When first I went to a fiber festival, I intentionally dressed in nondescript clothes. I considered the matter carefully. I thought, maybe I should wear one of my handknits; will other people be wearing theirs? Then I thought, naaaaw, I don't want to look like I'm trying to show off, for goodness' sake.
I wore jeans, sweatshirts, commercial sweaters, happy to blend into the background. As I walked around the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (MS&W) for the first time, awestruck by the whole experience, I saw quite a few interesting sweaters on the festival-goers. I was happy to observe, but not to participate.
When I later went to another festival, though, I started feeling a little more a part of things. Maybe I at least didn't need to stick to neutrals.
I started reading in blogs of knitters rushing to finish a special sweater or shawl in time for Maryland Sheep and Wool or the Rhinebeck festival in New York State. (Just Google on "Rhinebeck sweater;" you'll see.) These people weren't bashful about their work. They celebrated it.
When I ventured to Stitches East, that sealed it for me. The place was a walking knitters' fashion show. There were fancy sweaters everywhere I looked, in the booths, on the crowd. Some beautiful, some stylish, some neither. Many were surpassingly bright. Here were technical tours de force, whose looks hardly mattered compared to the sheer impressiveness of the work and patience and skill it had taken to make them. Here were sweaters made in every type of yarn and every color. In the company of those who could appreciate it, knitters were showing their plumage, rippling and draping and fanning their feathers. Bobbing their heads and pirouetting around the shop displays and kicking up a little dust.
When it came time for the very nice but small and approachable Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, I was finally ready to join in the fun. The festival luckily came with cool, sweater-friendly autumn weather. I donned a favorite oldie-but-goodie from the time before my years-long, self-imposed knitting hiatus. (Have to get all those chores done first.... No, wait! Snap out of it!)
It's a colorful vest of Manos del Uruguay yarn, a riot of color, some of the patterning worked with stranding and some with intarsia, the overall effect vaguely like a colorful South American weaving.
This time, I was contentedly part of it all. During the day, I was stopped a number of times by people admiring and asking, "did you make that?" I can tell you it felt really good to be noticed and complimented by people who know knitting.
Manos yarn, by the way, is a treasure. It's a hand-spun singles, kettle-dyed, which creates those gorgeous striations in the solid colors. It's made by a cooperative in the countryside of Uruguay set up to help artisan women make a living. Malabrigo is made under a similar arrangement but I believe of much more recent vintage. They're both beautiful yarns with a lot of character.
In any event, I understand now that we wear these sweaters to share with each other, inspire and encourage each other. Who knows? Next year I may be one of the ones rushing to get a beautiful sweater done just in time for Maryland Sheep and Wool.