Thursday, October 30, 2008

In the company of creative women

This time a week ago, I was in my little car headed west to the mountains of North Carolina and the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival (SAFF). I know - it's a funny name. Lots of people that asked about my weekend gave me quizzical looks last Sunday when I told them where I'd been. Animal fiber? Hmmm......

I tried to explain by urging them to think about sheep, alpacas, angora rabbits. And then to think of what comes from these animals and what you do with it. Think fleece, wool, spinning, weaving, yarn, knitting, felting, and more. Think workshops, demonstrations, classes, vendors, and more. Think the smell of lanolin on wool, think the colors of the rainbow, forest, seashore, sunset, even the colors of a beautiful shelf fungus (I'll show you later....) Think agricultural fair, craft show, yarn shop. Think all of this and you'll get some idea of what SAFF is.

The festival is held the fourth weekend in October at the Western NC Agricultural Center.

This is the floor of the main arena with vendors all around. Booths line the upper level, too. Workshops and classes were held in the partitioned area in the middle.

The animals were there, too. Furry, Dr. Suess-ish angora rabbits, and alpacas and more in the outer arena areas.

There were teachers, formal and informal. SAFF offers lots of classes and workshops on everything from wool carding to Fair Isle knitting, from Angora bunny care to alpaca confirmation. I think there were probably as many, if not more, informal teaching sessions going on as well, as vendors and artists shared their skill and the love of their craft with eager learners.

And ohhhh, the colors. Such a feast for the eyes...

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the yarn that grabbed our attention most, but you can visit SeaColors and see for yourself. Several of us came home with skeins of Nanney Kennedy's yarn and enjoyed talking with Nanney and Demetrio, the master rug weaver whose stunning rugs were displayed next to Nanney's yarns.

The festival was everything I hoped for and more. What made it even more special was the time spent in the company of the creative women I shared a mountain cottage with for the weekend. My dear friend, Amber, organized our weekend. (Thanks, Amber) Her mom, Brenda, came and brought her spinning wheel. High school art teacher, potter, spinner and after this weekend possibly artist in felt, Andrea, was there, too. And a friend from Amber's knitting group, Jenny, joined us for Friday night.

Picture the scene. A small cabin sitting room that smells of hot cider. The floor is littered with baskets holding yarn, fleece, roving, knitting needles, and drop spindles. Books lie open to knitting patterns and the click, click of the foot pedals on the spinning wheel punctuates the conversation. Four women and one baby. And the next night, five women and another little one.

We sat and knitted. We looked at yarn. We talked about spinning and apple varieties and high school students and troubled kids. We talked about our families and future projects and food. We talked and knitted and spun until our eyelids grew heavy. The first night we slept to the music of rain on the roof.

Spending time with these women was so refreshing, so energizing. I don't often spend two nights in a row, sitting. Resting from normal activities and giving myself to the quiet of a night of knitting and talk. And such company. These women inspire greater appreciation for color and texture, artistry and design, quality and beauty.

We're already planning for SAFF next year. We want to go back to the same cabin. We want to share the time with other friends. And maybe by then, we'll be done with the projects we bought yarn for this year and be ready for more!


Michaela said...

Oh how fun!
- a fellow yarnie

kk said...

i love the yarn photos! the color reminds me of some bazaar photos from india this summer. :)

Andrea - The Earthen Vessel said...

LOVED reading your account of the weekend, Beth!
It was magical for me, too, in so many ways....Can't say I have been able to dig into things like I want but its been fun to share about it with those who are willing to listen....