Penns Valley Fiber Festival will showcase local fiber farmers, crafters

It’s nothing new these days to hear the benefits of knowing where your food comes from, but what about knowing where your fiber originates? An upcoming event allows you to learn more about the fiber industry and local fiber farmers, with the opportunity to purchase fiber materials and crafts in support of reviving a dying industry.

The second annual Penns Valley Fiber Festival will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Old Gregg School in Spring Mills. The theme of the festival is “Farm to Needle,” playing off the similar “farm to table” mantra that benefits regional agriculture.

According to one member of the festival’s organizing committee, Sean Lacey, the festival originally started under a different name in 2014, with six vendors and a small venue in Milheim.

“There’s a really good demand for fiber crafters in the Centre Region, so we continued the show and got more vendors and outgrew our space. This is our second year at the Old Gregg School,” Lacey said. This year’s event features 16 vendor booths, as well as a booth for the Pennsylvania Women’s Agriculture Network.

The majority of products all vendors are offering are either handmade by the vendor or processed on the vendor’s farm. Beyond offering raw fiber, vendors sell products such as hand-dyed wool, knitting patterns, handmade knitted or fiber items and more. Anything that comes from a fiber animal that was raised on a farm is possible, according to another event organizer, Tess Arthur.

Education is a large part of this year’s festival, with a wide array of classes and workshops open for registration on the event website.

“This year, we’re really focusing on supporting our local farmers and educating more (people) on the fiber industry and how these things are made, where they come from, who they come from. ... All of the businesses are owned outrightly or co-owned by women, so there’s a focus on women in agriculture as well,” Arthur said.

Some of the classes and workshops educate attendees on the fiber industry, Arthur said, and how it operates “from sheep to shop.” Others teach various crafts attendees can enjoy using local fiber products, such as knitting, crocheting, needle felting, rug hooking and more. These traditional fiber arts, Lacey said, are important and the festival aims to ensure they’re not lost on new generations.

Through these classes, attendees will also learn the value of “home-grown, local, farm-raised fiber versus purchasing commercial fiber, which is mostly imported from overseas,” Lacey said.

While day-of registration for the classes and workshops is possible, attendees are encouraged to register online ahead of time. The event website also lists various supplies one might need to attend a workshop or class.

For Lacey, the festival is about supporting the local fiber farmers in the Centre Region and exposing people to fiber arts beyond knitting.

“The majority of wool products in the United States is exported to the global textile industry. The majority of the yarn people use is imported from overseas,” Lacey said. “The textile industry itself has been wiped out in the United States. ... Having an event like this to showcase the beauty of local fiber (helps the small, family farms and) gives them the opportunity to access (a new) customer base. It’s very fulfilling.”

Most of the vendors at the Penns Valley Fiber Festival are equipped to take credit card, but bringing a small amount of cash is still advised. Ample parking is available around Old Gregg School. Workshops will be clustered in and around the school, with some classes and workshops held in the YMCA and an adjacent church. For those taking a class or workshop, visit the festival ahead of time to be directed to the class or workshop’s location.

For more information, visit www.eventbrite.com/o/penns-valley-fiber-festival-27618107875.