Getting the Most Out of Your Visit to a Fiber Festival
There’s a collective excitement in the air, a current of anticipation, an eagerness as we enter the space. I see booths lining the walkway, filled with color and texture. My eyes search for that first bejeweled skein of yarn to jump out and grab my imagination. As I scan the booths, I see other knitters, shoulders draped in elaborate shawls, clothed in hand-knit sweaters, some even knitting as they walk., the energy buzzing from their bodies as they try to decide where to go first.
This is what it’s like walking into a fiber festival.
Black Sheep Gathering is an annual gathering of fleece and fiber enthusiasts in Eugene Oregon. This is one of the region’s premier events, and it’s coming up next week!
This will be our 5th year as vendors, and we couldn’t be more excited to return. It’s a ton of work to be sure, by we also get to enjoy being with fiber friends old and new, reconnecting with vendor friends and seeing what they’ve created, and generally soak up the atmosphere. There truly is something in the air at these things that will feed your creative energy for a while after the show.
Whether you’ve been to a hundred fiber festivals or none, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions. From excitement and curiosity to anxiety and overwhelm, we’ve felt them all too. There are so many possibilities and unknowns!
Having a plan in place can help ease some of these feelings and help you have an enjoyable experience.
There are some tried and true strategies for helping you get the most out of your visit to a fiber festival. Here are our favorites. Please feel free to add yours in the comments at the end of this post.
There’s something to be said for just showing up and taking in an event like this without too much of an agenda. But, we do recommend you check out the schedule of events, locate vendors, and take note of the location of bathrooms and onsite food options. link to map
Bring your Fiber friends
I’ve been to festivals solo and with friends, and I have to say these events are much more fun when you’ve got a crew there to enable you. Plan to go with a friend or meet up with your knitting/spinning/crochet/animal rescue group pals. If you’re coming from out of town, make a road trip out of it! Spend some time in the host city having a meal, drinks, or a treat with your fiber friends.
Traveling solo? Not to worry! Fiber people are generally very warm and open to chatting with fellow enthusiasts. Chat up the vendors and get to know their stories. Bring your knitting or spinning and ask to join others who are sitting down. You’ll soon be part of the group, sharing your experiences at the show.
Take a Class
If you can, take advantage of this opportunity to learn from local teachers and guest experts. Fiber festivals often offer an array of technique and project based classes to help support your craft and expand your skills. Pair some learning with a little shopping and you’ve got a pretty great day planned!
Hydrate & Pack Snacks
Time has a tendency to lose meaning when your vision is swirling with visions of future spinning projects, sweaters, and blankets. Save yourself from the inevitable crash by bringing an energizing snack and a bottle of water.
Also: make plans for a lunch break. You need that break to refuel, regroup, and plan for the rest of your time. This is also a good time to share your finds and enable your friends!
At Black Sheep there is onsite catering and a coffee cart with limited food options. You can also bring in your own food. There are a lot of great restaurants nearby as well for lunch, drinks, or dinner after the show.
What to Wear
Shows tend to have a variety of temperatures depending on the weather and efficacy of the HVAC system. Checking the weather and event space is a good idea. Fiber festivals tend to involve lots of walking and standing, so make sure you’re in comfortable shoes. This is also an optimal time to show off your latest FOs (finished objects), so layer on those sweaters and shawls!
What to Bring
I like to pack light: water bottle, snacks, wallet, shopping list. I bring an empty tote bag for any intended purchases. You may also want to bring a camera, notebook. Don’t forget to pack a good social stitching project for break time! Black Sheep Gathering and other festivals also have areas designated for spinners or stitcher to gather. Check the map before you go and plan to meet up with your fiber crew in case you get separated.
Set a Budget (or not)
Before you hit the marketplace, it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind. The fumes from all that wool are intoxicating and have been known to cause many a person to have budget amnesia or lose the ability to. Some ways to stick to your budget: bring the amount you’re willing to spend in cash; set a skein/batt/fleece/project limit (I’m going to buy x skeins of yarns, 2 fleeces, the yarn for these 3 projects, etc). Conversely, you may know that these limitations aren’t for you; do what feels right and works for your wallet.
Create a Shopping List
About those wool fumes…. they can also cause you to immediately forget about any past interests you’ve had and inspire you to pick up all new projects. You may very well get caught up in the excitement and don’t realize you forgot everything you were looking for until you get home. Write up a to-knit/spin/crochet list with suggested yarn or fiber, color ideas, yardage requirements, etc. I also like to write down the names and locations of any vendors I know I’d like to check out.
Keep an Open Mind
With all this planning, be sure to leave some room for spontaneity and for the possibility of falling in love with new things. There are so many wonderful small farms selling amazing yarn and fiber. You never know: your new favorite yarn may come from someone you’ve never heard of. That shawl you can’t stop petting may have a technique you’ve never tried. You may be drawn to a color you “can’t wear”. Keep an open mind, follow that passion, and see where it leads you.
Quick links to help you plan for The Black Sheep Gathering
Lane Events Center June 23-25 2017
You can find Stash in booths D13 and D14 near the demo area.
Did we miss something? Let us know your favorite tips and tricks for making the most out of a fiber festival in the comments below!