by Katherine Matthews & Rob Lee
A relative newcomer to the fibre festival scene is the Woodstock Fleece Festival, which recently held their second annual event on Saturday October 23rd, 2010. The festival was first run in 2009, and continues to be organized by Linda Curry of Woodstock, with participation from several local fibre arts organizations: the Oxford Knitter’s Guild, the Oxford Spinners & Weavers and the Ox-wood Hooking Artisans.
Woodstock is a small town in Oxford County (south-west Ontario, Canada), an area well known for its agricultural heritage but also now attracting industries such as Toyota, which has recently constructed a manufacturing facility there.
This was our first time at the festival, but we’d heard some positive things about it from people who had attended in 2009, so we were looking forward to experiencing it ourselves this year.
The event is held at the Woodstock Fairgrounds, which turned out to be about an hour’s drive from our home in Guelph. The fairgrounds are located just a few minutes from Highway 401, making it easily accessible to visitors coming from the west (London, Windsor and Sarnia, Ontario or Detroit, MI) or the east (Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge, Brantford, Hamilton, Mississauga and Toronto, Ontario).
While the site has parking areas, augmented by street parking in the area, the excellent turn-out for the event resulted for some in having to park a few minutes’ walk away from the entrance to the auditorium itself.
The Woodstock Fleece Festival hosts a variety of workshops, in addition to the wide range of vendors who fill the auditorium. A measure of the growth in the event is seen by comparing the vendor lists from 2009 and 2010 – the first year saw just 33 vendors participating, while this year the list grew to 56, a 70% increase!
In addition to the vendors and workshops, there was an outdoor display of animals, including alpacas, llamas, sheep, goats and rabbits.
As for the vendors, there was certainly enough variety to satisfy just about any fibre related craving, and although there was much on offer to please knitters and weavers alike, what is slowly setting the Woodstock Fleece Festival apart from other local shows is its emphasis on supplies for spinners, from wheels to spindles to, of course, fibre.
Local hand-dyers offered colourful braids, sampler packs of fibre and custom carding blends to tempt spinners to try something new. For the traditionalists, there was Shetland fibre in equally traditional colours such as mooskit, moorit, sholmit and shaela. Those wishing to branch out and sample fibre from different sheep breeds could choose from Falkland, Finn, Leicester, Coopworth, Jacob, Swalesdale and California Red, to name just a handful of the many breeds available. And, of course, those wishing to add a little luxury to their spinning life could choose amongst qiviut, cashmere, silk, possum and vicuña.
And, for those of us who look for them, there was even one of these.
The Woodstock Fleece Festival is well on its way to establishing itself as an event that is not to be missed – many of the vendors have already committed to being a part of it next year, and we know that, as two of the festival’s many happy attendees, we are already looking forward to returning!
Photos © Katherine Matthews & Rob Lee