To start my annual Minnesota State Fair adventure, I walked quite a ways from my car, crossing the fairgrounds and walking through some animal barns. A morning dose of interesting sheep is invigorating. There were some shorn in a poodle cut: who knew?
Once at the Creative Activities Building, I began to weave with fabric strips I brought as weft. It was going fast, and I slowed my pace, talking to all who stopped to watch. The loom side of the Weavers Guild display was not as enticing as the other side, which was packed with seven spinners wearing festive balloon hats shaped into wolves. The hats celebrated a project that Weavers Guild member Chillon Leach began with the International Wolf Center. Fiber shed by the wolves will be spun and sent back to the Wolf Center for a fund-raising event this winter. WOLF FUR. So cool.
My friend Peggy Baldwin stopped by and was eager to tell me about her latest linen tip. She was weaving a towel using 16/1 linen in both the warp and weft. The threads of one color in the warp were catching on each other, annoyingly. So rather than mix up a sticky flax mixture and apply it to the warp, as she had successfully done in the past, she used Tresomme hair mousse! She put some foam in her hand, rubbed her hands together lightly, and then applied the mousse to both sides of the warp, as much as she could reach in front of and in back of the heddles. After all, she figured, the mousse is made for hair and should easily wash out in the end. It worked! Our conversation ended abruptly as I heard a child’s voice at my side, trying to be heard in the din of the building, “How do you WEAVE? How do you WEAVE?”
“Do you want to come up and try it?” I asked the boy, about five. He was eager, and a good pupil. He put in a few shots and then his family was ready to move on. A few minutes later he was back at my side, looking at the loom. “I’ll bet you can do that faster than me,” he said. Oh yes, I agreed, but I’ve been doing it for a LONG time.
Madeline Philpott came for the next shift at the loom. She had already demonstrated twice before, and managed to weave a whole sets of placemats! With her chosen weft, the warp stripes march boldly.
Then it was time to explore the Creative Activities exhibits. There was some beautiful weaving, but not nearly enough rag rugs. Here is my favorite piece from the building, a felted Gustav Klimt by Mayuma Takahashi.
There is an newer category at the Fair, the Heirloom Recipe Contest, in which the entrant submits a recipe and an essay about how the food has been important, generally over generations. The display case included handwritten recipes, family Christmas cards, essays, photos of the food, and beloved dinnerware or bowls. I had to use my dress to wipe away my tears as I read the stories.
After the Creative Activities Activities Building I moved on to the Fine Arts Exhibition, stopping at the PBS booth en route to have my photo taken in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood–good to send to the granddaughters. In the Fine Arts Building I saw my friend Sara Okern’s piece, “The Wise and Foolish Virgins.” She told me she wove the very abstracted rows of five after listening to my lecture on Norwegian tapestry last January. I liked the way it was displayed, next to a pixelated figure, and then a swirly black and white abstract. And more, the wall behind them was criss-crossed by mid-afternoon shadows. It was all very beautiful.
The walk back to my car was the most taxing part of the rewarding day. With record-breaking Sunday crowds, it was impossible to walk down the streets without constant jostling and touching, a little too much intimate contact. As polite Minnesotans, we muttered, “Sorry. sorry. sorry,” almost nonstop for a quarter mile. I needed a nap when I got home!
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