In addition to buying yarn, oggle at sheep bollocks, drink gin, and standing on piers...
We also did some cultural things, we traveled up to Salem, and resisted the urge to don a pointy hat, and instead went to the Peabody Essex Museum. Established by the East India Marine Society, it was depository for treasures captains bought back from voyages around the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape Horn. Today it's a museum that celebrates art, and the world in which it was made.
All the Flowers Are for Me is a modern installation, that was absolutely stunning. I don't think it's any coincidence that I spent a whole evening looking for lights that would cast just the right shadows for our new sunroom, when I got back home.
They also had a special exhibition of horror movie posters... though in my opinion the star of the show was this Martian costume from Invaders From Mars filmed in 1953.
The Museum also houses an entire house bought over from south-eastern China, it was home to a family of merchants for more than 200 years, when the last of the family moved out the whole house was bought over to the Peabody.
On our final day we couldn't resist going to New Britain, home of the New Britain Museum of American Art. We stared at some portraits of the earliest European settlers, and engaged in some very British tutting at a group of school kids who had reached "peak-museum"...
Finally we headed home... Where yarn and fibre awaited us!
One of the highlights of going to New England in October is meant to be the colours... the leaves on the trees are often magnificent. However Mother Nature threw a curve ball, and instead we got to enjoy a very late version of summer. It was warmer than it had been in Wales for most of August, and hardly rained for the first week. It was glorious!
We were staying in a lovely Air BnB that was in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in Air BnB's for the whole time we were away and had a really great experience in all of them. It was a lovely way to stay in different spots, and meant we got to meet some really interesting people.
Every day we drove past this patch of open ground, one day spotting a full-on photography shoot. Huge light reflecting screens, fans blowing the model's hair... and styling that was full-on boho, complete with floral crown....
I threatened to make Jill replicate the whole scene, but in the end made do with taking arty shots of the milkweed pods.
The next day we headed west, and it was the perfect spot to say goodbye to a really beautiful few days. After a bit of a sat-nav adventure (there were many sat-nav adventures...), and a trip through a farm yard that reminded Jill and I of driving on rural Welsh roads, we arrived at a cabin by a lake, where we sat and drank gin. The weather finally became autumnal, which really meant any chance of beautiful colours disappeared because it rained Welsh style, and turned really windy...
Then we reached the coast, just in time for a storm to roll in... and of course, when it rains you go to the seaside!
We went up to Gloucester and Rockport on Cape Ann, and spent a very soggy day exploring a whole variety of places (we found a distillery, a yarn shop, a quilting shop, a fishing museum, and went to Joanns). This part of the USA all seemed very familiar, we could see why the early settlers liked it there.
Even through the rain Rockport was a colourful delight, I'm trying to work out how to translate this shed in to fibre...
And the four legs part of the show was very good! There were loads of sheep, and they were very friendly.
It was unseasonably hot, so many of them were very appreciative of a human hand to scratch all the hot itchy bits.
Lots of the sheep were breeds I know and see regularly, though what was particularly noticeable was how huge many of these sheep were. Even allowing for the fact that pedigree sheep are often at the top end of the size for a given breed, I have never seen so many giants! The back of this Polled Dorest was nearly up to my waist.
And this Rambouillet was particularly impressive, though did highlight the only sad thing about all of these very well cared for sheep... the American standard for tail docking is extremely short.
Tail Docking is really important for the welfare of some breeds, without it there's a risk that the sheep gets poo all over it's bum, and then the flies move in, and the sheep is eaten by maggots. It's usually done with a rubber ring while the lamb is young, very quickly the blood supply is cut off, the tail goes numb, and drops off. Primitive breeds don't tend to be docked, it's more important that they have a tail to keep them warm in the winter, and they tend to spend the summer on the hills where the grass doesn't produce such a dramatic effect on the digestive system!
