I didn’t want to let go of that Rhinebeck feeling, so this month’s crafty read is Ysolda Teague’s The Rhinebeck Sweater. It is a book of sweater patterns that make lovely Rhinebeck sweaters, a celebration of the festival, and an incredible look into the lives of small yarn producers.
This was actually a re-read for me. I purchased the book at Rhinebeck in 2013, right when it was released. Ysolda was staying in my Rhinebeck house and everyone else was buying one and I was swept along into joining in. That was my first Rhinebeck, and when I read back through the book this month I realized that visit and my subsequent read of this book were the start of a paradigm shift for me as a crafter. As a handspinner I was already into breed-specific yarn, but I thought I had to make it myself. I had never considered where the wool I knit came from or where it was turned into yarn or the people who did all that work.
The Rhinebeck sweater alternates introducing a sweater pattern designed specifically for the festival with a story of a yarn producer. You learn about sheep shearing on a primitive island, buying a yarn mill because you were able to keep it running, and a chemist whose runs her dyeing process like a lab bench. I loved hearing how people ended up in this industry – some have grown up in it and others only converted when a fiber animal literally bites them on the behind. I think any fiber artist could learn about a new aspect of how their materials are created through this book. The sweater patterns are a treat, each a different approach to making the perfect garment for the experience you like to have at the festival.
These stories really resonated with the discussions I have been having lately in the fiber community. Slow Fashion October had the theme this past week about known origins, buying materials that you know the provenance, and here is a whole book of them. On Twitter, Jill Draper (the subject of one of the profiles in the book) asked if she should be louder about the fact that her yarns are milled just for her and are all domestic. We spoke about the fact that I think you cannot beat that drum loudly enough. I want to buy exactly that kind of yarn, but I need to hear it over and over to remember who offers it. At this year’s Rhinebeck I was once again staying in the same house as Ysolda and we talked about what it is like for her to be a yarn producer, now that she creates her own yarn, Blend No 1.
In the introduction, Ysolda talks about how it took her a long time to warm up to Rhinebeck, and that reflects my experience as well. It can be overwhelming, and the experience is so short, that it can be years before you feel like you have done it properly. It was a lovely reminder of my journey from harried initial festival-goer to seasoned pro with a usual agenda and favorite booths to return to. Over and over the yarn producers interviewed said they love to talk to consumers about their yarns and their process. That’s a step I am only beginning to take, and a goal of mine for next year. Next month I’ll be reading Maryann Moodie’s On the Loom, and in December Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno. I picked both of these up this year at Rhinebeck and cannot wait to read them!
Edited to add! This post was timely! Ysolda tells me the book is 20% off today, 10/31/16, on both Ravelry and her site with the code “sheepandwool”.