Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What I Learned at the Fair

Ever since we've lived in this house, we've gone to the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, Washington most summers. When the kids were little, they'd go on the rides, we'd watch the pig races, look at animals, and of course eat lots of scones. As my interests evolved over the years, I've enjoyed looking at the displays of fresh produce, flavored vinegars, and flowers. I always love looking at the handmade quilts that are on display and the knitted items caught my eye the last couple of years.

In reading blogs, I noticed that some people actually entered their knitting into the fair! Of course, people have to enter or there wouldn't be anything there to look at, but I always thought you had to be some kind of expert to enter. I was reading Yarn Pirate last year and she entered some handspun yarn and items knitted from her handspun into our own Evergreen State Fair (she lives an hour or so north of me.) Last year I was interested in seeing her work, so I made it a point to find it and see how she did. She had ribbons on her items and that got me thinking that maybe it wasn't so far-fetched for me to actually enter something of mine.

So I looked at the entry categories and dug around in my closet and came up with two items that I thought looked impressive enough. One was my Kauni cardigan and the other was my Pillars of Fire socks. (Ravelry links) The socks were ones that I didn't think I'd messed up in any way, they're made in beautiful Wollmeise yarn, and I hadn't worn them much so they still looked new. The cardigan always gets a lot of attention, so I thought it would be a good entry.

I filled out the forms and turned them in. When the fair opened, we went out to see how I'd done. The knitted items were in one room and were mostly in glass cases. The handspun items were in another room, and were displayed on shelves, hangers, and dress forms. The handspun area was what I'd remembered from last year, not the encased-in-glass knitting display. Here's a photo of the area last year.

Anyway, we looked in the cases and found my stuff. The cardigan had a white ribbon on it and the socks had a blue! I hadn't won one of those great big rosettes that say "best of category" or "best of show", but I was happy. Ribbons from the fair! Woo-hoo!

Buddy was a little too close when I went to take a better photo of my socks. See his feet?

When I went back to pick up my items, I understood more about what goes on. Each item is judged and an evaluation form is filled out by the judge. I thought they just looked at the item, decided whether it looked cool, and awarded ribbons. Wrong. They really rate them on lots of categories; finishing being a very important one. I found that I had received 97/100 points on my socks, being graded down slightly on degree of difficulty, presentation, and because they noticed the end that I'd neglected to weave in. Oops.

It seems like the ribbons are awarded based on points; so there can be multiple blue or red ribbons in a category. The big winner is the person who gets the rosette, I guess. You can see that lots of the socks in this case have ribbons on them.

My sweater was a different story. I received 72/100 due to "technical errors". This meant that they really looked at the outside and the inside of this sweater, which was the first colorwork I'd done, and the first sweater in the round with steeks that I'd done. I'm not that good at finishing, and this judge totally knew that! So that's what I really learned - how the judging works. It's not enough to enter something that looks nice; it has to be technically perfect as well. (An aside - the judge spelled steek as steak, so too bad I can't get points for spelling.) This was so helpful for next year, since now I know the judging criteria and I can choose a project to enter that is more carefully finished. Probably not another sweater, but you never know!

I'd really like to work on my spinning until it's good enough to enter something into the handspun category. In a forum post on Ravelry, the Yarn Pirate declared that she wouldn't enter the plain knitting category because it was too hard. So I guess my stumbling in and entering and winning a blue ribbon was beginner's luck. It's sure whetted my appetite for next year. I want one of those big fancy ribbons!

Since we can't finish the post about the fair without showing some of the other essential items, here they are. Goats, scones, and Elvis. I hope you had a chance to go to the fair this year and that I've encouraged you to enter something. It's fun!

1 comment:

A :-) said...

Laurie - again, congratulations on your wins!! That's really so exciting - I remember the first African Violet show I entered, and I know how thrilling it is to get that blue ribbon! You should definitely enter some of your handspun next year. Cook County Illinois doesn't have a county fair - at least not that I know of . . . I can just see a county fair in the middle of Chicago :-D I might enter some of my handspun next year in Michigan - we'll see . . . Congrats again!