Hand-spun Shetland wool yarn (image by the author)
This year has been hard all over. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been affected by either COVID-19 itself, or the economic fallout of the pandemic. And I’ve been amazed at how creative we have gotten to keep our businesses afloat during this time. My specific example is fiber festivals. I’m holding onto hope that the festival I attend in September (and is the bulk of my income from fiber) will not be canceled, but in the meantime (and thanks to the tireless work by several fiber friends on Facebook), fiber fests have moved online. Some of the “big name” festivals created virtual spaces for their vendors, and two of the festivals I’m involved in have seemingly sprung from nowhere, inviting fiber producers and artists to come together as a community, and salvage what could have been a bleak year for sales.
The first virtual fiber fest is called Wool And Fiber Arts (WAFA for short), and has only been in existence for less than two months! It’s the most viral thing on Facebook that I’ve ever seen – we’re at over 4100 group members when I last checked today. Ellen Z. (the founder) wanted to do something for the fiber community, herself included, since so many festivals were being canceled. The idea for WAFA was born, and less than two weeks after she put the idea out there in Facebook-land, we had a live Facebook sale. Vendors were scheduled on the half-hour for their live video, and it was a beautiful trainwreck! Some of us were not at tech-savvy as others, some didn’t have a reliable internet connection, some had never done a live video; some had lighting/sound issues. But…we brought fiber producers, fiber artists, fiber tool makers, knitters, felters, weavers, spinners, and more together from all over the United States, along with Canada and Australia (there may have been more countries represented). We worked through the technology issues together, had a lovely tutorial from Sarina on how to even DO a live sale, learned from demos, and of course bought lots of fiber goodies! One of the neatest parts to me? Comments from people thanking the WAFA group for doing this, because they live too far from any festival to be able to attend, and they now had a whole pile of contacts for fiber, tools, and more!
Photo by Pexels/SurenePalvie
WAFA originally started as a sales group but has morphed into an entire community. As the group page states: “Experience the excitement of a fiber festival in the comfort of your own home. Education, guilds, breed organizations, working animals, demonstrations, all followed by a monthly LIVE sale.”
image used with permission of WAFA
The other virtual festival is through Shepherd’s Talk and is set up as an ongoing sale. There is a virtual magazine that you can click through with fiber-related articles and vendor “booths.” Click on the “booth” and be taken directly to that vendor’s sales site (webstore, Etsy, etc.) to make purchases. Virginia and friends did a fantastic job of putting this magazine together! They decided to make this an ongoing festival until the in-person ones can be held.
image used with permission of Shepherds Talk
As disappointing as the festival cancellations have been, for both vendors and attendees, it’s been so cool to be involved in these virtual community sales. And during a time of uncertainty, canceled events, and general anxiety of what the future holds, we “fiber folk” have banded together to help each other, as well as bringing fiber shows to a broader audience, since distance is no longer a deciding factor in attendance.
I welcome you to join the WAFA and Shepherds Talk groups, and happy fiber shopping!