Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Rhinebeck Fiber Festival 2023

It is Autumn here in Western New York, maple trees are in full color of brilliant hues of red and burnt orange.

The temperatures and cooling down and the wildlife around the farm are getting ready for the harsh winter months ahead.

Autumn also is the time when our festival season peaks in a grand finale for the year - the largest fiber festival in the country, the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.

Important Festival Details

The festival is commonly referred to as Rhinebeck, because it is located in the village of Rhinebeck.  But technically it is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival

It takes place at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds which is situated in the Catskill mountains, close to the hudson river, about 100 miles north of New York City. Rhinebeck always takes place the 3rd weekend in October and always at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.

Our History Vending at the Rhinebeck Fiber Festival

We have had a vendor booth at this festival for 4 years, starting in 2019.  I was still working full time for a company in addition to having the farm compared to now where I am a full time farmer.  Also, I only had the Rose for demo spinning, and I still had a lot of raw fleeces on offer where now they sell in the spring during my annual fleece auction. 

In 2020 the festival went virtual due to Covid 19, so I just set up my booth in the garage and sat in front of my phone in a day long zoom session.  We didn’t have high speed internet at the time, so I was relying on my cellular service in order to serve the customers that stopped into my “shop” the 4 days of the event. I had a lot more Majacraft supplies, and the sheep heid kits which I don’t make any more, and I had a small amount of roving, I hadn’t started offering combed top yet.

In 2021 they controlled ticket sales to 20,000 and spaced the vendors out, and were monitoring the direction of lanes inside the buildings to prevent face to face contact.  I remember how happy I was to be back talking to all my fibery friends, and because of controlled ticket sales I was able to spend time with people that were interested in learning more about the craft of handspinning.  My niece Gigi came along to help that year.  And this year I had the full lineup of demo equipment and combed top was now the mill prep.  And this was the year I realized I had outgrown our minivan and would need to consider renting a larger vehicle!

2022 was busy, we had a lot of people browsing and enjoying the wheels, and I was still able to spend one on one time with people which is really important to me.  This year, 2023, we were slammed, to the point where I was taking care of three customers at once for practically the entire day on Saturday.  

Products Featured in our Booth

We raise shetland sheep with the singular purpose of producing wool that is ideal for handspinning.  I am also an authorized Majacraft dealer, and I hold stock of al the wheels, fiber preparation tools and accessories.

Our fiber festival booth always has Majacraft demo wheels for people to try, all the fiber preparation tools to play with and then wool from our sheep in various forms.  I try to offer wool products that satisfy the diverse range of fiber crafting possibilities.

So I offer hand processed bats that I hand washed, flicked and then drum carded into batts.

Hand processed handspun yarn

Then I try to provide mill preparations of our wool, so I offer mill spun yarns

And combed top in all 5 natural colors

I usually have some samples of knit accessories on hand to provide inspiration

These are the staples, then I’ll sprinkle in other farm related things just based on what materials I have available


Our drive to Rhinebeck is a 5 hour road trip.

The van is packed the night before so that on friday morning all we need to do is take care of the sheep and then hit the road

We made arrangements to have our son take care of the sheep for the festival weekend

Only a few more miles to the fairground once we pass this famous landmark - the festival billboard



We arrive at the fairgrounds a few hours before the festival start time of 9 am.  Once the booth is ready, we like to walk around and check out other booths

Rich and I have split the booth duties during fiber festivals.    Rich is the one in charge of checking out customers

I am responsible for consulting with customers to find solutions to their making needs- ,

helping them understand the wool from our sheep in all its forms

Or assisting them as they try out a majacraft spinning tool for the very first time


The Fleece Show and Sale

We arrived early enough on Sunday, before the festival began to be able to  look at the remaining fleeces from the Fleece show and sale - It is important for us as breeders to examine the wool being produced by other farms to see what we can learn. 

Shetland fleeces in the US don’t have a uniform type.  Some are very long and straight, others are short with crimp.  And then many fall in between. They are all considered acceptable by the breed association.   I think this variation makes it difficult for a handspinner to source shetland fleeces - especially if they are looking for a specific type.  You can see this variation here where these are all shetland fleeces but all look very different.

We like to breed for very fine, crimpy fleeces that are dense and nice and soft, this one was the closest to what I like to work with.

The Sheep barn

We make it a point to spend time in the sheep barn where you get to see a very nice variety of fiber producing animals and speak to the farmers who raise them.


We preordered festival souvenirs this year and picked them up when we arrived.  If you want souvenirs from the festival it is best to preorder.  I put this link in the description which you can follow to sign up for notifications when the souvenirs become available next year.  I loved the artwork this year and because we preordered, I was fortunate to be able to secure the very popular tote bag. 

Every year the festival holds an art  contest.  Artists submit their designs for the next year’s festival artwork.  Attendees to the festival can vote for their preferred design.  The artist with the most votes has the honor of having their design used on all the merchandizing, web graphics and signage for the next year’s festival.

This years artwork was created by Jeanne Goodman -

and she is a professional artist with an impressive resume and works all over the country.  I read that she primarily works in colored pencils and color pencil art sticks. 

Never saw a sheep this color, but I’ve seen sheep that made me think about these colors - perhaps a Gotland or a Wensleydale

I keep on running back thru my head the conversations and things I was told by people who came into our booth and I have to say I am so grateful for everyones' support and kind feedback about our farm, our YouTube channel and the products we are trying to supply to this lovely community of fiber crafters.  Thank you so much to all who stopped by, and those of my “locals” who saw how crammed we were and just gave me a friendly wave or quick hug as they were swept by in the traffic flow.