Learn about the fiber-making process from sheep to finish this weekend when the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival returns for a 14th year.
Set for Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10, at the Harford Fairgrounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford, the festival brings together not only yarn spinners, weavers and dyers but also many of the animals that provide the natural material for their products.
The festival runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and education makes up a large part. Demonstrations focusing on sheep shearing, natural fiber dying, border collies and more plus classes in such subjects as spinning, weaving and fleece processing fill out the schedule.
“You don’t have to really know anything to participate in the classes,” festival president Ellen Anderson said. “You can really almost go knowing nothing.”
Anderson raises angora rabbits, long-wool sheep, Romeldale sheep and angora goats in Lebanon County and joined the festival as a vendor its second year. She is one of the more than 50 vendors set to participate this time — selling what she called “everything from the raw fiber to the finished product” — but her favorite part of the festival is the chance to talk to and teach visitors.
“People are just getting so far removed from agriculture nowadays,” Anderson said. “It’s important to (teach) especially the younger children. … You tell them, ‘Well, this is how somebody did it 100 years ago, and the technology changed.’”
That includes giving them a chance to get up close to fiber-producing animals. In addition to alpacas, llamas, rabbits and goats, the festival features more than a dozen breeds of sheep showing the different types of wool that can end up in sweaters, hats and much more after weavers and knitters get their hands on it.
“We’re trying to get people involved to learn how to do things so they can make their own products,” said Catherine Hines of Alpacas of Sunshine Farm in New Milford, part of the group of alpaca farmers who founded the festival.
Those efforts seem to be working.
“We just finished up the Harford Fair, and it’s a big difference. We’ve been doing that for nine or eight years,” Hines said. “In the beginning, we had to tell them, ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ And now you can hear the kids telling ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ They’re learning.”
Interest in the fiber arts has grown in recent years, something Anderson attributes to a desire to unplug from technology and get “back to the basics.”
“You start from the raw fiber, the raw wool, the alpaca, (and) you spin something, you make it into yarn. … You can wear it,” she said. “(It) makes you feel like you’re being a little more down to earth.”
Festival admission costs $3 per day or $5 for a weekend pass for ages 12 and older; parking is free. The festival draws visitors and vendors not only from Pennsylvania but also Maryland, New York, Virginia and beyond.
“It’s big enough that there’s a huge selection of items but yet small enough that the visitors to the festival can really stop and talk to the vendors,” Anderson said.
The weekend also features contests, a fleece sale and raffle, and guests can grab a bite to eat from several food vendors or bring their own for a picnic.
“Last year, I believe, our numbers (were) probably over 500 through the gate each day, but that doesn’t include a lot of volunteers and vendors there shopping with each other,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping our numbers continue to grow. It’s just getting the word out about it. A lot of it is people finding us online (and) friends telling friends.”
If you go
What: 14th annual Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Harford Fair Grounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford
Details: Admission for ages 12 and older is $3 daily and $5 for the weekend. Parking is free. Visit endlessmountainsfiberfest.com