It’s no surprise that one would find a fiber festival in the midst of all the art-related events happening in Athens.
The Athens Area Fiber Faire (AAFF) is in its sixth year of providing an annual event with a fiber focus but in its first year collaborating with The Dairy Barn Arts Center to hold the first ever Quilt Fest. The weekend will feature over 20 vendors with ready-to-purchase, fiber-related products, workshops, a raffle and a skein contest, where contestants take a length of thread or yarn and loosely coil or knot it.
The Dairy Barn has never held its own quilt or fiber fest but has hosted Quilt National, an exhibit showcasing the best in contemporary quilts across the U.S. for the past 40 years. With that in mind, Cassie Meek saw it as an obvious fit to partner with the AAFF to celebrate all things fiber.
“Right now we have vendors from Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and all over Ohio,” Meek, the events and outreach manager for The Dairy Barn, said. “We’re expecting the numbers (for attendance) to be up there since fiber fairs are few and far between.”
Meek is especially curious about the skein contest taking place but is looking forward to everything working out and coming together for a fiber-filled weekend.
“We have some really amazing vendors coming from the Cleveland area that I’ve never met before,” Meek said. “I’m also just excited to see our community come out for an event that we’ve collaborated with AAFF on.”
For Laura Keevan, traveling from Cleveland to Athens is the furthest she’s ever been to participate in a fiber festival. Keevan, owner of Laughing Cat Fibers, hand dyes and spins all her own yarns and fibers. The past 10 years, she has sold mostly finished knit items such as hats, mittens and scarves, but after delving deeper into the fiber field, she realized where her true passion for fiber art was.
“I really enjoy actually creating the tools, which is the yarn and fiber,” Keevan said. “So these fiber festivals are sort of where my evolution took me because people go to those to buy things relative to the craft.”
She’s excited to finally check out Athens and meet up with fellow vendors while at the Quilt Fest.
“It’ll be great meeting new people and getting my name out there,” Keevan said. “It’s physically doing shows and being out there that are an imperative part of being seen.”
Lois Wagner has participated in the AAFF the past five years but is looking forward to being part of Athens’ first Quilt Fest.
“This festival is going to be bigger than we ever had with the many vendors attending,” Wagner, the owner of Fiber FUN Studio, said. “There’s a nice array of classes. I think it’s going to be quite exciting.”
Wagner describes her business as a classic yarn shop, but she sells supplies for knitting, crocheting, weaving and spinning as well as some cross stitch and needlepoint kits. Wagner’s studio also teaches classes in knitting, crochet and weaving.
Along with setting up her own booth at Quilt Fest and selling some of her finished items, Wagner will also be demonstrating some knitting and crochet weaving on a rigid heddle loom and a floor loom for attendees. She will also teach a class during the festival.
“I’ll be teaching needle weaving on a natural loom, which involves working up a fork stick and then weaving different types of yarns,” Wagner said.
Another vendor rolling into Quilt Fest is Robin Richey and her business Yarnbyrds, the first and only yarn truck from Central Ohio. Richey’s 30 foot RV carries hand-dyed yarn, patterns, shaw pins, a fair amount of knitting notions and project bags.
“Most of my yarn is exclusive type yarns … so there’s nothing you can buy at Walmart or Jo-Ann’s,” Richey said. “They’re high end yarns, very lovely to pet.”
Attendees can shop in and outside of Richey’s truck at several grids and tables she plans on setting up under her truck’s awning. No matter where Richey drives her yarn truck, she’s always excited to meet people who share her love for fiber art.
“I have a lot of family in Athens, too, so I get to catch up with some family and cousins I don’t see a lot,” Richey said. “I just love being with the people because we talk yarn and we talk fabric.”