According to ancient Greek mythology, the lifespan of every man and woman lies in the hands of three fiber artists, the Moirai or Fates: Clotho, who spins out the thread of life, Lachesis, who measures its length, and Atropos, who shears it off. There’s something so primally satisfying about working with wool. People have been shearing, carding, spinning, dyeing, felting and weaving it for as long as they have been domesticating wooly animals. Knitting and crocheting came along later, but certainly caught on – and never left, even in these days of high-tech fibers made by machine from petroleum products.
Knitters and other fiber hobbyists, you know who you are. And you know one another, gathering in clubs at churches and libraries, sharing patterns and books. You’re a proud and passionate subculture, and you know where you’ll be this weekend: the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, for the annual New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, sponsored by the Dutchess County Sheep & Wool Growers’ Association.
The Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 18 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Packed into those short two days are a bewildering array of workshops, lectures, demonstrations, book-signings, competitions, natural-fiber fashion shows; you can learn to hook a rug or manage a spinning wheel or add fancy cables to your next sweater or make cheese from sheep’s milk. All sorts of wool, fiber-crafting tools and materials, books and patterns and live sheep will be available for sale. It’s a wool-fancier’s Paradise.
If you’re not the knitter in your family, but are being dragged along, fret not: The Sheep and Wool Festival also includes attractions for the non-hobbyist, like presentations on local history and sustainable agriculture and beer. There are plenty of hands-on fiber-craft activities for kids, plus a Mad Science show and a petting zoo. The whole family will have a blast watching the live demonstrations of sheepherding and Frisbee-catching by talented dogs and the Leaping Llama contest.
A fair number of the participatory workshops and lecture/demonstrations are already filled to capacity, so if you have a particular area of interest, it’s a very good idea to visit the website, www.sheepandwool.com, and sign up before you go. Tickets cost $9 a day in advance, $17 for a weekend pass; at the gate, it costs $12 per day to get in.
New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, Saturday, October 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, October 19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $17/$12/$9, Dutchess County Fairgrounds, 6550 Spring Brook Avenue (Route 9), Rhinebeck; www.sheepandwool.com.