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Welcome to Esther's Blog

The World According to Esther

Maryland Sheep and Wool, AKA Crab Tour 2012

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is my “new” yearly pilgrimage up to Maryland for fiber, fun and CRABS!!  This is the second year my handspun and fiber were one of the featured independent artists carried in CloverHill Yarn shop.

This year I had the pleasure of traveling up to Maryland Sheep and Wool with my good friend Renee Jones.  Renee is a wonderful fiber artist and this was her first time attending MDSW. I was excited to share my crazy shopping with her!! It’s always fun to be able to have a “partner in crime” to split fleeces with! Then you get MORE FLEECES! haha!!

Friday night we drove up to a wonderful restaurant my husband and I found on our way home from Vogue NY, called Price’s Seafood. It’s in a little town, right on the river that feeds into the Cheseapeake Bay called Haver De Grace.  We met friends Damon and Arlene and had a wonderful meal of fresh steamed blue crabs with Old Bay, of course.  It was so much fun to hang out and eat yummy food with friends!! We plowed through more crabs than I like to think about.. but it was SO GOOD it was worth it!

We went back to our hotel in Columbia and slept extremely well!! We got up super early and headed out to the fairgrounds. I was excited to wear my boot toppers from Arlene and knit shrug from Deb. It was going to be the hotter of the 2 days, so I knew it wouldn’t all last long.. but I was determined to get in some wearing time!  In the elevator there was a gentleman that looked me up and down and said “Sheep and Wool show person?” I guess it was obvious!

We met Arlene at the festival and headed in (a bit early) our plan was to go straight for the fleece show. We passed some lovely ladies tailgating breakfast in the parking lot! Brilliant idea, and I’ve marked it down for next year! Mimosa breakfast pre-shopping? Yes please!   We walked in and were surprised that things were hopping. People were walking around.. I even managed to score my “impulse” purchase- a beautiful SOFT silvery fawn leicester longwool pelt with 6-7″ locks. I love it.  On our way to the fleece show we were distracted by a booth in a barn that had beautiful coopworth fleeces..   the most varity in color and staple structre I have ever seen in coopworth and the farmer was extremely knowledgable and kind.  I grabbed 3 “unskirted”- which made them AMAZING deals- I’ve already skirted them and I was shocked at how little I had to throw out! Incredible deals!  Then walking through the barn to get to the main building for the fleece show we were distracted by an Islandic booth. Arlene got a beautiful pelt (had I not gotten mine, I would’ve gotten that one.. funny since Arlene says the same thing) and I got 3 fleeces. I’ve been hesitant to use Islandic since I’ve had experiences with it being very coarse. Lexi gave me some a couple months ago that was unbelievably soft so I’ve been on a mission to find more like that- and I am thrilled to say I have! These fleeces are also the score of the weekend! AMAZING color and staple! I’m thrilled!!    So before we even started 1 had 6 fleeces and a pelt!

The fleece show was so much fun! It seemed like there were less people there than last year..  and it actually seemed like there were less fleeces. I thought there were more on the floor under the tables last year. That didn’t keep me from shopping though, and I found 13 fleeces to bring home! Biggest excitement- 9lb extremely clean cormo with SIX INCH staple! (unheard of!), silvery white red ribbon romney, ecru and mushroom super crimpy red ribbon merino…  There are going to be some amazing fibers coming to the shop!!   I found some friends and they started to help me carry my “haul” to the car. I was impressed to learn Renee had found 9 herself at the show! She later told me that when she was checking out they said “oh yes, that’s a large purchase.. but the “big one” is still coming”  I guess they were referring to me!   It appeared so, since when I jokingly asked a man driving a crew on a golf cart if “you bought enough fleeces they would take you to your car” and he felt bad for me and said yes! He piled me and Arlene into the golf cart with all my fleece and zipped us to the “Mom van” (as Renee has dubbed it- thank God for that car.. we’ll get to that soon!)  I was SO grateful for that man! THANK YOU!!  I did feel bad though, since Renee had carried all hers by herself to the car..  Next time she gets the ride!  I was so excited to see one of the “Mom van” perks.. the hidden compartments under the seats! LOTS of fleeces fit in there!

After a rest in the shade and some water (and a shedding of the shrug.. too hot!) we went back to the festival! The next stop was for the amazing mohair roving I use for my Ethereal Cloud batts. Now, sure I *could* use commercial combed kid mohair top carded up for those batts.. but they wouldn’t be Ethereal.. just clouds.  This mohair roving is truly ethereal. It comes from a small farm in Virgina that blends 1st and 2nd clip kid, with 3rd clip yearling. It has the long staple that’s needed for “mohairy” or “boucle” techniques, but the fineness of kid.  I was able to get a lb in each of her colors (2 of the black). I love supporting small farms that love their animals. They had with them a Mama with her littlest twins. They were just angelic.. snuggling up together.

We spent the rest of the day wandering. We ate some yummy lamb. We met up with friends and ogled fiber and goodies. We pet lots of sheep and met wonderful farmers.  I got my glass shawl pins from Moving Mud.   It is a very large festival and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We left late in the afternoon, before traffic got too crazy.  We went back to the hotel for some rest before our annual dinner at Clyde’s.   It’s so much fun hanging out with friends and comparing notes after a day of hard shopping!  Usually I go for their crabcakes.. but with Soft Shells on the menu, I couldn’t pass them up! It was a great end to a wonderful day!

Sunday we slept late and had a relaxing check out. We got to the festival grounds around 10:30 to no traffic and pleasant cool weather! I was so excited to wear the circle shrug Deb made with my yarns for me! On our walk to the main building we chatted a bit with a shepard who was walking a beautiful wensleydale ewe.  He told us that not only was she being sheared later, but her fleece hadn’t yet been claimed.. so we quickly called “Dibs” .. On her white sister Laurie’s fleece too!!

The rest of the day I spent in the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth talking with customers about my yarns and fibers. I did get a break to visit a bit with Otto and Joanne Strauch. I love them and it’s always wonderful to catch up! I also met Richard Ashford, who is a wonderfuly nice man. I use the Ashford Knitters Loom and it was great to talk to him about it.  Renee did some more shopping (yay fleeces!!) and saw lots of the stuff we didn’t the day before.  I did purchase a couple beautiful copper and crystal shawl pins from the Cloverhill booth (one I can use as a hair pin) and some funky mill end cones for weaving/plying.  Before we knew it, load out time had arrived and we were breaking down the Cloverhill booth, and then on the road.  We STUFFED the Mom Van! Renee had 22 fleeces, I had 24 (including ones I picked up from a farmer that I’d paid for earlier).. so we had a barnyard in the car, plus the 22 lbs of roving, plus the cones, plus our luggage..  Thank God for those under seat compartments!

We treated ourselves to one last Maryland delight and finally had *softball sized* crabcakes at G and M!  I think these are now going to be my 3 yearly meals each weekend! G and M has the best crabcakes I’ve ever had! It was awesome!!

We made great time home and I’m already washing and dyeing up things I got!!  Carolina Fiber Fest is in 10 days!! I have LOTS to do until then! I’ll post my location when I get it!!
Can’t wait until MDSW 2013! But I can’t think about that now.. too much to DO!


Enjoy our photos- Taken by myself and Renee Jones