An afternoon at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck


Performed at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival is a weekend-long affair all about fibrous animals and the products derived from them. When it started in 1980, it was a much smaller, more intimate sale of bred ewes run by local herders hoping to market their wool. (covers from Bartlett Yarns, which has operated in Maine for a century, has also been sold locally since its inception.) It now features about 240 vendor booths, plus weaving, warping, and spinning demonstrations, and lectures on farming and breeding. (I overheard a lecture as I passed: “This yarn is perfect for doll hair.”) The festival is also one of America’s largest annual gatherings of fiber arts enthusiasts: those who sew, knit, crochet, and embroider; who make tactile carpets and woven baskets and quilts; Whether for sale or for your own pleasure.

Photographed by Kenyon Anderson

As participants roamed their pastoral Disneyland—tents filled with high-quality, natural yarns wrapped like cotton candy; meet and greet an alpaca; a book signing with the author of Mystical Stitches– Many wore the official festival merch. (Namely, “Sheep and Wool” embossed hooded sweatshirts or black logo T-shirts.) Others wore cheeky headgear simulating a sheep whose body was abstracted: headbands with broad, floppy white ears, tufts of curly fleece, wedged between them like barn Iroquois. My favorite hat was modeled by an elderly man in blue jeans and sneakers and appeared to be custom made – a huge, drooping, tricolor wool wizard hat reminiscent of Gandalf the Grey. Elsewhere, I saw people hurrying through the tents in fluffy leg warmers, fluffy hats, oversized scarves with pumpkin-colored trims, and thick cable-knit cardigans.


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