I have had a very busy two weeks with very little downtime to feel motivated to write. This feeling of lazy, wistful energy is what is associated with “con crash” and it sucks. I was hoping to avoid it this year, but it snuck up on me anyway. It is only my second true convention season, so I’ll learn how to deal with it better because I have too much fun at these events not to go to them.
For those of who who might not know (or who might not remember from my post last year), Zenkaikon is an Anime Convention in Lankaster, PA. There isn’t any knitting going on in there, but there are lots of people who love to cosplay and lots of brilliant panels going on for three days. Not to mention the dealer’s room which has everything from anime and manga to imported Japanese sweets. I ended up taking Miku along with me and managed to get her picture taken with a couple other fantastic Miku cosplayers (and a fantastic Len cosplayer)!
Sadly, some of my pictures got corrupted from the con so I’m not able to show pictures of some of the fantastic Lolitas that were at the con. I’m a little annoyed that they are the only pictures that got corrupted, since they were all super nice and super cute. Plus, it is always fun to try to separate the actual Lolitas from the more cosplaying anime lolitas. Of course, there is nothing wrong with either one since they are both totally cute. It is just a diversion I like to play when I’m stuck waiting in lines. Especially if I forget my knitting like I did on the first day.
That’s enough about Zenkaikon for now, because I all know the event that all of you readers want to hear the most about is Maryland Sheep & Wool! Three weeks before Zenkaikon, my Mom surprised me by calling my phone early in the morning and asking if I wanted to go with her to Maryland. It was so unexpected that I was quite literally shocked into silence for a half a minute. I recovered quickly and the whole trip was settled and planned in less than five minutes.
Ever since my first year of college, I have been wanting to go to Maryland Sheep and Wool. It is quite similar to my yearning to go to Rhinebeck, only this time I was able to get in contact with two of my college roommates and they also made plans to meet up with us at Maryland! It was quite exciting to have a mini-reunion with each other and they were both happy to meet and talk with my Mom again. She had the reputation as the “cool mom” in college, so she was quite happy to meet up and hang out with my friends.
It was great to see everyone again and we had a fantastic time! The weather was a little drizzly during the day, but it didn’t start raining like it really meant it until around five in the afternoon. I was too busy looking around and just having fun that I didn’t get very many pictures this year. Unlike Zenkaikon, I never know the etiquette of wool festivals or else I would have asked to take a picture of many people with their wonderful knitting.
I saw so many Find Your Fade Shawls that I really wished that I got the Stroll Tweed and knit it for the occasion. It would have been wonderful to wrap up in it for the festival. Instead, I wore my neon pink and green socks. My Mom was wearing the most knitting of all of us that included her lovely Felici Dark Side Hitchhiker, a pair of linen fingerless mittens, and her Felici Jellybean socks. Needless to say, she was the warmest of the group!
I still think that Rhinebeck was bigger than Maryland Sheep and Wool, but Maryland has a space that was easier to navigate. It is basically set up in one big line from the parking lot with just a little offshoot with more booths in it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t just as much wool there! We got the most distracted at Bijou Basin Ranch by their wonderful yak and yak blends, Buffalo Wool Company with their warm to the touch even in the cool humid air buffalo and buffalo blends, and by the Tess’ Designer Yarns booth with their literally soft as a kitten cashmere/silk blend appropriately named Kitten. Let’s just say that I have three brand new grail yarns that I hope to get sometime in the near future.
We found an awesome vintage button booth that only sells in festivals. Mom picked up a few new buttons and I splurged on an awesome yellow and black statement button that the woman at the booth said was probably from the 1960s. The button booth was really cool to walk around in. There was just so many buttons and they were all color coded. I am glad that I walked out with my button and I will be searching for them in the future at any festival that I go to. Especially since they have Victorian vintage buttons. With enough searching, I bet I could find enough for a cardigan.
I did get to test out different needles at the Signature Knitting Needle Arts booth. I am willing to admit that I have a Signature Needle Arts problem because I love the way that their straights feel and their circulars are awesome even if they are convertible and not fully interchangeable. I would have walked out with more needles if I had enough money, but right now I am happy that I got my US 4 DPNs from them so I can finally knit fully stranded socks. I chose the needles that will get me 8 stitches per inch so I won’t have to cast on nearly 100 stitches for a pair of socks. That stitch per inch count will also get me lovely mittens, hats, bags, and sweaters/accessories for Miku. Plus, they will also get me a nice fabric when I’m not doing stranded colorwork. Perfect for sport weight yarn like my one lonely ball of 100% Cashmere from Knit Picks.
Alison discovered the power of Loop batts. Seeing the display of layered colors all propped up on the big wall was enough to get Alison to seek out a drop spindle (she chose a lightweight turkish) just so she could get a Loop batt in ocean colors. She loves knitting lace, so I was able to guide her to a lighter spindle so she would have an easier time getting to her preferred weight right away. Another lady sold her on Turkish spindles as she described how they worked and we showed her. And that woman wasn’t even the one selling the spindles! Of course, I also got a brand new pink, white, and black Loop batt named Licorice. We also got a free sample of a cashmere blend that they are marketing as Loop Lux. It is the perfect amount to spin on my lovely lightweight Golding which has sadly been neglected in favor of my wheel for far too long.
Alison and Laura found the Kookaburra Wool Wash booth while my mom and I were looking at swifts designed by Tom & Deb Belletete from Yarn Tech. Everyone walked away from those booths happy. Mom got her swift and Alison, Laura, and I got samples of Kookaburra. They even gave me a bottle of their Kookaburra Delicate which has no lanolin in it just in case their regular blend ended up having more straight lanolin that I can normally handle. The struggles of being a wool enthusiast with a lanolin sensitivity is real!
A major discovery I found was an active and running Tsarina Tsock booth. I know they have had issues over the years with being able to provide the wonderful kits and patterns that the wonderful Linda Grossman designed. If I had an extra ten dollars on me, I would have picked up the Vintage kit that they had. Part of me really regrets not picking it up right away, but because I went to two festivals/cons back to back, I just didn’t have the available funds to do so. I also regret not taking pictures of their wonderful display. They said that they do have the ability to start offering them again and spread the wonderful designs and knitting legacy that Linda left us. It was wonderful to see all of the designs in person and I hope they go to other festivals too.
Of course, what would a fiber festival be without all of the animals that provide their wool for our benefit?
I should have gotten more sheep pictures and I only saw one bunny, but it is always fun to see our fiber producers. I just love the longwools, but I am still enough of a novice that I can’t point out specific breeds without proper signs. The only thing I can say for sure is that there were a lot of Romney sheep at Maryland.
We also stopped at the fleece barn and Alison showed a surprising knack for finding really nice naturally colored fleeces for really good deals. Laura also found a really nice Merino, but she seemed to gravitate towards the higher price points. I can’t really blame her. The higher priced fleeces were really something to look at!
Both Zenkaikon and Maryland Sheep & Wool were a lot of fun. Surprisingly, Maryland took much more out of me than Zenkaikon did, but it was my first time at Maryland and my second time at Zenkaikon. Plus, I firmly believe that wool fumes are 10% more powerful than the power of kawaii at Anime conventions.