Fiber lovers, artists, and producers – including the four-legged varieties – gathered in Asheville, North Carolina, from October 27-29, 2017, for the 24th annual Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF).

The SAFF marketing slogan this year was “I got my daily fiber allowance at SAFF.” Judging by the huge shopping bags carried by most attendees, including myself, I’d say we got way more than a daily allowance at this year’s show!


Gorgeous dyed locks from Southern Charm

SAFF has something for everyone who loves fiber. There were plenty of materials like yarn, roving, beads, and curly locks, plus all the tools you’d need for any craft from knitting to felting, weaving, and spinning.

Classes and workshops ran throughout the SAFF weekend. The class categories included weaving, spinning, knitting, felting, and many other crafts that were also represented on the show floor.

Fiber enthusiasts who didn’t have time for a class could catch one of the many demonstrations. Fiber artists demonstrated everything from drum carding and tapestry weaving to spinning, Japanese Kumihimo braiding, angora rabbit care, and more. Some of these demos offered attendees an opportunity to not only watch an expert but to also try out the skill themselves, no doubt resulting in lots of new converts to the demo’s showcased craft.

Representatives from Haywood Community College and John C. Campbell Folk School were on hand to talk to fiber artists about educational opportunities beyond SAFF.


Of course, the highlight for most fiber enthusiasts was the menagerie of livestock showing off their fleece and fur. Awards were given to sheep, alpaca, rabbits, llamas, and goats. A shearing service was available on the last day of the festival, and attendees could purchase the fleece straight from the source.

New to SAFF this year was a sheep herding demonstration from Dwight Parker, whose border collies showed off their skills to onlookers.


Speckled yarn by Rock and String Creations.

A couple of the trends from this year’s show were similar to last year’s. Hand-dyed speckled yarn, for example, was featured in many booths. There were also a lot of mini skein yarn kits to make color choices easier for gradient knitting.

Sock blanks, pieces of fabric that are dyed or stamped that can then be knit into an unpredictable colorway, were also prominent again this year.

The Buffalo Wool Company’s booth featured Bison down blends, as well as this sign that made shoppers smile.

There were also several animal fibers outside the usual realm of wool and alpaca. Yak fiber was everywhere, usually in a blend with wool. The Buffalo Wool Company was on the show floor with its soft Bison down-silk blends.

Some of the trends this year were the tools of the trade rather than the fiber itself. Many fiber artists were selling handmade project bags to stuff with fiber goodies. (Fiber lovers certainly couldn’t resist prints like sheep, alpaca, and balls of yarn!) Small weaving looms were also quite popular this year. These affordable mini looms were ideal for anyone new to the craft, including kids.


Beaded shawl from Bead Biz.

Beads made an appearance in a couple of the booths, as well as in the demonstrations and classes. And speaking of sparkle, there were also many sparkly, glittery yarns to choose from that would be perfect for holiday projects.

My favorite part of SAFF isn’t the fiber or even the tools; it’s seeing all the fiber enthusiasts gathered around tables and in hallways, stitching and drooling over their purchases. Practically everyone is wearing something handmade, which also serves as an icebreaker to get to know the fellow fiber obsessed.

If you entered SAFF feeling ambivalent about fiber, you certainly left with a new perspective – and maybe even a new fiber friend or two! Plans are already underway for next year’s SAFF, so put it on your calendar if you’re planning to be in the Asheville area.


Ashley Little is a fiber enthusiast. She blogs at The Feisty Redhead.


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