Every October, hundreds of knitters and crocheters from around the country flock to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY for a weekend of fiber, fun, and crafty camaraderie. Since 1972, Rhinebeck has played host to the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, one of the biggest fiber arts festivals in the country.
This extensive festival is held the third weekend in October and offers fiber enthusiasts the opportunity to browse their favorite vendors, snag hard-to-find yarns and fibers, attend workshops, and more. In recent years, book signings and lectures by popular knit and crochet authors have been added to the schedule, including such names as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Franklin Habit, and Lily Chin.
Casual knitters and crocheters can spend a day or the whole weekend perusing the vast selection of yarn and craft tools available from dozens of vendors. Both popular brands and yarn from smaller, more eclectic vendors are available. A variety of tools for knitting, crocheting, and hand spinning can also be found. Hand spinners can browse an amazing assortment of fibers, both natural and dyed, as well as wheels, drop spindles, and other spinning accessories.
Workshops are held all weekend at Rhinebeck for knitters and crocheters looking to expand their skills, as well as aspiring spinners. Fiber arts lovers can learn to spin on a drop spindle or wheel, learn the techniques involved in spinning for a finished project, pick up new knitting tips and tricks, and much more. Registration is available on-site and online at the Sheep & Wool Festival website.
The more advanced fiber artist may wish to participate in one of the many contests and shows that take place at the festival. The Sheep To Shawl competition challenges hand spinners and weavers to turn a 100% natural wool fleece into a woven shawl in three hours without any electric equipment. Spinners and knitters can also enter hand spun yarns and finished pieces in the Skein and Garment competition. And crafters of all ages are invited to enter their finished pieces in the Make It With Wool competition, with judging and a fashion show to be held at the festival. All competitions offer prizes for winning individuals or teams.
Animal lovers can enjoy the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, too! Many farms and breeders bring their animals to the festival to show. Lovers of sheep, alpacas, llamas, goats, angora rabbits, and more can look at, and sometimes even pet, the animals. Sheepdog trials and livestock shows go on all weekend, as well as sheep and fleece sales for interested parties.
Local farms, wineries, bakeries, and other food vendors get in on the festival action each year. An entire building on the fairgrounds is dedicated to showcasing the best these local businesses have to offer. Festival attendees can sample fresh roasted nuts, jams and jellies, hot sauces, wines, and cheeses. Handmade soaps, local baked goods, and fresh food are also available.
A full list of all the great vendors and activities at the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival is available online. Advanced tickets can be ordered from the festival website, and directions and maps are available. So if you love knitting, crocheting, spinning, or just fiber arts in general, check out this extensive festival. You won’t be disappointed.