a friendly sheep greets attendees at the 2004 New York State Sheep and Wool Festival

The Summer of Fluff

Highlights of the 2006 Fiber Festival Season

Without fail, every time I review an event, a distraught reader emails me, "I wish you'd told me about this earlier—I live nearby and missed the whole thing!"

This year, that's exactly what I'm doing. As festival season rolls into full swing, join me for a look at highlights of what you'll be able to do this summer. Be sure to check our calendar for a more comprehensive list of events.

Organizers, if you don't see your event listed, please tell us about it!

The month may be half over but there are still some great events to attend. The Knit and Crochet Show (a new collaboration between the Crochet Guild of America and the Knitting Guild Association) will take place April 20-23 at the Oakland Marriot City Center in Oakland, California. The event centers around a massive marketplace and also features classes, some of which have already sold out.

For those Down Under, don't miss the Creative Fibre Festival April 20-23 in Taradale, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. The programming goes well beyond the fiberarts, including a tempting all-day area jaunt with vineyard visits and a sheepskin factory tour.

Winning my vote for best festival name is the Fuzzy Bunz Fiber Fest taking place in Colville, Washington, April 21-22. There's a marketplace plus workshops running the gamut from knitted lace and beginning spinning to animal health 101 and mobile fencing.

The last weekend of April several events occur simultaneously across the country. In Texas there's the Dallas/Fort Worth Fiber Fest, while in Seattle there's the annual Seattle Knitting and Fiber Arts Expo. Those in Ontario, Canada, get to experience the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival at the International Centre in Mississauga. And on April 29th alone is the Connecticut Sheep Wool & Fiber Festival in Vernon, Connecticut.

two sheep from the 2004 Maryland Sheep and Wool FestivalMay
The mother of all festivals takes place the first full weekend in May. I'm talking, of course, about the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in West Friendship, Maryland. (You can read about last year's festival.) If you're anywhere in the area, you won't want to miss this one.

The weekend of May 13-14 we have two other strong fiber festivals. The 9th annual Minnesota Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival takes place in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. And on the East Coast, we have the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival in Contoocook, New Hampshire—now celebrating its 30th year. Either place you'll have lots of sheep and lots of great fiber sources, big and small.

Fast-forward two weeks to May 27-28 and there are three, count 'em three major events taking place. In Pagosa Springs, Colorado, we have the Pagosa Fiber Festival. Move east to Wooster, Ohio, where the Great Lakes Fiber Show takes place. And keep driving toward the sunrise and you'll hit the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in Cummington, Massachusetts. It's too bad they're so far apart—just think of what a great road trip you could have.

The folks at Knitter's Magazine host their annual Camp Stitches in Asheville, North Carolina, June 1-5. (Note that as of this writing all but two classes have sold out.)

English leicester longwool on a barn windowsill

If you didn't register for Camp Stitches in time, or found the pricetag a little too steep (the standard single package is $1375), fear not, there's another option. In Rome City, Indiana, Knitting Today is hosting its annual IwannaKnit ReTreat June 2-4. The full weekend cost, including lodging, meals, and five workshops, is around $500. The list of workshops for this event is pretty impressive.

The weekend of June 10th we have the 6th annual Maine Fiber Frolic in Windsor, Maine. (See pictures and read my report from the 2004 festival.) It's a lovely setting with an astonishing selection of fleeces for spinners.

The following weekend (June 17-18) travel to Estes Park, Colorado, for the 16th annual Estes Park Wool Market & Workshops. Estes Park is a stunning enough setting on its own, but add sheep and colorful fibers and you've got yourself a bit of heaven.

Keep heading west and you'll hit the largest West Coast fiber festival, the Black Sheep Gathering. Now in its 32nd year, this festival takes place June 23-25 in Eugene, Oregon. (See pictures and read about last year's event.)

Spanning from the end of June to the beginning of July is the Woolfest in Cumbria, England. A relative newcomer to the festival scene, this event has all the trappings of a good fiber festival: workshops, a fleece sale, a spin-in, a marketplace, and lots of sheep. This year's dates are June 30 to July 12.

Also starting June 30 and running to July 7 is the annual Olds College Fibre Week in Alberta, Canada. The line-up of spinning and general fiberarts classes is first-rate.

July gets a little quiet, but we do have a few things. First, if you missed the spring Knit and Crochet Show in Oakland, you're not totally out of luck. The Crochet Guild of America and the Knitting Guild Association put on a second Knit and Crochet Show in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, July 13-16. No sheep, but many workshops and a huge marketplace.

