part of the Carolina Homespun booth. Clemes and Clemes, famous for their Modern and Traditional spinning wheels, have a number of other high quality fiber tools, and there was one tool in particular that I was interested in. Watch this short video below where Roy Clemes demonstrates the handy Batt Lifter.

Along with the Batt Lifter, I treated myself to a proper doffing pin from Clemes and Clemes, made from strong, high quality stainless steel. Up until now, I had been using vintage metal knitting needles of which I have quite a supply of, but they sometimes bend and get ruined. Morgaine of Carolina Homespun had tempted me on Saturday with a luscious blend of yak and silk, so I gave in to temptation on Sunday and treated myself to 8 ounces.

Rounding out my purchases for the day are alpaca socks from Ideuma Creek Alpacas out of Unadilla, NY. They are one of my favorite vendors and have hosted “open barn/farm” events in the past which I have had the pleasure of attending. Denise and John are great people, and they feature a great selection of yarns and products from the alpacas they raise on their farm, as well as a fantastic selection of garments and accessories made by a co-op that they contribute fiber from their farm to.
One tool that had been on my list the previous year that I didn’t have success finding was shed sticks for continuous thread weaving. I found them this year at Rhodie Hill Farm who also has a great slection of triangle and rectangle continuous thread looms. Up until now I had been using a long crochet hook that came with the supply of vintage knitting needles I acquired a while back. It works, but nowhere near as well as the sticks designed for that purpose.
One of my favorite things to buy at fiber festivals is handmade artisan soaps, and some of my favorite soaps come from Weston Hill Farm. These beautiful, well made soaps come in a variety of scents and many feature herbs line lemongrass and peppermint grown right on the farm. Weston Hill Farm also has a great selection of yarns and spinning fiber from their own sheep.
So that’s my Rhinebeck weekend in a nutshell. I always have a pretty strict budget and I never go overboard with purchases. I did see some cars leaving the fairgrounds packed so full that their occupants couldn’t see out all of the windows. That’s got to be a safety hazard!
Now let’s hear from you. How was your Rhinebeck weekend? What goodies came home with you? Please comment below and share your experiences. We love to hear them.
That’s it for me this morning. I have errands to run later this morning but until then, I am going sit down and do some carding and put some of my new tools to use. Have a great weekend everyone!

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