With his right hand working a centuries-old spinning wheel as his left hand moved methodically back and forth, Bob McKean created a bolt of yarn Friday out of white sheep's fleece as wispy as his long, gray beard.
McKean and his great wheel, which he said he still sometimes lets curious children try even though it's from the late 1700s or early 1800s, was just one part of the much larger Carolina Fiber Fest 2014 that kicked off Friday at the Sanford Lions Club Fairgrounds.
The festival will continue today and Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. both days and lasting until 5 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Sunday. There's food and more than 40 vendors, plus classes and demonstrations.
The vendors are just as happy to talk with people about their crafts as McKean, who traveled here from Yanceville simply to educate people about history and yarn. Cindy Walker, who owns Stone Hill Fiber Arts in Tryon, drove in from near the South Carolina border to come sell the yarn and handmade hats and clothes she crafts.
Walker said she works some with N.C. State University and started attending the Fiber Fest three years when it was in Raleigh. The festival moved to Sanford last year, and she made the move with it. She said she likes the schedule here better than how it used to be, since organizers can stretch it out over three days. And that, she said, gives everyone more time to shop, bond and learn with crafty entrepreneurs from all over.
"It's a lot of good small businesses, and that's how we're going to save the world — one small business at a time." Walker said.
Linda Witt and her daughter, Leanna Ross, who co-own Misty Mountain Farms in northern Virginia, also made a long trek to sell and socilaize in Sanford this weekend. They said it's not as lucrative as similar festivals in the D.C. area, but they like to come anyway and catch up with fellow fiber fanatics from former festivals.
It is a close-knit community, after all.
"This is the only show we do in North Carolina, but we see a lot of people we know from other shows," Witt said.
However, not everyone there hails from hours away. Vendors represent Broadway, Siler City, Holly Springs and other nearby towns, and the weavers from Sanford nonprofit Common Thread occupy a central location in one of the exhibit halls.
On Friday, volunteers hawked Common Thread wares like bags, blankets and place mats — with all proceeds supporting local charities — while another weaver showed off her skills on a loom.
"The thing I like is it all goes back to the community," said Shirley Pardue, a volunteer. "We just gave $2,500 the other day."
And not every vendor has things for sale that are woven, knitted or sewn, either. Melissa Tognetti is selling a vast array of ceramics from her company, Muddy Heart Pottery in Cary. But she's really there in a dual capacity.
"I like knitting, too, so I'm here as a vendor and a customer," Tognetti said.
For more information on classes, vendors and more, visit www.carolinafiberfest.org.