This Former Livestock Auction Is Now the Most Fashionable Place to Buy Yarn

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York is on October 21–22.

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival
Find yarns made of fibers like cashmere, wool, and mohair at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. | Photo courtesy of Dutchess County Fairgrounds
Find yarns made of fibers like cashmere, wool, and mohair at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. | Photo courtesy of Dutchess County Fairgrounds

Every October, just like clockwork, 30,000 yarn enthusiasts congregate at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York to flaunt handknit sweaters and trade crochet tips. Llamas, alpacas, Angora rabbits, and sheep roam the pastoral haven as hundreds of vendors set up stalls amongst crispy autumn leaves, culminating in a fiber artist’s version of paradise. This massive event is known as the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, and it’s served as a yarn lover’s oasis for over forty years.

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival started as a livestock auction in 1980, where farmers sold their sheep’s wool; now, it serves as a convocation for all things yarn. In fact, vendors have noted the festival’s clientele has skewed younger in recent years, as more and more millennials and zoomers take up crocheting and knitting as a means of creative outlets and activism.

Taking place this year from Saturday, October 21 to Sunday, October 22, check out yarns made from all different kinds of fibers, from cashmere and wool to fuzzy mohair, with many of the skeins being hand-dyed and hand-spun. Local artists will also be selling their own finished products (think cozy knitwear, homemade soaps, and ceramics). For nourishment, cotton candy, falafel, and apple crisps are just a few of the various food offerings at the fairgrounds.

The two-day event will also feature demos on silk reeling and feltmaking, plus some informative talks on livestock, book signings, and a sheep selfie station. While the festival’s myriad of workshops on crafts like needlework, rug hooking, and basket weaving are sold out, strike up a conversation with any of your fellow festival goers, and you’re bound to pick up some tips.

Drive time:

2 hours, 20 minutes from New York City.
3 hours from Boston.
3 hours from Philadelphia.

New York State Sheep and Wool Festival
Llamas and alpacas roam the grounds of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.

More Things to Do Near Rhinebeck, NY

Continue to bask in Rhinebeck’s bucolic bliss by taking a hike in Ferncliff Forest, which offers 12 miles of hemlock tree-lined trails. Amongst the picturesque fall foliage at peak bloom, you’ll catch glimpses of the frogs, salamanders, and geese that reside in the forest’s ponds. Ferncliff Forest’s map features multiple not-so-strenuous trails, all ideal for a soft hiking journey. Regardless of the preferred route, be sure to reach the forest’s fire tower and climb the steps to catch a 360 view of the forest’s full 200 acres of nature.

Where to Stay in Rhinebeck, NY

Given Rhinebeck and its surrounding areas are hotspots in the fall, most of the hotel rooms are booked out for the following weekends far in advance. However, there are a plethora of campgrounds nearby to enable you to further connect with upstate’s inimitable nature, such as Ferncliff Forest and Mills Norrie State Park. Interlake RV Park also offers campsites, as well as more traditional shelter for rent, including country suites and cottages fitted with a kitchen, laundry machines, microwaves, and televisions.

Where to Eat in Rhinebeck, NY

Sat in a gorgeous 18th-century townhouse in the heart of Rhinebeck Village, The Amsterdam is a farm-to-table restaurant serving seasonal fare. On nice days, the restaurant’s string light-adorned backyard sets the perfect ambiance, stocked with firepits and Adirondack chairs. Snack on their Charcuterie Board in the patio or curl up inside for cozy vibes with their Autumn Bisque and Cider Brined Pork Chop.

Before heading back to the city, go for a coffee and a Cranberry and Walnut Scone at the beloved upstate bakery, Bread Alone, whose loaves you’ll probably recognize from being sold at farmer’s markets across the city. It’s also highly recommended that you grab some house made sourdough for the road.

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Kelsey Allen is an Associate Editor on the local team at Thrillist.