In the UK the standard for docking is that enough tail is left to cover the anus, and failure to do so would actually be penalised in the showing ring. In America the standard seems to be to remove the tail almost completely, leaving the fleshy parts exposed, which isn't great for the animal...
Apparently it makes the animal look like it has a squarer rump, but personally I'd rather see a proper tail.
Comparing some very familiar UK breeds with the US version was really interesting, some of the breeds on display had been bred using imported semen combined with a ewe from a similar breed, and with each successive generation the breed gets closer to the original breed. The Teeswater on display sort of looked like a Teeswater, but lacked the real ringlets we see on the UK version. It was lovely to meet some new breeds though. The Tunis were old pros at being at a show, and were very tame. Their fleece was wonderfully bouncey, like a very crimpy Shetland. I've also finally met a breed that's even rarer than the beautiful Boreray. The Santa Cruz Sheep were absolutely beautiful, just like the Boreray they'd been left to their own devices, shrunk in size, and grew the most stunningly beautiful fleece.
As wonderful as the sheep are the camelids completely stole the show...
We sat down for coffee on Sunday morning to watch the Leaping Llamas, which was fabulous. A whole procession of Llamas, Alpaca, and Angora Goats, all trying to jump over a horse jump. I suspect some of the animals were severely handicapped by their handlers!
Some of the animals demonstrated that they were far too clever to play any part in such nonsense...
Rhinebeck really was a fabulous experience. We were there the whole weekend, and needed every minute to see everything. It was the excuse to get me on the plane for a really good holiday... more photos of the rest of the trip to come! Unsurprisingly we found gin... more surprisingly was the Christmas bauble in the shape of a hamburger.
An onwards... the main thing that got us on to a plane, that made the 24 hour travel time well worth it.
Rhinebeck, or to more correctly New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, this is the grand-daddy of all the wool festivals, it's been going for over 30 years, and is a wonderful gathering of all things fibre related.
The feeling on arrival is rather similar to Wonderwool Wales, the show right on my own doorstep. Once you park and walk up the hill to the entrance gate, and then are faced with a glorious choice over which buildings on the showground to go and explore first....
We headed in to the big halls where all the big name vendors, who we've heard of across the pond, are found.
Lots people comment on how busy it gets, and there are some stands that are packed (we didn't even bother trying to look at Miss Babs until later on Sunday afternoon), but I didn't find it to be any more crowded that the big UK shows, I've certainly felt more jostled in the cattle market pens at Woolfest. One very noticeable difference is how packed the vendors fill their stands with stock and displays. Stalls in UK festivals tend to be left more open, maybe in part because of how many more people with mobility issues seem to come to UK shows, I barely saw any mobility scooters or electric wheelchairs.
Aside from getting very tempted at Into The Whirled and buying some stunning yarn I resisted making purchases in this part of the show. I'd set strict shopping criteria, and any purchases had to be for things that I couldn't get at home, particularly given US yarn and fibre is comparatively expensive compared to similar products in the UK. Hand Dyed Merino combed top was around 25% more than I would pay at a show over here.
In the afternoon we headed in to the parts where I got a lot more tempted! So many beautiful, unique single flock yarns....
The yarns were mostly thicker than we see in the UK, huge amounts of DK and Worsted was being sold, and many of them were beautifully bouncey, with an underspun, and then overplied structure that kept the hand really soft.
My biggest temptations were the beautiful rovings... Proper roving, soft and fluffy, and in so many colours and varieties. Fortunately for my bank balance the limitations of how much fluffy stuff you can fit in a suitcase held me back!
I have some gorgeous Cormo and Angora that I am spending a while looking at and contemplating... it's going to be something beautifully soft and fluffy and bouncy. Last time I spun Cormo I made the mistake of doing a 5-ply yarn and it just didn't do the fibre justice.
I'm already working my way through some Icelandic Lamb roving which is being spun as a low twist Lopi-style single, but a bit finer, because 100g cost me nearly £12, and because I couldn't fit more in my suitcase! No lovely photos of these, because they photograph badly, but hopefully I will do them justice and can show you some yarn photos soon.
