When Gyneth Augsburger, the tourism Director for Jay County told me about the Jay County Fiber Arts Festival (March 8-10, 2019) I thought this would be interesting, but I had no idea! The Fiber Arts festival has been an annual event for the past 16 years. This event had it all, art, classes, exhibits and even beautiful angora rabbits.
I was invited to cover this event and I must say thank you Jay County for hosting me! This is a come back to event! While in the County I was blessed to experience an array of fun things to do in the area. Read on to learn about my amazing Jay County Adventure!
I brought my mom, Lori Disque, a long time seamstress with me to the Fiber Arts Festival. I was sure she would love the fiber aspect of the show and I was right. We arrived Friday afternoon at the Jay County Community Center and the parking lot was full.
Children’s Demonstration Area
Our first experience in the Fiber Arts Festival was in the children’s demonstration area where I quickly fell in love with Blueberry, a beautiful Angora rabbit from Kanichen Farm. They are a small hobby farm in Kalamazoo, Michigan and they raise Silver Fox and French Angora rabbits.
From David of Kanichen Farms I learned, “Angora is eight times warmer than wool. It is almost too pure and warm to use alone.”
He demonstrated that this angora was perfect for using in the flap of earmuffs for example.
While Blueberry was the rabbit of the day on Friday, when we returned on Saturday, I found Barbara Ruden of Those Yarn Rabbits.in place. Barbara is from Fort Wayne and like David, she was working with her French Angora Rabbits.
She was creating hand spun yarn straight from the rabbit. “I can pluck on them and they can just sit on my lap,” Barbara explained to the crowd as she plucked and spun the rabbit’s fur right into yarn.
“The pluck is called a cloud. You can pluck wool every 3-4 months. They usually start pulling the fur off,” she said indicating how you knew it was time to start removing some of the fur.
“I started with rabbits because I am a knitter and wanted to know where my fiber came from,” Barbara said. “I have seven rabbits right now. “
She said at the height they had 20.
One of the nicest things offered in the children’s area was storyteller Sheron McClung. She was Mother Goose and offered a program for children that came to the event. “I have been at it for 8-9 years,” Sharen said. “I do it at the library and the Zion Lutheran Church. Last year was the first year I did it here at the Fiber Arts Festival.”
Woodworking and more!
Dick Reed was also set up in the children’s area sharing how he creates hand hewn bowls. Using a section of a tree, that was not the middle because Dick said this was too soft, he demonstrated how to create a bowl. He also shared that the best way to take care of the bowl is to use mineral oil to keep wood in good condition.
“I’ve been doing this 23 years,” Dick shared. He started out with slab wood benches, then switched to lighter toys, then more profitable bowls. The Hoosier public’s favorite he said is the bowl he creates in the shape of Indiana!
Jerry Hartzell was another woodcarver from Portland that was showing his skills in at the Fiber Arts Festival with both a carved scene and characters in the demonstration area.
Quilting was also on display. Charlotte Whitenack has quilted over 100 quilts. She shared some of her work along with quilter Sue Rapper. They are part of theStitch and Chatter Quilt Club!
Classes & Lectures
On Friday Evening, Kate Larson the featured artist for the Fiber Arts Festival offered a lecture on the history of Dorset Buttons and how these buttons led to an industry in England. She also shared her own love of Border Leicester sheep. Kate raises this brand of sheep on her family farm. She also teaches hand spinning and knitting in central Indiana and around the country.
There were an array of classes going on during the festival. We viewed a class where they were dying raw fiber. One of the students told us, “We mixed water, vinegar and soap and heated it, then added dyes. The dyes then run together and create beautiful different colors in one pot.”
Since my experience has been just a bit of crocheting, this was quite fascinating to this novice!
While not a lecture, at the Fiber Arts Festival, they also offered demonstrations of sheep shearing as well.
The festival was a busy place. With mike in hand, Gyneth paraded different vendors premiering their products. She said it was the fiber fashion show!
Curious about what prompted Gyneth’s interest in this subject enough for her to start this amazing festival. “I started raising sheep as a kid,” she added.
