We went to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival, in Rhinebeck. Who, untutored in the culture of woolly people, could have known how popular such an event is, how totally fascinating the world of sheep and wool is, or that it is indeed its own culture? Like the Binars of TNG fame, these people had their own language and the uninitiated could only watch and absorb. We were endlessly amazed, a bit overwhelmed by the crowds, smitten by the rainbows of colors and textures. At first only my eyes caressed, but then, as I got swept up in the moments, my hands began to wander, shy, gentle touches at first, but by day's end, they were plunging into piles of fleece and roving, greedily stroking skeins of alpaca (I blush to think of how I reacted to my first brush with quiviot).
I spent hours touching and caressing all kinds of wool, and Linda did her fair share of sidelong glances, taking photos, allowing herself a lingering touch or two. We ooohed and aaahed over wool creations, like felted murals and a brilliantly-colored felted gnome world
complete with mushrooms, petting sheep and alpacas (it's really a good thing an alpaca wouldn't fit in the back seat of the car because we'd have had alot of explaining to do to the girls--one alpaca vs the gang-of-five.....not sure how that would have gone, but for sure Linda was in love!).
We watched spinsters--as in, those whose occupation is to spin--
and marveled over Oriental rug punchers, and felters and knitters. The colors of the festival more than rivalled the colors of the Hudson Valley Fall foliage.
Sometime, somewhere that day, I too drank the koolaid (did you know koolaid is sometimes used to dye wool? Not nearly as interesting as say, onion skins, but it has to be a big hit with kids), and developed such a profound crush on wool and its mysteries. I always thought I was allergic to wool. In fact, an allergy to wool itself is reportedly very rare. Skin may be sensitive to rougher, prickly wool, but an allergy is unusual. An allergy to the lanolin of the wool is more common, but that day allergies were no barrier to what was happening.
We left, dragging our feet, between us determined to learn to spin, dye wool, make felt. I'll admit that on the way home we discussed attempting to raise an alpaca or two, the advantages of having sheep to 'mow' the seemingly--on a hot summer day anyway--vast expanse of grassy hill we have. Things changed for me after that. A week or so later I was flying to Missouri on business, and as I looked out the plane window at thick layers of white cloud, instead of the usual 'field of snow' metaphor coming to mind, I saw miles of wool roving, and wanted to sink my hands into it. Even now, I see clouds spilling down the mountains and my hands can almost feel the texture of that wool. The initial crush has bloomed into a love affair, and I fear there's no going back.