A Day at the Fair

by Christine Barnes

I’m a small-town girl from Loomis, CA, who grew up in the 1950s in an idyllic setting that included a barn, a pond, an orchard, a garden, a few cattle, and one very naughty pony. My father was a high school history and anthropology teacher who also saw himself as a gentleman farmer, and in the summer I would complain at dinner, “Not potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes, and corn from the garden again.” Then there would be our own peaches on vanilla ice cream. If only I had realized how lucky I was. I do now.

So when I migrated from the Bay Area to Grass Valley in 1983, I felt right at home. I even have roots here—my great-grandfather worked in the Empire Mine before the turn of the century, when Grass Valley was a prominent mining town in the California Gold Country.

Things have changed, to put it mildly, and it feels as though this charming town has grown exponentially. The Nevada County fair has changed too, becoming more crowded as the years go by, though it retains its small-town flavor with events like a pygmy goat obstacle course (darn, I missed that one), gold panning, a ukulele orchestra, and, of course, adorable bunnies, squeaky-clean pigs, and majestic horses. It’s often hot and usually dusty, but the fair is a much-loved part of our county’s culture. At night, from the air, it’s magical.There are plenty of other events, too. The Draft Horse Classic happens every September and is considered the premier show of its kind in the western U.S. I love these “gentle giants,” probably because my other great-grandfather used a draft horse in his apple orchard in central Washington.I worked the fair yesterday in the Methodist Church bratwurst booth (if you like brat with kraut, it’s the best), then made my way to the quilts and other needlework. I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of my favorites.

I’m stuck in the advanced-beginner category of knitters, and I’m in awe of what’s possible with yarn, knowing that I’ll never be able to knit this well. I watched Lindsey Cleveland start this project at a knitting retreat last winter. The dark values and intense colors make for a stunning chevron shawl.I love crescent shawls for their graceful shapes, and this one is exquisite!Another beauty, with lovely lacework.My friend Jo Ward’s quilt-like shawl made in mohair. Kaffe would love seeing this, . . . and I would love wearing it.On to the quilts. Trish Morris-Plise will be at the retreat this year. (And haven’t you come every year, Trish?) Her work is amazing and eclectic, from art quilts to this Hawaiian-style appliqué wall hanging.What wonderful hand quilting!In Lorna Straka’s blue-ribbon bargello quilt (machine quilted by Susie Hardy) the center of the quilt advances because the batiks are more intense than the Kaffe Fassett border. Great fabric choices, Lorna!I never get tired of batiks. Their variations and nuanced colors make them special.This charming quilt by Janet Hannameyer is the kind of quilt I love to see at the fair every year.Another teapot quilt, by Deirdre Campbell, only it’s made of paper. Yes, paper! There’s batting in between, although she said her paper quilt last year had paper for batting, too. “A quilt has three layers. . . .” Notice the ruler that serves as the hanging rod. What fun. Lynda Lasich’s poppy quilt is a gem. You had to be there to appreciate the intricate shapes and thread painting.

A delightful use of light, medium, and dark values in this tumbling blocks quilt. My sincere apologies to the maker of this quilt—I forgot to make a note of your name.The fair runs through Sunday, so if you live within driving distance, you might like to come. If not this year, there will certainly be another fair next year, at the fairgrounds voted “the prettiest in all of California”

p.s. You saw it in various stages, but here’s the finished top for one of the retreat projects, “Best Friends.” I hope you agree that I deserve extra credit for using three different dots and one very low-volume stripe. See you soon . . . .

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2 thoughts on “A Day at the Fair

  1. Your reminiscent memories of local country land gone suburban is echoed all over the west!
    Here in Snohomish County, WA, we watch wistfully as our woods are becoming apartment blocks. Yikes!

    Wonderful needleworks!

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