While researching and writing my book on festivals, Fiber Gathering, published in 2009, I went to a lot of festivals and events. Every experience was different, with so many special things to buy or new experiences! Here are some tips for how to research and plan purchases, classes, and adventures to make the most of your next fiber event.
Going to a fiber festival is an amazing experience. Most newbies describe it as truly overwhelming. Many longtime fiber arts folks – handspinners, knitters, crocheters, and weavers – also lose their heads when they go to their first event.
Why is it so exciting? Imagine your favorite yarn or spinning shop and then multiply it by a hundred. A fiber festival can expose you to more color, fiber, and new concepts than you’ve ever seen before. So what’s first? How can you stay focused and enjoy this experience?
Let’s cut to the chase. Many of us are in this, at least in part, to shop. It’s important to review how much you can afford to spend. It’s remarkable how much money can disappear when forgetting the bottom line. Hand-dyed silk? Yes, please. A pound of cashmere? Why not?
To stick with a budget, it used to be that some smart shoppers left their cheque books and credit cards at home and just brought cash. These days, when many vendors take credit but no cash or you can pay via your phone, this advice is outdated. However, if you need to safeguard against big splurges, think ahead to avoid any costly mistakes.
By contrast, you may make a once-in-a-lifetime purchase of a spinning wheel, loom, or other large item. Whatever your decision, do your best to stick to your original plans.
Of course, you can google anything you plan to buy in advance and get an idea of what it might cost in order to look for good deals, too.
Some good friends shop together and hold each other’s phones or credit cards, just to be safe. It sounds silly, but if you have someone on your side asking, “Honey, do you really need this?” you might stop from going overboard.
Most festivals have full vendor lists online, a map, demonstration and class information, and other events. Explore everything ahead of schedule.
If you are considering a big purchase, planning is everything. Do you want enough fleece or yarn for a special sweater or baby booties? Write a list of what you need, including gauge, meterage, colors, and other specifics. Consider which wool breeds you want to try, as well as other animal fibers. Don’t forget spinning accessories, knitting needles, patterns, and other notions. Come prepared for what you’d like to bring home. This list will come in handy when you’re considering how much to buy.
If your budget is truly small, don’t despair or stay home. Festivals are great places to experience new things. Try out new spinning wheels. Those floor models are there for that. Ask for information to bring home.
See a stunning sweater design or new technique? Buy just the pattern or a book so you can consider it later. Ask questions, visit and learn from demonstrations. Watch all the activities. Look for special bargains or small treats. Talk to other fairgoers and make new friends. Take a class or visit animals on display.
Festivals are crowded places, often far from home. Bring along something to eat and drink. You may not need it, but it’s always good to have some food along just in case.
If you plan to buy something large, like several fleeces, a loom, or sheep, how will you transport them? Bring blankets to wrap up your new spinning wheel or dog treats to comfort that Border Collie pup. Think out your day so your purchases will make it home safely. Some vendors sell fresh sheep’s milk cheese or freezer lamb. If you want to buy this, bring along a cooler or ice packs. Try to get those purchases home the way you bought them, whether it’s alive, fragile, or frozen.
If you have any special needs, such as an inability to stand for long stretches or serious allergies, bring what you’ll need to be comfortable. It’s okay to take breaks to sit down on a camp stool or to eat only what you brought from home. Don’t expect to find every amenity at the festival grounds. If you’re going to need something, even if it’s a cup of tea, bring a thermos full, just in case.
Another consideration might be to bring a mask if your health or your loved ones is compromised. Festivals are well-ventilated outdoors, but if it rains, that’s not the case. Many festivals are crowded. Exploring indoor barns can be close quarters without much ventilation.
Enjoy yourself! Take time for a fun day out and embrace it. You may not always find what you came to buy. Instead, focus on what’s special, handmade, and different about all that you see. Learn something new. Pet a farm animal you might not normally encounter. Listen to some music. Eat a lamb kabob or a new kind of goat cheese. Check out all the new delights this event offers. Take photos and make memories. Finally, please share it all later so we can enjoy your adventures vicariously!
Joanne Seiff has written three fiber-related books: Three Ply, Fiber Gathering, and Knit Green. She writes, edits, spins, knits, and designs in Winnipeg. See her designs on Payhip, Ravelry, and Lovecrafts.com – her designs might sing in your handspun. Read joanneseiff.blogspot.com or @yrnspinner on Instagram to learn more!