Fiber, folk art soothes, provides self-esteem

Sheryl DeVore/ reporter

On a hot, sunny summer day, hundreds of people from as far away as North Dakota were spinning, knitting and talking fiber inside the Lake County Fairgrounds building near Libertyville and Grayslake.

The parking lot was filled with vehicles July 16 of those either there to show their wares or to find something homespun to purchase at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair, founded by Crystal Lake resident Carol Cassidy Fayer.

Fayer stood amid nearly 200 booths filled with vintage cross-stitch lockets, Angora rabbit wool, hand-woven baskets and jewelry crafted from antique buttons. Throughout the venue, women and men were spinning while others knit , stitched, wove or told stories about their craft.

Exhibitors from Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Chicago and the suburbs including Gurnne, Grayslake and Round Lake came to the fair held July 16-18.

I started the fair in McHenry County in 2007, but we moved it here to the Lake County Fairgrounds because we needed more room, said Fayer. Indeed, working with fiber has been a growing trend for more than 15 years. A decade ago, 35 million Americans knitted and crocheted, Fayer said. In 2008, the number rose to 53 million.

A long-time knitter, Fayer explained the attraction.

We're about feeling good, she said. Its about the working of the hands. The repetitive motion, the eye-hand coordination working with the fibers is soothing. It releases stress and brings out the good endorphins. It feels good. It's a boost to your self-esteem to create something of value with your own two hands. You can knit in moments, watching your children playing a baseball game, waiting for a doctor's appointment.

Knitting can be a link to the past, a tribute to another time. Mary Lynn Gehrett, for example, created an intricate pattern of a prairie she is stitching with many colors. It will take me a year to finish it, she said. Its a tribute to my mom who loved prairies. She was gone before we moved into our house by a prairie. I wish she could have seen it.

Norm Warren of Vintage Fiber spins Angora fiber he collects from his Angora rabbits. "The rabbits are so docile and the wool comes right off, you don't have to shear them," he said as a young couple from Kenosha petted a small dark rabbit.

Round Lake resident Kimi Hefty likes working with her hands, too. But clay is her medium. "I like clay as an art form, Hefty said. But I also want it to be functional. I like to make something that you can set on a mantelpiece and that you can also use to make tea.

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