For our 40th wedding anniversary Tom and I went to the Great Lakes Fiber Show. Now, that may not sound like the kind of trip you want to take for a big anniversary, but it was perfect for us. We don’t get to go to many festivals because we are usually working on the weekends at National Parks. And we really enjoy festivals. This one was close by, seemed safe in a late-pandemic world, and looked like it had lots of vendors.
Although this was the 25th Great Lakes Fiber Festival held at the Wayne County Fairground, it was the first one I had heard about. I get a calendar of fiber related events, and I usually look at it longingly, knowing that most events are too far away or on bad dates for me to attend. So, it was if all the stars lined up, and we were able to go to this event. We picked up my mom and dad and headed to Wooster.
As we pulled in to the event, we saw my Aunt Anne and Uncle Paul heading into the first building. Mom had led them know we were going if they wanted to meet us, but we had not heard back from them. Pretty cool that we just happened to spot them just as they were going in. Anne also texted me to let me know they were there.
The Great Lakes Fiber Show had events and classes that people could attend. The classes looked interesting, but I was mostly interested in seeing the vendors. There were also fleece, skein, and knitted garment competitions with the judging on Saturday. The skeins and knitted garments had to be at least 50% wool, so this show was all about the sheep. There was a sheep show on Saturday and a sheep sale on Sunday morning.
Because this was our first time going to the show, I was primarily interested in checking it out instead of seeing specific things. Get the big view this year and then I could schedule to return for specific events if it was worth going back. We got to the show around noon and met up with Anne and Paul. As soon as I walked in to the first building, I knew I would be spending the rest of the afternoon at the show, so I needed to get some lunch to keep my energy up. We found the one food vendor – Bob’s – and got some burgers and fries. They had a small area with picnic tables set up where we could eat. The food gave us the fuel we needed to explore.
After finding out that the next sheepherding demonstration would be at 1, we walked through one small area of vendors. I think there were four buildings total with the over 100 vendors who attended the show. I’m not sure how many people visited the Great Lakes Fiber Show – there didn’t seem to be anyone taking attendance and there wasn’t an admission charge. People were milling around but it was so spread out that it never felt crowded. I took all the time I wanted to talk to the vendors. In fact, my only constraint was not wanting to spend TOO much money.
The sheepherding demonstration was very interesting. The woman who demonstrated had five border collies and a small flock of five sheep. The sheep stayed as far away from the dogs as they could get. I didn’t get the name of the woman demonstrating but she was very good at explaining what she was doing. Sheepherding is very much a partnership between the dog and the shepherd.
The demonstrator brought out one dog who was 14 but still wanted to work. She said she let the dogs work as long as they wanted to. He didn’t have as much energy as the other dogs, but he had total control of his small flock. One dog herded ducks and it was pretty funny to hear the ducks protesting as they waddled along as quickly as possible in front of the dog. Another dog was very experienced but had a new handler. The dog thought she knew better than her handler what to do with the sheep.
One border collie is able to handle about 100 sheep, which is pretty impressive. The dogs kept very good control over the sheep and the sheep kept their eyes on the dogs. The demonstration lasted about 45 minutes and I enjoyed watching it and learning about sheepherding very much. Tom keeps suggesting that I need some sheep, but I would prefer just buying the wool.
Speaking of wool, there was no lack of wool at the Fiber Show. So much roving, so much yarn, so little time! I especially enjoyed talking to the vendors about all the creative things they were doing. Kit Snyder, from PhiFiber in Gibsonia, PA, takes cleaned and dyed wool and mixes it with interesting fibers and color blends. I bought four bags of her mixes. I got some Wensleydale locks from Gwenyth Glynn Longwools, a lucet from Shepherd’s Custom Woodworking, and two eight-ounce balls of dark brown Coopeworth roving from Looking Glass Sheep and Wool.
The only yarn I bought was two cones of undyed Romney yarn from Per Ardua Farm and one skein from a woman who used all natural dyes. I also found a really neat t-shirt that is fiber related. Anne and Paul were disappointed that I got the one with the Bible verse (Proverbs 31:13: She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.). They wanted me to get one with a loom on it that said “warped and dangerous.”
I found a bit of bison roving and bought half an ounce. Bison roving is very expensive and difficult to find, but I know that someone will ask me about it this summer when I am demonstrating in North Dakota. After all, Fort Union Trading Post is all about bison skins. Bison fiber is very light and short, which makes it difficult to spin. Also, you don’t shear bison, so you have to collect the fiber from where it has rubbed off on barbed wire fences. The fiber I bought is mixed with a little bit of silk, which has a long fiber and makes the bison easier to spin.
My biggest score of the day was finding a used bobbin winder for half the cost of a new one. Tom and I have been using his drill to wind the bobbins, which is good but is not historically accurate and it takes both of us to do it. Bobbin winders are $150 and that seemed like a lot to spend to wind a bobbin. But Linda Bertanzetti from Columbiana, Ohio had a booth with lots and lots of bits and pieces for weavers. Her card lists her profession as “Handweaver.” I got a beautiful bobbin winder for $70 and have already used it to wind a bunch of bobbins.
By the time we got to Linda’s booth, I had been around to all the vendors once. I had a big bag full of goodies and it was 3:30. The show closed at 4, so we decided to head out rather than let me start around again. The items I bought will keep me demonstrating through the summer and I now have some semi-local sources to get more when I need it.
I had a wonderful time at the Great Lakes Fiber Show. I can’t say that everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did, but they all humored my fiber excitement. The weather was absolutely perfect. In the high 60’s with lots of sunshine that made it very comfortable. The show is held every year on the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. From now on, if we are in Ohio, I know where I will be at least one of those days!