After my experience last year, I was able to not be completely overwhelmed by all the gorgeous stuff on display and be a bit more selective about where I went and what I bought. I still had to look at almost everything.
A lot of the same vendors who were there last year where also there this year, like the lady who uses plant dyes in interesting combinations, and the people with the alpacas, and the bunnies, and all the neat dyestuffs, and there were some things that were new to me, like the lady who had the hand woven shibori fabric and rugs, and the different types of sheep in the barn. I'd seen the names of different breeds, but I can't tell the difference between a blue-faced Leicester or a Wensleydale, let alone a Corriedale from a something else. The black-faced sheep have freckles, the Romneys are HUGE, Karakul are shaggy with straighter hair, and the Jacob sheep have four horns, so they're easier to spot. Wow. Lots of different types of sheep.
I paid a lot of attention to the sheep this year and explored all the livestock barns. I was a bit disappointed to find that blue-faced Leicester sheep don't actually have blue faces... go figure. This got a laugh from the sheeps' owners who happened to be standing nearby when I expressed my surprise. The sheep didn't seem very amused, though, especially since someone walked over and asked them if they were destined to become sheep kebabs. Ouch...
One of the other things I noticed was that the crowd was about 75% female. There were a lot of men sprinkled among the vendors, but most of the ones who were there as visitors were being dragged around by wife/girlfriend/whatevers. At one of the booths I visited, there was a young girl trying to explain to her boyfriend why she felt it important to have nylon in sock yarn; the guy just looked confused. I guess he thinks yarn is yarn is yarn. Hopefully she'll be able to straighten him out just a little bit. On the other hand, I actually saw a few men knitting and spinning, one of whom was a member of the Central Maryland Knitting Guild. I was so surprised I actually had to take a picture of this! It's like seeing a mythical creature, apparently. Yes, I am well aware that knitting used to be a strictly male occupation. Check out No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting if you don't believe me.
There were also a couple booths for charitable organizations, one of which was the Red Scarf Project. The folks who ran the book had some folding chairs set up outside the tent; visitors could take a minute or two to contribute some rows to the scarves in progress, which would then be donated as part of the project.
"The Red Scarf Project, a project of the Orphan Foundation of America, or Orphan.org, collects red (and other unisex-colored) scarves to send in Valentine's Day care packages to college students who have aged out of foster care. These brave young people are going it on their own and trying to improve their lives and the community by attending college. The care packages are welcome tokens of encouragement to young people who otherwise receive little to no mail." (http://nownormaknits2.typepad.com/red_scarf_project_2007/)
Anyway... did way too much shopping, some of which I didn't really need to do, but... dammit... must have wool!
Stopped at Stacey Rothrock's booth and bought more of her lovely dyed roving. Red/purple this time. As usual, her work is gorgeous. Caught up on news with her, including the recent (well... sort of) arrival of her twins. The little uns were home with grandmother, so Stacey was able to come to the show and hang out with her dad and do woolly stuff. I was surprised--and gratified-- that she remembered me from last year, and I promised to send her pictures of what I knit with the yarn I spin from her roving.
After a lot of hunting around, I stopped at the Earth Guild's booth to buy some non-pickling alum. I swore up and down I didn't need a five-pound pail of it, but in retrospect.... Mom tried to to talk me into buying some soy fiber from them, but I declined. Maybe next year.
At the outskirts of the fairground, we found Pine Tree Knits' booth where the owners were having a giant sale on yarn from a company that's about to go out of business. I got eight hanks of yarn (six blue, two gray) to make a sweater with, and I know precisely which pattern it's going to be used for. Also picked up another set of size 3 DPNs.. my birch ones keep splintering, so I'm trying bamboo. We'll see if these hold up better. Maybe I'm just a forceful knitter?
During one of my rambles through a barn full of sheep, I ran across an elderly couple with baskets of Navajo-Churro roving, so I got two balls of it. One's gray-brown, and one's white. Can't wait to work with it. The wool is amazingly soft, it's like butter. Odd comparison, but it's true!
Ran across the Clover Leaf Farms booth with oodles of gorgeous handpainted roving in really vibrant color mixes, and at mom's insistance I got 8 oz. of a variegated purple tussah/wool blend. This will be a challenge because I've never worked with silk in any form. It's predominantly wool, so that might make it easier to handle... it' soooooo deliciously soft. I hope I have their business card, because if I run out and want more... don't wanna wait until next year!
I'm going to be an extremely busy little bee....