Many of my purchases from all these farm vendors are having to stay secret, I did a lot of Christmas shopping in this part of the show...
Just as we were getting shopping fatigue we ended up in the onsite museum. Jill got very distracted by a circular sock machine, and then she found the printer! I left them talking type and all things inky, but I did end up with a printed poster for the Festival that will take pride of place in the dye studio.
Next up... the animals. There's a nun, and a cashmere goat, and a jumping competition. You won't want to miss it!
When you go on holiday with a historian it's rather inevitable that you go and "do some history stuff"....
And so we did, we stayed in an Air B&B just outside of Woodstock, so were in prime position for all the lovely stuff there is to see and do along the Hudson valley.
Whilst Jill was in a workshop hitting bits of metal with a hammer, I took myself off to visit Wilderstein Historic Site. This was probably the most quirky of all the places I went to, parts are stunning, others are in urgent need of restoration. Alas, I was stopped from taking any photos whilst inside, which is a pity because there was some stunning stained glass. Even more annoyingly it would seem that plenty of other people were allowed to take plenty of photos...
The last owner of Wilderstein was Daisy Suckley, who was a distant cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and gave him his famous black Scottie Fala. It was a guided tour, with a somewhat odd tour guide, who knew lots about the life of Daisy, but very little about the house itself, which was sad. I was probably one of this annoying visitors who asked awkward questions, and answered the questions other people were asking...
The next day, it was slightly further down the Hudson to visit FDR's country home.
The most notable thing about both of these "grand houses" was the lack of grandness! In the UK we're used to the historic houses that we visit, being huge, with enormous numbers of rooms. When the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed here I suspect they found it rather charming, none of the rooms are large, and there are surprisingly few of them.
We expected our visit to take a few hours, were there all day practically from opening time, until the place closed. The museum that's located in the Presidential library building is outstanding, packed full of information, but presented in a way that keeps you interested. I knew bits and pieces about this part of American history, but had only scratched the surface.
Can't help but feel we could do with someone with the strength of character of both FDR and his wife Eleanor. We hoped to make it up to her country house, but ran out of time, but she really was an amazing woman, so it's on the list for our next visit.
At the end of the day while Jill and I sat eating an orange, and having a drink before getting in the car we were kept amused by the number of people taking selfies of themselves with both Roosevelts, I suspect they might have found it rather delightful!
A day filled with history was topped off with a bit of history of another sort...
A burger in a proper American Diner.
It's been a while since I had time to sit and write a blog post. September went by in a blur, and the start of October was just as busy. All in a good cause though, because I had a very exciting trip planned for the last 2 weeks of October.
In March last year my friend Jill sent me a message saying "US flights are really cheap... we should go to Rhinebeck", after a day of umming, and ahhhing I had my arm twisted, and said yes. Often Bakewell Wool Gathering clashes with it's much bigger cousin across the pond, but this year we got back from Bakewell on Sunday evening, and flew out in the early hours of Tuesday morning. We had a few days to explore before the festival, and then nearly a whole week afterwards
After a very long day of travelling ( we arrived at our hotel nearly 24 hours after we left Wales), we picked up our high car and headed off to upstate New York. For once an inability to follow the instructions of the sat. nav. paid off, and we happened upon a lovely park on the far side of the Hudson looking across at Manhattan.
After a day of sitting still we had a lovely walk over the Hudson Walkway, though it was very sad that while you were on the bridge you got no sense of the historic structure, all that beautiful iron, and the old wooden railway bed has been hidden under concrete, with shiny metal railings. The lift taking you up and down was a lovely way to see the bridge from an unusual angle though. The first of many colour way inspirations...
As anyone who keeps an eye on Twitter or Instagram will know there's plenty more to share...
Keep an eye out for more posts in the coming days.