This past year, I attended my first trip to Rhinebeck, NY for the annual Duchess County Sheep & Wool festival. Affectionately called simply "Rhinebeck" by the thousands of attendees, I think that my favorite part about this show as it's laid back, simply sheepy nature. For those of you who don't actively work in the industry, shows like Stitches, VKLive, and TNNA are big 'working' shows for those of us who do. You arrive, you're 'on' all the time -- you might see friends or people that you admire, but usually they're exhausted too and can't really chill out and be themselves. We get to knit, sometimes in the evenings spend time with each other and chat (the TNNA Hilton lobby comes to mind), but usually even those more laid-back moments of shows are still work in the form of connecting, talking about upcoming projects, and exchanging business cards and phone numbers.
Rhinebeck has a totally different vibe. First, most people aren't staying in hotels, which really changes the game. If you go to Rhinebeck, chances are that you and a few knitterly friends or acquaintances will go in on a cottage rental together. This fosters a sense of community and sanctuary with your housemates. You stay up late in the evening drinking wine and talking about things that are exciting and interesting to you, but they're low-pressure nights. Early in the morning, you pick a breakfast spot together or, if you're lucky enough to have French or French-Canadians under your roof, you get to enjoy utterly delicious homemade crepes! During the day you might split up and explore the different offerings of the event, but sometimes you stick together and just leisurely wind through various barns, inhaling the scent of sheep and hay and wool. Sometimes, you veer off and tag along with another friend or their group of friends and stand in line for 30 minutes for the best donuts you've ever had in your life, too. (I suppose for those of you who man booths, the experience is a bit different!)
I went to Rhinebeck not really knowing what to expect, and came out feeling like I had spent a weekend at a knitter's version of the spa. Surrounded by good company, sheep, beautiful textiles and amazing food, it was a rejuvenating experience. What better way to remember that experience than to pick up a single skein of some of the most Rhinebeck reminiscent wool you can find? On the second or third night of my Rhinebeck journey, I got to spend an illuminating hour with Amy Christoffers, who is currently the design director at Berroco, among a million other amazing accomplishments. I had never had a chance to really talk to Amy before (she is seriously one of the most interesting people on the planet -- so insightful.) I couldn't help but notice the sheepy, squishable yarn she was using at that moment, either. She told me about where she found it (in which barn, around what booth area) and I set out to find it the very next day.
I'm not sure if the Will-Ewe Farm Yarn I found is exactly the same 100% Cormo wool that Amy recommended, but it certainly felt and looked the same to me! I picked up the last skein and happily took it home, knowing that when I made something with the generous 250 yards of wool, it would be special and remind me of Rhinebeck. I was right. I swatched it up on size US 7 and US 9 needles and settled on the 9 to give the stitches a bit of room. I would compare the hand of this yarn a bit to squishing one of those Jet Puff marshmallows -- it needs some space for fluffiness!
After very little thought, I cast on for a simple 2x2 ribbed hat. I don't wear a lot of hats, but this particular natural color of heathery gray seemed like a very versatile hat to reach for whenever we have a chilly day. I've already worn it twice and plan on wearing it to tomorrow's Super Bowl Sunday event, too (I'm taking 7-layer dip, like a true Midwesterner. Well, I suppose it would be more Midwestern of me to take something like Tater Tot Casserole, but one has to draw the line somewhere.)