Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Oh I so wish I had been there - even with the heat it sounds so grand. I have to say if I were A and had won the best in division for the felted bag the only picture of me would have been blurry because it is hard to get a picture of someone jumping up and down and dancing in the aisle -- How cool to win!!

I think you should tell a story at the retreat - you are coming right - I can't keep track it seems of who is coming and who isn't this year. All I know is I am going to really miss some people who were there last year.

By Blogger rho, at 8:56 AM  

Nice to hear your perspective on the weekend. And the price for photo stealing is one comment left on the victim's post!

By Blogger Mary, at 11:13 AM  

I really enjoyed meeting you at the FFF at the Spirit Trail booth! I bought some shetland lamb and North Ronaldsay at the booth and you and J and A were so sweet and tolerant of the heat at the time I saw you guys. Next year I promise it will be cold! I am applying for a job with the weather department at Montpelier!

By Blogger Alice, at 6:32 PM  

Thanks for a great post on the FFF. It was my first time there, and I did my best to contribute to the livelihood of about a dozen small producers. :) I have really been enjoying your blog since finding it a couple of weeks ago. Things like the roving smiley-face have put a smile on my face. Thanks again!

By Anonymous Cathy in Va., at 10:46 PM  

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Monday, October 08, 2007  

Virginia Fall Fiber Festival 2007

Warning, wordy and picture heavy

Somebody ordered the wrong weather. This past weekend, when Virginia fiberistas gathered under tents and in outdoor booths to buy and sell magnificent wool products in the foothills of Orange County, it was 93 degrees. Next weekend, when those same people will congregate indoors just a 100 miles north to do pretty much the same thing, it will be 73 degrees. Obviously there needs to be some staff changes in the weather ordering department.

But a little heat wasn't enough to stifle my fun this year. Weather might impinge on my pleasure, but it can't stop it up, when I'm with good friends and good fiber, and when I get the chance to tell stories as well – and even get paid for it – well. Well. No 90 degree dust storm is going to blot out my joy.

This is how early in the morning you have to start if you live at TheCastle and you are going to help out at the fair.

One hour later, though, it's getting lighter – with a fine mist that some people might call rain, people who lost 2/3rds their corn crop due to drought might call it a rain. People going to look at fiber would call it low lying clouds. I took the bypass around F'burg on the way up but it didn't save me a bit of time. Too clogged with stoplights and fast-food clutter.

I came home the more familiar business route.

This is the autumn of yellow and gold. A tree needs a little more rain to pull up any of the rich red colors. What few trees who can only produce red leaves are painting the roadways and forests with a sort of dull brick red this autumn. Still and all, it is lovely to drive west from Fredericksburg and see what's left of rural Virginia.

Rt. 20 south to Orange is always longer than I think 20 miles ought to be. It's also up on a ridge though you wouldn't really know it, unless you were a mossy tidewater gal who feels the height. Somehow, I notice it even more in the piedmont than I do when I'm in actual mountains. I suppose because it's so subtle – that high up feeling, while in a mountain, well, it's so obvious, so visible, that I just experience it through my eyes instead of my body.

I was actually a little early (Virgo, you know) so I took a little time to wander the town of Orange. Orange did not get its name because of the orange soil, but instead, was named for William, Duke of Orange and King of England. That first Orange was an earldom probably founded by Charlemagne and is now a little tourist town in south east France. Our Orange is a little arty tourist town too, though with a bit more 19th century architecture. It's certainly a town of pretty houses and porches and cute little shops.

Then, it was on to the fair, which is held at Montpelier, just 3 miles further down Rt. 20., on the grounds of James and Dolly Madison's former home. It's a museum now and I blush to say that I don't believe I've ever actually gone up there to see it. The one time BD and I tried, it was closed for renovation. Evidently, it still is.

As you can see, the Virginia Fall Fiber Festival is a nice encompassable festival. Plenty of goodies, but not overwhelming.

But see this red dirt lane? Ha! By the end of the festival, much of it was on my car! Just wait and see.

J and her friend A had already set up the Spirit Trail booth on Friday so it was right-to-work for me, doing what I love best; touching and fondling and sighing over her beautiful fibers and glorious colors.