Sights at the Festival
Gyneth gave us a quick whirlwind tour of some of the vendors at this amazing event. When stopping, at Susan Markle’s Trading Post for Fiber Arts she shared some of her lovely portable spindles with us. Nelly in her group showed me how to use the wooden spindles to wind yarn.
Copper Centaur Studios was also at the festival and Lucy Centaur and her husband had an array of products. They had about everything someone already in the business, or getting into the business could need. The company carries hooks, and notions, metallic and silk threads, paints and brushes, sock yarn, fiber and more!
Tracy Burns of House on the Hill Rug Hooking Studio out of Connersville, Indiana was set up with her rug hooking machine. This was one of the neatest things about this festival. Not only did you see the wonderful items the artisans made, but you also got a chance to see many creating them.
Tracy is an award winning artist she received a Hoosier Women Artist award in 2017. We laughed after admiring a beautiful rather Frank Lloyd Wright design style rug that Tracey said, “I was going to use as a rug to walk on.”
Then her friend told her, to enter it in a contest and lo and behold it was a winner. While Tracy is still not sure she loves it, we and the judges certainly did.
When we got to the Warped Sisters rugs, we stopped dead still, I stopped listening and took out a consumer moment. I had to have one. We just got wood floors in our living room and bedroom and one of these beauties was coming home with me.
Some Retail Therapy
After mulling over Bonnie Nast and her sister Connie’s handiwork, I chose a lovely rug with the needed colors. Then I went on to learn the important facts like the rugs are washable and guaranteed for five years! Bonnie has been weaving for 20 years and Connie 15. These two ladies have a wealth of experience, but mostly, they make amazingly lovely rugs!
Barb Stolz of Kabin Quilts was set up with her lovely barn quilts. Next to her was Marie who created something I had not seen before, aluminum barn quilts.
Tony “Silver Eagle” Wells a Scrimshaw artist, who also made Native American inspired art, had lovely items that called to us. He and his wife Sharon had an array of weaving, woodworking and spinning. Mom purchased a beautiful Cedar box that Tony made. This now sits on her coffee table in her family room!
A history lesson
I really enjoyed the history that we learned at this Fiber Arts Festival.
Talking to Kathy Harrod we learned about the circular sock machine that dated back to 1908. “People wouldn’t buy it because they could make them,” Kathy said about the nifty machine. “But then in World War I, the soldiers had trench foot. The army gave machines to families and once they made 30 pairs of socks, they could keep the machine.”
Kathy’s turn of the century machine was made in Fairfield, Pennsylvania.
Next to Kathy was the creative Sue Powe who made 3D Fiber Art Dolls. “I’ve been doing this for 4 1/2 years. I am self taught,” Sue added.
While she sells many of her whimsical creations, she keeps a few favorites like her Anna Louise Senior Citizen Fairy Godmother (which she says looks like her mom) for herself! These reminded me a bit of the cool puppets I saw in Mason City Iowa that were in the Sound of Music. The best word for the 3D Fiber Art Dolls is fun!
Like our experience at the booth of the Warped Sisters, mom and I stopped dead in our tracks when we saw Elizabeth Wamsley’s beautiful pottery. We will keep our secrets and just say we came home with some!
Kay and Charlie Story of Kaleidoscope Treasures offered some really neat looms for sale. “The Inkle looms make guitar straps, shoe laces and head bands belts etc.” Kay explained. “The Din Loom makes squares.”
They had examples of some of the cool things they created on these little machines that allowed you to work without a huge loom taking up the whole house!
Being wood fans, mom and I both loved the work created by Dennis Whitted of Hand Crafted Bowls. He made amazing hand crafted wooden bowls and was taking orders in various sizes and different types of woods.
Fiber art is for every age. At the festival we met 18-year old Randy Harris of Paracord Etcwho was creating jewelry out of parachute cord. “I make bracelets, key chains, gun slings and a wrist bow sling,” this young entrepreneur shared.
“I also make cancer awareness products and I donate $2.00 from each one,”Randy said. He added that he also makes EMS and police patriotic bracelets and donates a portion of that sale as well.