Next is the show of shows, The 129th annual Australian Sheep & Wool Show in Bendigo, Victoria. This being Australia, the Merino sheep breed takes center stage with competitions and breeding-stock sales, but there are also vendors and ongoing fashion shows. Anyone up for a road trip?

Back in the U.S. we venture to California for the Lambtown Festival, a show that gives the Black Sheep Gathering a serious run for its money. The event takes place in Dixon, near Sacramento, California. You have many vendors plus classes (from top-whorl spindling to cooking lamb) and contests in spinning, shearing, sheep-to-shawl creation, skeins, and garments.

August in MaineAugust
August is my very favorite month in Maine. The black flies and mosquitoes are nearly gone, yet the air is still warm and sweet from all the plants that are still in full bloom. It's the perfect time for the Knitter's Retreat at Medomak Camp, halfway up the coast of Maine. The event takes place August 7-13 and tuition is $800 for the full week.

For the next two weeks, Midwesterners are in for a big treat. First, in Rosemont, Illinois, is Stitches Midwest August 10-13. Register early for your classes, and plan at least a day at the market.

The following weekend, you'll find more fiber—plus four-legged fiber-bearing animals—at the Michigan Fiber Festival in Hastings, Michigan. The vendor list is first-rate and growing, with several names you may recognize from other major festivals in the eastern U.S.

an angora goat from VermontSeptember
And then, before we know it, September has already arrived! On the 9th and 10th you have the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival in Essex Junction, Vermont. It's not as vast as some of the other festivals, but it still has everything—regional vendors, good-looking animals, sheepdog trials, and beautiful New England scenery.

That same weekend up in Wisconsin you have the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival. It starts September 8th and runs through the 10th at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Jefferson, between Madison and Waukesha. The schedule is ripe with events: fleece shows, classes, roundtables, dog trials, shearing demonstrations, you name it. Anyone up for another road trip?

Head east from Wisconsin to Hemlock, New York—just south of Rochester—in time for the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival. The event runs September 16 and 17 and will have more than 70 vendors this year—again, some well-known folks interspersed with great one-of-a-kind finds.

From mid-September to mid-October, you'll also find countless Knit-Out and Crochet events across the country. The Craft Yarn Council even has an online brochure on starting a Knit-Out and Crochet event in your own town. Over the coming months, the brochure will also be updated with this year's event dates.

an outdoor scene in TaosOctober
The weekend of October 7 and 8 you have two major fiber festivals on opposite ends of the country. First, the fairly intimate Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia at the Montpelier Estate in Orange County, Virginia. And in Taos, New Mexico, the also-intimate and unforgettable Wool Festival at Taos. (See pictures and read more about last year's festival.) If you get to spend any additional time in Taos, be sure to sign up for one of the workshops October 3-6 or 9-10—the lineup is strong and many still had spaces available when I got to the festival last year.

the festival fairgrounds in the fallI use the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival as my barometer for fall. This year, fall begins the weekend of October 21-22, when the festival once again takes over the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York. Picture this: bright fall leaves, fresh apple cider, and colorful fibers as far as the eye can see. (You can see pictures and read about my visit to the 2004 festival.)

The weekend of October 27-29, the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair takes place in Asheville, North Carolina. As the name suggests, you'll find loads of fiber-bearing animals beyond sheep, plus a large marketplace and a huge list of workshops.

And finally, spanning from October 29 to November 5 is the 2006 Spin-Off Autumn Retreat, sponsored by Spin-Off Magazine. Each year this beloved event changes venue so that more people across the country can enjoy it. This year, SOAR returns to the Granlibakken Resort & Conference Center in Tahoe City, California. (See pictures and read about my week at the 2004 festival.)

If you missed the earlier Stitches West, don't miss Stitches East, which takes place November 2-5 in Baltimore, Maryland. Classes fill very quickly, so be sure to try and pre-register for anything you really want. Otherwise, you can satisfy yourself by spending each day at the massive marketplace.

a colorful popcorn stand from the 2004 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

The season culminates with the Knitter's Review Retreat, now celebrating its fifth year of bringing like-spirited people together to relax, gain inspiration, and form lasting friendships. This year we're taking our show on the road, leaving the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to explore the Hudson River Valley of New York.

We'll be staying at Jeronimo's, a small family-run resort in Walker Valley, New York. We'll have exclusive free reign of the entire facility, which offers abundant space for meetings, classes, and the marketplace—not to mention cozy spots to relax with your new friends.

Dates are November 10-12. Stay tuned for further programming details and registration!

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