Fortunately the cloud cover lasted into the early afternoon, but the weather was never anything better than stuffy and sometimes it was swealteringly hot. I'm not sure which is worse – the torrential rains and bottomless pits of mud we had last year or the DogDaysHeat of this year. I would guess the crowds were about the same – which I suppose is to be expected. This same hot weather in May, at MS&W, wouldn't have been as offensive because everyone is tired of winter they're able to put up with unexpected heat. Besides, it takes all summer for the earth to give up its winter chill. After a long hot summer, though, October days in the 90's just don't tempt people to come outdoors and fondle wool!

Typical of all fairs, buyers came in waves, they were just gentle waves instead of breakers. J had purchased a double booth space this year. What a difference that makes. Customers could linger and stand back and ask for help without feeling like they were being crushed by people. I hope, one day, J can get a double booth at MS&W.

At 3 o'clock I peeled off to change into my story telling outfit – which isn't anything special, but it's not dusty shorts and a t-shirt. Those who know me know I can talk anytime, and I will tell stories to one child with as much enthusiasm as I would to a crowd. I'm glad, though, there was a nice crowd – maybe 30 people – because I think these stories are really fun to hear. I've done this program a good few times and have the timing down pat. At the end of the hour all the little children, and a few adults too, were sporting their friendship bracelets and necklaces and you could see the light gleaming in some wee faces as they contemplated making gifts for their friends. One small charmer beamed up at me and said “this looks like fireworks so I'm going to call it a firework bracelet.”

Best of all, I was invited back for next year – with the promise of an earlier slot on the schedule.
By 3 o'clock, a lot of parents were ready to take their tired kids home. They didn't get to hear about the spinster who married the prince – but maybe next year ...

I always intend to do a sort of photo essay of these fiber events. All the while I'm driving to one, I imagine taking cute photos that tell the story and then I get distracted talking or working or getting tired or purchasing and I don't remember that I have a camera. Certainly, by 5 o'clock I'd forgotten about it. We were tired, though not wiped out, and hungry and wanted substance, so we ate at the Mexican restaurant in Orange. My taco salad was small and mostly beef, not salad, but it was enough. Especially since the darling B&B in Orange, right at the T of 20 North and Main Street, where we spent the night, served that chewy kind of home made chocolate chip cookies. Our room was generous enough for 3 gals with 3 wine glasses and ... um ... some cookies. Knitting took place and talking, but no photo taking. We were asleep by 10, though, and up for a luscious breakfast by 7.

Sundays tend to start out slow at Fiber Festivals and HotHotHot Sundays are even slower. This gives vendors, especially ones with extra help, time to wander a bit and look a lot and do a tee tiny little shopping. I did my share to lighten some sellers' loads this weekend, and tomorrow I'll post about my loot. But this year I took a little time to watch the dog trials.

This is Tim, with Nick the dog. Nick is young and just starting out in the show circuit. I butted into a discussion about how the trials work, politely, of course, with my mouth shut and my ears open, and got to hear all about show qualities and how the judging works. It's enough, though, for me to see these beautiful dogs concentrating on what they love to do best. And even if it is the dog's instinct to work – it makes me tear up to see them willingly mold a killing instinct into a shepherding act.

I didn't get near enough photos of all the wonderful friends I saw. M was there and J, and T with her daughter, and B and R&J! And I didn't take any photos!! I mean, not even a picture of my college roommate and her daughter!!! what was I thinking? I did get some fair going shots and some pretty booth shots and some fiber maven shots (this is the sheep to shawl demonstration) and a couple of good pictures of J (owner of On The Lamb in Staunton) and A – especially this one of A with her Best of Division felted bag!

It is drop dead gorgeous. And I stole this photo from M's blog. Just to show you the Spirit Trail Gang.

And then it was 4 o'clock and packing up and going home. If last year was the Festival of Mud, this year was the Festival of Dust and I took plenty of it home with me.

The heat of the day was following the sun as it left the fair grounds, just about the time the last of the cars left the parking lot.

There was still lots of slanting autumn light to guide me home, but by the time I pulled up to TheCastle it was dark.

Hugs and kisses welcomed me home, then it was a shower and dinner and it early to bed for This Queen, who had had a splendid happy time at the fair. It does seem as if the good fair weather only comes around once in every three years, but I remember my Cousin John, the farmer, son of 10 generations of farmers, who told me that so long as a farmer can make a crop once in 3 years he can make a living. I hope this is true for fiber festivals too. I hope everyone had as good a time as I did. I hope they stored up all this sunshine summer weather for the long winter months ahead.

posted by Bess | 6:06 AM