At this event I learned that a sheep isn’t just a sheep, like people, they come in all shapes and sizes. One of the coolest sheep I’ve ever seen was the picture of the Teeswater sheep. Gwenthy Glynn Longwools raise both Wensleydale and Teeswater Sheep.
They offer wool from their farm where they have been raising Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep since 2005. The flock originates from England and the owner and Shepherdess Sheryl Meacham said, “This group of sheep describes the rarest fiber that is the most lustrous and rarest fiber in the world. We have our wool hand dyed for us.”
Sheryl taught a knitting class using the Teeswater locks during the show.
These are just a few of the wonderful things to see and do at the Fiber Arts Festival. Put the event on your calendar for next year. It will take place March 13-14, 2020! Don’t miss it.
Dining and Entertainment!
Part of the fun of being in a new area is trying out new food!
Owner Cheryl Geesaman said, “Dick’s was opened on September 3rd, 1961 by Dick and Jeannie Reinhart. It was the first pizza place in town. We (Cheryl and her husband Roger and her dad) bought it March 1st, 1981.”
Cheryl explained that they had just updated the inside of the pizza Palace. The decor is retro and great fun. Cheryl has five children and this is a family owned business with two of her children, son Josh and daughter Katie (who is the manager) working there as well.
“This is the best pizza I’ve had in a longtime,” Mom said. Besides the pizza we also experienced some delicious bread sticks too. Its easy to see why they have been in business for more than half a century!
When in Jay County this last summer, I got the chance to eat at the diner attached to the Key Palace Theater. This Redkey treasure was wonderful. While now only open during events, we dined there on Saturday night. The food was great. Mom and I split a burger and shared some onion rings. Gyneth got chicken strips and her husband Les chose a pork tenderloin.
After dinner, we headed to the theater which I was so excited about. This theater was started by Charlie Noble. The theater first opened in the 1950s, by Noble who Gyneth said at one time looked like James Dean. A Muncie native, Noble brought in numerous blues artists over the years, making the Key Palace Theater a major destination.
The theater is owned by the Runyon family, John and his wife Caressa. John Runyon said, “Charlie Noble owned the place. We opened in 2015 after he passed away.”
The Runyon added that they have expanded a bit of different music, but mostly have still blues. “We average 15-20 shows a year. We are open from October to May and in summer we have private parties.”
The night we were there, Harper & Midwest Kind were there and they offered up some interesting music in this great historic home of the blues!
Lodging at the Ferris House
While in Jay County we stayed at Pat and Brad Daniels beautiful Ferris House. Mom fell for both sweet Pat and her dog Bailey as soon as they met. Brad was off traveling so she didn’t get a chance to meet him during our visit.
The Ferris House is a beautiful Queen Anne where Pat raised her three children. Today she wants to open it as a B&B. Although not officially opened yet, she thinks it will be by late spring, early summer.
Pat served us up an amazing breakfast each morning we were there, but most of all, it was just delightful to be around in this amazing house that has so much Jay County history. The house was built in the late 1890’s, the first owner was a financier (named Ferris) who was only able to live in the home for a few years before passing. He owned one of the cool Haynes automobiles built by Portland native Elwood Haynes.
Haynes was a metallurgist, inventor, and automotive pioneer who was born in Portland. In fact, we used the mural with his picture on it as a landmark to find our way to Ferris House!
The room mom and I shared was lovely, and the whole house is just beautiful, filled with antiques which makes sense because Brad and Pat also own the Jay County Antique Mall!
We did stop there and added a few items to our stash before heading back to Illinois!
Church the Ashbury Methodist!
Wanting a church stop on our way out Sunday morning, we found the Ashbury Methodist Church. The church was built in the late 1890’s and was quite lovely.http://www.asburyministries.org/
The sermon was uplifting and the congregation was very welcoming. Attending this service was a great way to end our visit to beautiful Jay County.
If you get the chance, mark the Art and Fiber Festival on your calendar for next year. While there we also stopped at the Jay County Historical Museum and Museum of the Soldier which I will profile in another blog post. Be sure to add these fun museums to your stop as well!
For more information about what to see and do in Jay County, Check out the Jay County Tourism Bureau!