Fledgling Fair – Georgia Mountain Needle Arts Festival

Things are finally settling back into some sort of routine that actually involves time for me to work needles and fiber through my fingers, and that makes me really happy camper.

rf0r2Through a bit of magic and a bit of telling my boss I was taking the morning off on Friday, I drove the hour over to the Georgia Mountain Needle Arts Festival in Ellijay. Ellijay is worth a drive on its own, especially during the fall when all the apple orchards are open and in full swing.

2019 was the sophomore year for the Needle Arts Festival, which is an important point to mention.  This is still a fledgling fiber fair, with the potential to grow into something pretty amazing.  This year featured around 18 vendors, a mixed bag of local yarn shops, independent dyers/spinners, and a smidge of other fiber related businesses.  For a fair of this size it was a pretty good selection, however, I feel as years go by there will be more independent makers.  This may come across as overly critical, but it’s not my intent, if I wanted to purchase main stream yarns like Berroco, Malibrigo, and Plymouth I would drive to the nearest yarn shop.  It is my opinion, for the fair to be successful and continue to grow the LYS presence will eventually have to drop off since they represented around a quarter of the vendors in attendance.  I would have been less critical of the LYS presence if they bought in more of the unique vendors and products that they carry in their stores. LYS owners will now probably beat me over the head, I know they struggle too.

Will I be back next year, of course, the balance will eventually improve and my hunch is this will be an excellent festival to support local dyers and spinners from the southeast.

What did I come home with? Well, I went on a mission for gadgets and unique products since I have more yarn than I can shake a stick at, so of course I purchase more yarn. Of the independent vendors, two really caught my eye.  Cameo Yarns and Stony Hill Fiber Arts.

ZB+JqyziSvCEk5X%XaDdcgCameo Yarns is a northwest Georgia dyer that had a booth full of absolutely gorgeous colorways that claims their inspiration is found in both the complex beauty of nature and the bright and tarnished aspects of the big city.  There was certainly some natural inspiration in the colorway Rainbow Trout.  If you ever catch a rainbow trout in the sunlight they are a surprisingly colorful fish in the often muddy waterways they around found in.  I came home with two skeins of their Oh So Charming Sock – so all the beautiful fishy color without all the icky fishy smell.  I don’t have a project in mind for it yet, but eventually the right pattern will call its name.

Stony Hill Fiber Arts also had some eye catching goodies for sale. They produce Pacolet img_3500Valley Cotton Yarns.  I’ve not been a huge fan of many cottons over the years, too many feel too rigid for garments and accessories unless they are heavily blended with another fiber, or I’m just too impatient to wait for the cotton to soften over time and use.  The Pacolet Valley yarns are cotton and cottina – which is a cotton processed in a way to accept color more efficiently – and it feels incredibly soft on the skeins and so smooth in the samples they had on hand.  Stony Hill also had patterns on featuring their yarns.  These fiber beauties are already assigned to projects.  The natural colored cotton in the back is going to be knitted into a wide brimmed summer hat – probably sooner than later, my pale self needs to be more conscious of sun exposure, and the lovely colored yarns in the front of the photo will be turned into fair isle fingerless mitts.

I walked in the door with a definitive budget and stayed within it.  I definitely could have spent so much more at the other independents featured at the festival but hopefully they’ll return for another year.

All in all….if you’re within driving distance of Ellijay, Georgia and want to support a growing entity, check this festival out next spring.

SEX at SAFF

That title got your attention didn’t it?

For anyone about to go into vapor lock, no, there were no shenanigans like that today. SEX in knitting jargon is a Stash Enhancement Experience. Let’s be honest, there’s a large portion of knitters and crocheters that fall deep into the nerd and geek spectrum and we get a kick out of acronyms that raise eyebrows.

SAFF, yep another acronym, is the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, and it’s held in Fletcher, NC every year.

I’ve had fiber friends talk about if for a few years now, but I finally was able to make the adventure up today. Yarn Rhapsody (the local yarn store in my neck of the woods) arranged a charter bus to ferry about 30 of us up for a day trip. After a crazy work week this was an absolutely brilliant idea, because the last thing I wanted to do was drive about 6 hours round trip today. Big Bear Cafe (another local Gainesville, GA place) provided us with breakfast biscuits and a brown bag lunch for the trip too. Side note: If you come to Gainesville, first you need to stop at Yarn Rhapsody. Second, you must eat at Big Bear.

Alright. So after 3 hours, and wrapping up a project on the way. The bus pulls into the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center and drops us off at the main building. Then it was off to the races. After walking into the main building and pulling my jaw up off the floor, exploring began. There was fiber vendor on top of fiber vendor through the whole building. Need roving? It was there. Need bison or yak blend yarns? They had you covered.   Need project ideas? Samples galore! Virtually every type of animal fiber was available, AND then there was another building, also spilling over with more vendors. I was on a mission to find yarns that were likely to be hard to find in yarn shops, gorgeous hand spun or brilliant independent dyers for my stash enhancement experience. An attack plan was formed, walk through all the interesting booths, and then go back to the ones I loved the most, and make decisions from there. Impulse buys would have had the budget blown in seconds.

After the first walk through, several of us wandered over to the livestock barns. As much as I wanted to cram a pygmy angora goat into a bag and run with it, I realized this plan wasn’t entirely feasible and the bus driver probably would have been really pissed if I put it on bus. Despite my heavy use of animal fiber, I’m still amazed at how many animals produce beautiful wool or hair that we use, and then amazed a second time when I see how many different varieties of these animals exist.

Sheep and goats had their heads and ears scratched, bunnies were petted and then decisions had to be made. Budgets had to be stuck to. I’m on an alpaca kick lately. It’s soft, it’s warm, it’s squishy! I found two huge and lovely skeins from Taylored Fibers for what felt like was a steal. I huge shawl is in the future. Being a Harry Potter dork, I replaced a good project bag that went AWOL a couple of months ago, and I was more than happy with my haul. Then out of the blue, after disembarking the bus and heading to my car, I was ambushed by a friend who handed me a bag with more gorgeous yarn, including a Game of Thrones themed mini-color set and a pattern to boot. (Since she may read this blog, I’m saying thank you for a third time!)

So what’s the overall take away from SAFF?

SAFF is a three day fair. I know people that leave Thursday evening, and will stay the entire weekend. I know people that like today, go up for a day. I’m going to firmly stay in the one day is enough camp. As much as I love supplying my knitting habit with amazing materials, multiple days may be overkill for most. With good planning, you can visit the entire site, and not feel rushed. I’m sure the Fletcher Chamber of Commerce will not give me a thumbs up for that assessment, by the size of the crowd SAFF does bring in a lot of money locally. Don’t get me wrong though, you can certainly make a weekend of it, Fletcher isn’t far from Asheville, and there seems to be plenty of good food, activities, and shopping within the area if that’s how you enjoy spending a weekend. It’s also fall, and it seems this festival hits autumn leaf change at just about peek, so there’s plenty of leaf peeping that can be done too. Some of us just need a quick change in scenery, this fair and the area is a good fit for that.

Will I be back next year? Of course it’s on the calendar, and it looks like Yarn Rhapsody may turn this bus adventure into a yearly event.

Did any of you folks reading this go? Leave me a comment, tell me your assessment of SAFF and what you added to your stash this weekend.