While many fiber addicts in New England make a yearly trek to Rhinebeck, NY each fall, there are plenty of fiber addicts who feel that the annual Fiber Festival of New England (FFNE) may have a few perks and advantages: it is smaller in scope, it’s indoors so there are no weather worries, and the booths are roomier so there aren’t any missed opportunities or frustration. I recently made my first trek to the festival, located on the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield, MA.
I had a lot of questions before my first trip — after a bit of research, I’ve compiled this list of tips for those of you who have never been — the idea is to go in with a game plan and mazimize your shopping!
- Practical matters: It’s held in the Mallory building on the Big E Fairgrounds — the floors are cement, so wear comfortable shoes. There were reusable shopping bags for sale, but I found my large Vera Bradley bag (all those pockets!) did well for me. There is an atm on site; most vendors take cash or credit card. I didn’t have any trouble with wifi in the building, which helped me check in with Instagram 🙂
- Online: The FFNE website is here, there’s a facebook page, and a Ravelry group with tons of first-hand info. Vendors will be listed on the site; try checking out a few to figure out what booths you might want to make sure to hit, but honestly, I just wandered up and down the aisles and saw what caught my eye. I did find a few old favorites, like Good Karma of Maine — and some new favorites, as well!
- Focus: The best tip I found on the Ravelry group? Look at the patterns in your queue beforehand, and make a wish list of what you are looking for. The number of yarns, fibers and supplies can be overwhelming. Are you looking for 600 yards of worsted, or would you be better off with aran for that baby sweater? (Did I veer off this wish list? Oh, of course… I am weak. LOL! But it helped me focus!)
- Food & Fuel: There’s fair food booths near the bathrooms/entrance to animals. Hamburgers, hotdogs, steak subs, baked potatoes, soup and pretzels — ie, lunch items. Lines can get very long; take along a snack and a bottle of water. There is also a restaurant on the fairgrounds that is nice for dinner.
- More than yarn: Besides yarn, there’s spinning supplies, rug hooking supplies and huge bags of fiber ready to be processed. I also visited a vendor, Dakini Yarns, that had working re-furbished spinning wheels from the 1830’s and vintage knitting supplies. And, not to forget — there are animals: alpacas, sheep and the fluffiest angora bunnies ever! Some animals are for sale; others are for show.
- WEBS (yarn.com) is 15 minutes north, and they had a special give-away if you handed them your ticket stub — a pair of circular needles! Yes, that’s right. I found a way to add more shopping to my day. But it was nice to see some of those yarns I’ve been wanting to try in person, or to make sure the shade of Spud & Chloe pink was right, you know?
Overall, I had a great first trip. I met lots of vendors and got to see a lot of unique yarns and supplies in person. I didn’t have much problem walking the aisles or getting into booths. The one or two booths I hit at the wrong time? I just came back a few minutes later. It was very manageable, but at the same time, gave lots of opportunities to find that special skein. And, since it’s only about 1.5 hours from Boston, I’ll be back for sure!