The long-awaited Fiber Fest arrived Saturday and Sunday in Prairie City with 30 vendors and visitors aplenty.
Led by event director Ginger Shive of Prairie City, a group of several volunteers spent a year and a half planning the event that featured woolen wares and demonstrations on techniques in cleaning wool, spinning, as well as creating useful and beautiful items.
Spinners were at work while selling rugs, blankets, hats, socks, scarves, sweaters, stuffed animals and more.
Others were demonstrating their craft, including Judy Taylor of Little House Rugs in Auburn, Washington, who showed how she hooks rugs.
“They’ll last 100 years,” she said, noting the rugs are sturdy and are easy to repair — “easier than oriental rugs.”
Her wool comes from Jacob sheep and Angora goats, and she dyes the wool and creates her own designs.
Teresa Southworth of Seneca demonstrated how she skirts wool, which is a cleaning process to remove vegetable matter from the fibers using a mesh skirting table. It is then bagged for sale, and the buyers wash the wool.
She said she was pleased with the Fiber Fest.
“I usually have to drive five or six hours to a fiber festival,” she said. “It’s a great venue.”
Shive said she and the Fiber Fest board plan to keep the local festival to 50 vendors.
She said other events in larger cities may have as many as 200 vendors, and it’s easy to get lost in that type of crowd with not many visitors stopping at your booth.
The main volunteers, working with Shive, were Debbie Emmel overseeing livestock; Taci Philbrook over vendors, food and fiber; and Anna Smith over accommodations and logistics.
Shive said she’s been involved in fiber arts since the 1960s.
Right now, the Fiber Fest operates as a nonprofit under GREAT. She said she plans to create a Fiber Fest foundation, and the proceeds from this year’s event and future events will all go toward Grant County 4-H and FFA programs.
“It’s to benefit the kids of Grant County,” she said.
She’s especially interested in seeing more sheep at the county fair, and has proposed using some of the proceeds to buy sheep for 4-H and FFA youths.
Shive said not many sheep are shown at the fair, and noted that there are not many sheep shearers in the area.
One idea that has been considered by the fiber fest group is buying shears, which are expensive, for the programs and having an expert visit and teach shearing to the chapters, she said.
She said youths can sell sheep at the fair or start a flock, and their knowledge of shearing could lead to a possible occupation.
Their sheep could also be sold at the Fiber Fest.
“I hope the community gets behind this and we see more sheep at the fair,” Shive said.