by Joanne Seiff
Have you ever been to a fiber festival?
If so, you already know how much fun they can be. Groups of like-minded crafts people, cute animals, cuter children, goodies to buy, and good food to eat, all gathered in one place at one time to celebrate a common passion.
But, what if you’ve never been lucky enough to attend? What if you are hundreds of miles from the nearest one? In a country that doesn’t have them? (I assume there are some.) What if the only time you were able to go it poured with rain, or you had a cold and were miserable? You may be wondering what all the fuss is about.
Or, maybe you’ve been to a local fiber festival, but have never made it to one of the more distant ones. Maybe you spend an inordinate number of weekends watching blogs and websites in envy, thinking, Someday I’ll make it to that one. If only it were 3,000 miles closer.” (I can vouch from experience that this is particularly painful. I know exactly how much fun fiber festivals can be and yet have only ever made it to Rhinebeck.)
Well, welcome to Fiber Gathering. This book is devoted to the idea of fiber festivals, specifically ones in the United States. Each chapter looks at one, specific festival and explores what makes it special, and different from all the others. Fried artichokes? Must be Rhinebeck. Some of the festivals are large (MDSW), some are small and intimate (New Hampshire, Estes Park). Some are vibrantly colored by their geographic location and local specialties (Taos).
But, more than just describing what makes each gathering unique, Joanne Seiff looks at what makes them the same. (In a good way.) For example, almost every fiber festival is going to have some fiber-bearing animals nearby. Sheep, goats, alpaca, llama not to mention sheepdogs to keep them under control.
You will almost always find good things to buy yarn, fleece, spinning wheels, looms, handmade needles, handmade buttons. The shopping opportunities are unparallelled. There’s going to be great food, too, as well as exhibitions and classes, and let’s not forget the most important part – the hordes of people who are interested in the same things you are.
These are all things that are constant from festival to festival, and they are highlighted here, too. One of the things I like best about this book are the sidebars and inserts that range from patterns for things to make with your yarn, to instructions on how to shear a sheep, spin yarn, or to make an apple crisp.
In fact, reading the book is just like going to a fiber festival, except it’s only crowded with great information instead of people stepping on your toes, and you’ve got to make your own apple crisp. And, of course, you can’t exactly socialize with a book (but I don’t blame the author for that).
But otherwise, this book captures the feel and energy of some vastly different events, while keeping the enthusiasm high.
Now, it’s true that all the festivals here are in the United States. Obviously, if you live somewhere else, or if you have no travel budget, this can be a frustrating thing but don’t despair! The final chapter in the book looks at the things that a fiber festival should have, so that you can build your own – no matter how small it might be.