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Not just a yarn: Organizers knit success at first Fiber Fest

April 20, 2011

Between the piles of yarn and the good company, the warmest place at last weekend's Blossom Festival was probably at Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, in a Best Western Hood River Inn meeting room.

It was a place where the ancient hand-made arts met new technology.

"Would you like an email receipt for your credit card transaction?" Sarah Keller of Knot Another Hat in Hood River asked Linda Moon of Sherwood.

Moon had purchased some of Keller's yarn and knitted gloves made by Nichole Reese of Mosier (Bluegirl Knits), who shared the gossamer-decked booth.

Hundreds of people attended the first-time event, sponsored by Hood River native Yvonne Ellsworth. In addition to checking out the vendors, festival participants also chose from workshops on spinning, knitting, designing, beading and other topics.

Keller credited Ellsworth for bringing "one of the largest fiber events in the state" to Hood River.

"The only other events like this that are larger are held in Eugene and Portland. This is great exposure for Hood River," Keller said. She hired a shuttle bus to take people between downtown Hood River and the hotel, as a way to relieve parking and to connect people with other businesses in town.

"I love Hood River and it feels really good to bring all these people together here for this event," said Ellsworth, who now lives in Cascade Locks. She knows of attendees from as far away as Walla Walla, Wash., and Pasadena, Calif.

"I talked to one lady who's a quilter who told me she just had to come and check out what we had," said Ellsworth.

She displayed her own line of yarns and knitted items, along with dozens of other purveyors of yarn and fibers of many colors and textures. She said she hopes to bring the event back next year.

The Columbia Room, normally an open room where people sit at tables and listen to speakers, took on a textured, labyrinthine feel as fiber artisans displayed their wares along narrow passages lined with stacks of yarn, hand-made clothing and merchandise.

There was yarn in balls and bundles, in baskets, shelves and open piles, along with high racks of colorful sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves and other creations.

Truly the room held a different skein of things.

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