I haven’t been entering fairs in recent years. It used to be an annual thing, starting in 1969 when I was fifteen. I didn’t win anything that year at the Hamilton Co. Fair, but I continued to enter (primarily various needlework and crafts). The second year, I got my first blue ribbon; the third year, I achieved my grail, a rosette for Best of Show in embroidery.
By then it had become a beloved ritual–creating pieces all year that I would compete with the following summer. I branched out to the Ohio State Fair in 1974 and felt lucky to get any ribbon at all (I think it was a fourth place). It was 1982 before I got my first state fair blue ribbon.
By then I was a seasoned veteran, and winning came easier and easier to me. By the early ’90s I had several rosettes from the Hamilton Co. Fair and a couple more from the state fair. It was, though, getting old. What’s more, things changed at the Hamilton Co. Fair. The competitions were poorly managed and the judging questionable. I grew totally discouraged when I got a call from the needlework department manager one year asking if I’d entered a tatted parasol. No, I’d entered an Irish crochet parasol which had already won a medal at the local Irish feis. Apparently the judge had awarded it Best of Show in tatting. If the judge didn’t know the difference between crochet and tatting, I couldn’t take much pride in winning prizes. (No, I didn’t get the rosette. I think I still got the blue ribbon, but since the piece hadn’t been judged with the crocheting, it wasn’t considered for Best of Show. That’s okay. It did win a rosette at the Ohio State Fair.)
My participation became sporadic as the years went on. When I moved to Clermont County, I decided to enter the fair in Owensville and got more ribbons. I enjoyed that because Owensville was one of the fairs of my childhood where my grandfather raced horses. The others, besides Hamilton Co., were Warren Co. and Butler Co.
When I moved in with Mom, I became a Warren Co. resident, so I tried my luck at the fair in Lebanon a few times. Then, two years ago, I decided to enter the Butler Co. Fair in Hamilton, Ohio. They allowed entrants from other counties, and I’d been very impressed by their competition–plenty of entries of good quality.
I’d thought about entering again last year, but health problems made me decide to pass on it. So, this year, I decided I would enter the fair for sure. One more time.
I’ve been saying “This is my last fair!” for years now, but this year it really is my final one. To my pleasure, I’m winding up my long hobby of competing at fairs in satisfying fashion. Here is a gallery of my final blue ribbon county fair entries ever:
To my surprise and delight, I won Best of Show in embroidery with the kind of bracelet I make out of the cuffs of old blue jeans. I didn’t think anything that small would be selected for Best of Show. In fact, I wonder how many entries there even were in the embroidery category. (It’s always hard to tell; Butler Co. breaks up their classifications in unusual ways, so that a cross-stitch sampler may actually be entered in wall hangings rather than under cross-stitch. Whatever. I’ll take the award either way.) It strikes me as very appropriate that my last rosette is for embroidery, just as my first one was back in 1971.
This is a crocheted gown I made for Diamondqueen’s American Girl-style doll. I was using a Titanic theme. Mom and I collaborated on a couple of outfits, but I adapted this from a crocheted doll dress pattern. You can’t tell from the photo, but the dress has beads and metallic thread worked into the pattern.
This is a cross-stitch piece from a pattern I found on Pinterest. Originally it was heart-shaped, but I wanted it to be rectangular, so I fiddled with adaptations of the various designs to fill in the areas around the heart. I didn’t realize until I’d started working on it that these are all motifs taken from Dedham pottery, which I adore but can’t afford. I was going for a craftsman effect. This was in the miniature cross-stitch category. (Sorry for the hard-to-see image; it was way back on a long table full of needlework entries.)
This is a scarf I crocheted from granny squares. The hand-dyed yarn is extremely fine; I bought it several years ago at a wool festival and had never figured out what to do with it. This past spring I’d decided to knit it up and felt it; then I got a book of granny squares out of the library and was inspired to try one of the more interesting ones in this yarn, so I wound up frogging my knitting. (Note: I don’t knit much or well, so I don’t consider this one of my “skills.”) I did something to my left hand working with this damn yarn, but at least Mom gets a nice scarf out of it when the fair is over.
This past Christmas I crocheted Diamondqueen a granny square hippo in ’70s colors from a pattern I purchased through Ravelry. I thought it might be fun to try it in really small thread, and I wanted to do a sheep instead, so I bought that pattern and loaded up on size 80 tatting thread. Frankly, I wasn’t pleased with the final result. I didn’t think the critter looked that much like a sheep (hippo? pig?) and the colors came out too ’80s for my taste. Apparently the judges didn’t mind.
This Sleepy Hollow picture is one of those weird categories I was talking about: wall hangings, cross-stitch in this case (although I incorporated quilting). The original cross-stitch pattern was designed as a triptych or one piece in a super long frame. I decided a wall hanging would work better. This is one of the few times I ever tried piecing (also not one of my skills), and I hand-quilted everything, which I really enjoy.
Another one of the weird Butler Co. categories is for Table Covers/Toppers in different needlework styles. I entered this under crocheting, even though I personally consider it a doily. Usually I prefer to work in smaller thread, but I do like the texture that a size 10 or 20 cotton thread creates.
This is a jewelry set I’d started back in the spring and finished up for the fair. I really liked the look of the turquoise and copper together. I’ll never wear those earrings, but I thought they’d look good as a part of the set.
I decided to throw together a Christmas ornament and came across this wire cross-like figure I’d tried last Christmas and forgot about. I went through my bead stash and hooked on lots of red beads and two white stars I had left over from a necklace. It’s not my style at all. Mom can hang it on the front room tree, if she wants.
Finally, here’s a wall hanging I entered in the Christmas class. (I know, seems redundant to have an entire category for wall hangings and then include a class under Christmas.) As I did with the Spooky Hollow piece, I worked an embroidered picture into a quilted hanging. The interesting thing about this is the embroidered part was a kit I picked up at Goodwill for a couple of dollars. I think it even had all the floss. I tore out the stitching that had already been done and interpreted it the way I wanted.
I also had three second place entries: a necklace (as opposed to a “set”), the small whale sampler I’d made to go with my redware jug, and a crocheted doily. Everything I entered won something, which was nice. I wish my fifteen-year-old self could have known then that I’d do better in the years to come. My lust for ribbons just increased when I didn’t win with my first entries, becoming a kind of obsession. From there, though, it led to several decades of true pleasure and self-satisfaction.
And YES, this was my last fair. I swear. And I’m very happy to have that final rosette.