Annual Fiber Festival coincides with Bemidji Woolen Mills 100th anniversary

Attendees work on felt tapestries for the roof of a traditional Mongolian yurt during a workshop held Aug. 31-Sept. 11 by the Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota. Submitted photo.

BEMIDJI -- The sixth annual Farm to Fiber Festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Bemidji Woolen Mills, 301 Irvine Ave. NW, bringing fiber directly from vendors in celebration of the store’s 100-year wool tradition and northern Minnesota’s fiber heritage.

Just like in past years, the festival will feature a wide variety of vendors and free demonstrations of different fiber art techniques, such as spinning, weaving and needle felting.

Festival organizer Alethea Kenney said that the event will be set up inside and outside of Bemidji Woolen Mills, allowing for attendees to shop both the store and the festival vendors while adhering to health regulations.

“Bill Batchelder has been very supportive of our festival and our endeavor,” Kenney said. “We had intended to be in Solway, but because of the COVID-19 regulations, the event center where we were going to be felt that it couldn't provide a safe environment. So we asked Bill if he would be interested in coordinating with us and indeed he was. He said there should be no problem, and we will comply with regulations.”

Kenney said there will be new features to the festival this year, including a tapestry felted traditional Mongolian yurt that will be on display throughout the day. Attendees will have the opportunity to find out what a Mongolian yurt is, see the mural in wool felt depicting the process of creating insulating wool felt outer layers for the yurt, and meet the artists.


Recently, the Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota held an educational workshop in which the group worked with a tapestry depicting the process of making a yurt, from sheep to shelter.

Attendees unroll a completed wall felt tapestry for a traditional Mongolian yurt during a workshop held Aug. 31-Sept. 11 by the Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota. Submitted photo.

A Mongolian student at Carleton College will also be providing information, via online presentation at 10 a.m., about Mongolian culture and his experiences growing up in Mongolia.

There will also be fiber animals, such as alpacas, at the festival to “bring fiber to life” for attendees.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, the festival’s fashion show will be held, and anyone with handmade clothing or accessories is welcome to showcase their items. Entering items is free and the show is open to the public. Contestants should register Saturday morning if they plan to enter an item in the show.

“It's just a fun time for anyone, and those who participate can show off what they’ve created -- it could even be jewelry if it’s something to do with fiber,” Kenney said.

The festival will also feature a raffle, and tickets give attendees a chance to win fiber art and other items while supporting local farmers, artists and the fiber community.


The event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is no entrance fee. Kenney said all are welcome, including children and families.

“Our vendors are really passionate about what they do, and they’re always glad to share their knowledge with people,” Kenney said. “We have a wide range of vendors this year, and I think that it’s a good thing for the public to have the opportunity to see the type of products they create.”

For more information about the festival, email , or visit or (218) 657-2502.

Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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