Grace’s First Fibres West Experience

Grace's Fibres West haul

Grace’s Fibres West haul

A guest post from Grace about her experience going to Fibres West for the first time. Want to check out Fibres West for yourself? It’s this Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22 at the Cloverdale Exhibition Park Grounds. Come say hi!

I attended my very first fibre festival in March 2011.

I have been knitting since the winter of 2005. I only know this because I can still remember what the cover of Knitty.com looked like the very first time I visited the site, which was probably only a week after I cast on for the first time. For six years, I dabbled only in knit and crochet, but I yearned to know where my yarn came from, and why it behaved the way it did. I wanted to start blending my own colours, controlling my own materials. So when a LYS in Vancouver offered drop spindle lessons in January 2011, I signed up immediately. And I was hooked.

I made some yarn. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t pretty. I was not confident that it looked any good, or that it would “work”. Once the two-evening class had finished, I was the only human being I knew that was interesting in spinning yarn. I had no one to talk to about my new hobby, and the internet wasn’t the ‘tactile’ environment I needed. I wanted a second opinion on my work, and I wanted to know how to do this faster. It had taken me four weeks to spin four ounces of yarn on my spindle, consuming every evening and weekend. After a few months, I was ready to move on.

From friends at my local knitting meetup, I learned about the only fibre festival on the lower mainland (at the time) – Fibres West. Located out in Abbotsford, it was going to be tricky for this public transit rider to get to. Since I worked Fridays, carpooling on Saturday was my only option. Luckily enough friends from my knitting group wanted to go as well, and we headed out as a big crew out to the agriplex.

WOW.

I have never smelled so many yarn fumes.

Everywhere I looked, there was yarn. And colour. And fibre. And wheels!

Of course I had to stop and appreciate all the beautiful hand-dyed yarns and interesting patterns for sale, but what really intrigued me was the vast array of fibre I could buy in one place. I bought some beautiful braided multi-coloured roving and a few plastic bags of space dyed BFL. I purchased my first batt from a local artisan and took home some crimpy unprocessed Shetland locks.

But this was my first opportunity to see so many spinning wheels in action! As I walked around the venue I saw crafters spinning away, chatting, making it look easy… and I knew that I really, really wanted a wheel of my own. After a few hours of silently scoping out their equipment and handspun creations, I eventually found the nerve to ask a few of these wonderful people if I could ‘test drive’ their wheels. My heart still turns to mush when I think of all the people in the fibre arts community were willing to share their craft!

I didn’t have a clue how to draft onto a bobbin, but I got to treadle wheels of every height, weight, and style. I found this information invaluable – I had browsed many different wheel options on the internet before, but I had never seen them in real life. To get feel and assess these wheels in person helped me make up my mind about what wheel I wanted to buy. Buying a spinning wheel is a big investment, at least when you are first starting out! Thankfully most wheels keep their resale valuable over time, so if you want to upgrade later, you should not lose too much money in the process.

By the end of the day, I had a bag full of fibre and the names of two spinning wheels in my heart. I couldn’t decide right there which one I wanted, or I probably would have purchased one immediately. I am not normally an impulsive buyer, so it made sense for me to go home and sleep on my decision…

Two weeks later, I ordered my Ladybug.

Every year since, I have a made an effort to go back to Fibres West. I see many of the same vendors and artisans that helped me with my first decision a few year ago. It’s a great time to meet up with old acquaintances and get a chance to sit and knit with friends while oogling each other’s prizes. I look forward to carpooling with my fellow guild members, filling my basket with enough fibre treasures to last me a year, and spending an entire day dedicated to my craft.

If you haven’t had a chance to go to Fibres West or your own local fibre festival, please consider it! There is nothing like a massive crafting event to inspire and motivate you to get cracking!

Cheers!
— Grace

Fibres West is this weekend, March 21 and 22, at the Cloverdale Exhibition Park Grounds. We’ll be hosting a booth between Penelope Fibres and the Ravelry meet-up booth. Come see us there!