Darle Balfoort’s cats are catnip-crazed. Their preferred mode of delivery: catnip mice, or small sewn replicas of mice that are stuffed full of catnip.
Saturday morning, Balfoort bought two — one for each cat — sewn and stuffed with fresh, fragrant, homegrown catnip by Nancy Summers of Castle Tower Alpacas, who had a booth set up at the eighth annual Little York Fall Fiber Arts Festival in Preble.
The weekend event in the Cortland Repertory Theatre at Little York Lake is a major fundraiser for the community theater, said Kerby Thompson, the theater’s producing artistic director, who came up with the idea.
“I grew up on a sheep farm in Rhode Island,” Thompson said. “So I grew up with my mother knitting sweaters.”
His mother is also where he got the inspiration for the fiber-arts-themed fund-raiser. She and his sister started a much larger one in Springfield, Massachusetts, and eight years ago Thompson persuaded the CRT board to try a similar event in Preble. Eight years later, it’s still going strong.
Yarn, sweaters, hats, pillows, rugs, coasters, socks and shawls were some of the items on sale, made from materials such as felt, sheep and alpaca wool, and sheepskin.
Soups and hotdogs were cooked by CRT’s Theatre Guild, or its volunteer auxiliary organization, but other snacks came from food-specifc vendors, such as Jake’s Gouda — made by cousins of the yogurt-making Stotzfus family.
This year’s event brought together more than 30 vendors, said Michele Ball, co-chairwoman of the festival, and festival-goers who braved the dreary, cold rain in search of fiber crafts.
Felisha Busken of Virgil, for instance, was on the hunt for a used carding drum. She was still looking Saturday morning, but on her search, she also happened to pick up two bags of unwashed alpaca fiber, or seconds, which are basically unprocessed leftovers. Busken said she plans to use the seconds to stuff home-made dolls, rather than the poly-fil she now uses.
The poly-fil “is releasing microplastic with every wash,” she said. “I would really rather go with something biodegradable.”
The cast-off alpaca stuffing will also help provide the raw material for the new business, Once Upon a Doll, she plans to launch soon.
Her kids, Valin, 2, and Raimunda, 5, had other priorities, such as sampling the free fudge at a booth attended by Donna Neff of What the Fudge of Minoa. They soon got a small spoonful each, which was somehow enough for Valin to get most of it smeared all over his cheeks.’
“More!” he said, reaching his spoon as high as he could. “More!”