2001 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
Photo Album

Vendor Highlights

The show attracted lots of vendors -- too many for me to profile individually. Here are my Best of Show recommendations, based on overall quality, uniqueness, and value. 

Persimmon Tree Farm's booth Persimmon Tree Farm

The Persimmon Tree Farm booth got my vote for best value at the show, with its exquisite hand-dyed yarns and rovings.

In particular, the 50% mohair/25% silk/25% hand-carded wool roving was feather soft and glowed in the sunlight, with perfect color and fiber distribution.

My 4-ounce bag of roving cost only $7, while other vendors were selling lower-quality equivalents for upwards of $6 per ounce.



Brooks Farm yarns
a basket of Brooks Farm rovings
Brooks Farm Fiber

In the mohair category, my vote goes to Brooks Farm Fiber. Run by Randall and Sherry Books, the Lancaster, Texas-based farm raises colored angora goats and provides mohair-based yarns, spinning fibers, and fleeces.

The yarns are actually a blend of mohair and wool, with a consistently smooth and silky two-ply spin and rich, mostly earthy colors. Knitters were lining up to buy skein after skein of the relatively pricey yarn with no idea what they were going to do with it.

One dismayed customer discovered that her favorite color had been completely sold out while she was away from the booth. Sherry Brooks offered to spin and dye her a new batch of yarn in that color, sending her samples first to make sure it was still to her liking. This over-the-top service, combined with truly beautiful yarns and professional quality, impressed me.

For samples, color cards, or any extra information, you can email Sherry at bfarm1@airmail.net or call 972-227-1593.

 
 
For Spinners

The show offered endless choices for serious fiberaholics who like to spin and dye their own yarns. Two small fiber providers drew my attention in particular.

Little Barn

The first was Little Barn of Harvest, Alabama. Little Barn's tops, slivers, and rovings were arguably the cleanest, finest ones at the show. Little Barn also offers fiber processing services. Based on what I saw, I'd trust this company with even the most precious fleece.

Prices were reasonable, especially considering the quality. For example, a cloud-like 80s merino top was selling for only $21 per pound.

To view Little Barn's online catalog, click here.


Haltwhistle Fibres

The second business that caught my eye was Haltwhistle Fibres, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based importer of fine British yarns and combed tops.

Here I sampled all sorts of rare British breeds, including Masham, a Masham-Wensleydale-Teeswater blend, Manx Loghton, Black Welsh, and a blue-face Leicester that spins and knits like pure butter (I speak from experience!). The Color Sampler and British Breeds Sampler kits offered smaller amounts of different types of wool and both sold like hotcakes.

Owner Kathryn Carras purchases her fibers from a broker in the U.K., where they are expertly processed before being shipped to the U.S. Since the hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak, Carras told me she has actually had fewer delays in receiving her wool shipments.

Because the wool is commercially processed, it poses no risks for carrying the disease. So far, knock on wood, her favorite flock of Bluefaced Leicesters has yet to be affected.


Serious Crowd

Many vendors were nearly sold out by the end of Saturday. When I got to Jim and Pam Childs' Hatchtown Farm booth, they had only four drop spindles left. Apparently they'd had a line of customers at 8 a.m., an hour before the festival officially opened!

Meanwhile, Pine Tree Yarns' Elaine Davey Eskesen had already sold most of her kits by midday Saturday. "I'm not going to have anything to sell by tomorrow!" she exclaimed, before revealing her own secret stash of show purchases tucked behind a divider.

By the time I left her booth, two more kits had sold.

Runners Up

FireSong Fibres, 301-854-4848. Intriguing hand-dyed color and fiber blends at reasonable prices. Four ounces of hand-dyed 50% Bluefaced Leicester/50% superfine kid mohair roving was only $9.50.

Wool in the Woods, 717-677-0577. Hand-dyed yarns and designer kits by Missy Burns and Anita Tosten. Color-intensive, fashionably tasteful yarns and kits in interesting textures.

Carol Leigh's Hillcreek Fiber Studio, 573-874-2233 or 800-TRI-WEAV. Spinning, weaving, dyeing materials, tools, and classes. Despite its out-of-the-way location, this booth had by far the biggest crowd of "groupies," not to mention hard-core accessories.



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