Photo of Lower Hudson Valley-Phillipsburg Manor

Best Craft-Lovers Getaway: The Hudson Valley Sheep to Shawl Festival

We welcome the return of Deborah S. Greenhut as a contributor for Crochet Getaway! She visited the Hudson Valley Sheep to Shawl Festival and provided insight into this exciting rural New York annual event.

On a late April day, when the spring season finally intruded on our long winter, I headed north to Sleepy Hollow, New York, near Tarrytown, to watch sheep get their spring coats at the Historic Hudson Valley’s Sheep to Shawl Festival at Philipsburg Manor.

To my delight, there was so much more to do!

The grounds of the Philipsburg Manor Site presented an excellent festival to introduce young families, especially to the arts of making and using wool and managing sheep.

Activities at Hudson Valley Sheep to Shawl Festival in New York state

We enjoyed plenty of colorful crafts and hands-on demonstrations of shearing, carding, weaving, spinning, and dying wool.

Border collies gleefully showed their skills with sheep and even the most reluctant duck. Their herding, a Festival highlight, took an interesting turn when the brace of ducks refused to return to their cage, due to a particularly feisty one.

The audience gasped each time they turned away, but eventually, the enthusiastic dogs and their persistent trainer were successful to everyone’s cheers.

Fun for Everyone at Hudson Valley Sheep to Shawl Festival

Running a farm takes a village. It was a good day for teamwork as the children and their parents added their hands to a community weaving project and then used their feet to negotiate yarn mandala mazes that evolved on the grass during the day. Colorful crafting projects, including quilting, decorating with wooden stamps, and stamping with vegetables, added some gentle fun.

Homestead activities at New York's Hudson Valley Sheep to Shawl Festival

Philipsburg Manor in New York

I toured the flour mill and overseer’s house in the museum complex to appreciate how the property’s tranquil but powerful stream draws from the Pocantico River to turn the 2000-pound stones that run the mill. The docents were extremely knowledgeable about the equipment, history, and geography.

The museum has an excellent collection of tools and machines that are still in working order, and it pays considerate attention to the slave history of the property, including the names of those early 17th-century inhabitants who worked the mill and cooked for the overseer. Today, Philipsburg Manor celebrates Pinkster, the oldest African-American holiday, in May at a special festival.

Entertainment at the Sheep to Shawl Festival

Most of the guests included families with children under ten. The environment was calm—a chance for everyone to try everything–and joyful, with sweet bluegrass music by the New York City Area musicians who perform as “Bluegrass Collusion,” with a variety of food from popcorn and hot dogs to tasty sandwiches for sale.

History of Philipsburg Manor

Although I grew up not far from this neighborhood, I learned some new facts about the Dutch overseer, Adolphus Philipse, who inherited the property from his father, Frederick, who had bought it from Adriaen van der Donckin in 1693. At one time, the tract included most of northern Westchester County all the way to Connecticut. Philipse came to this Manor only to review business details regarding the sale of flour and other products; his home, known as Philipse Manor, can be visited a bit further south on the Hudson in Yonkers.

If you are traveling to Sleepy Hollow for a few days, plan to spend some time at another historic home or two— Lyndhurst Castle and Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, are close by, and you can pick up a tour of Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, from Philipsburg’s welcome center. The grounds of Philipsburg Manor are diagonally across the street from Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, including the grave of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving and the Old Dutch Church. For a beautiful installation of stained glass created by Marc Chagall, take the ride up to nearby Pocantico Hills to see the historic Union Church. For information about tours and tickets for these sights, check out the website for Lower Hudson Valley tourism.

If You Go

I’ve stayed nearby at the nearby Doubletree Hotel and Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center. Both hotels have restaurants that relish well-presented food, with The Cellar at Tarrytown House Estate offering a farm-to-table menu of locally sourced foods and wines. Newer upscale restaurants have emerged along the Hudson to offer you a pricey but beautiful sunset dinner.

If you are looking for a luxurious view of the Hudson and a bit more historical ambiance, I would recommend Tarrytown House Estate, one of whose buildings was the home of philanthropist Mary Duke Biddle, whose alma mater, Duke, was named for her family. A transplanted New Yorker, Mary also owned a mansion on Fifth Avenue.

Crochet Insider’s tip: Tarrytown’s Main Street, a fun collection of shops and restaurants and a music hall, features a very cool yarn store: Flying Fingers Yarn Store. Colorful windows preview the many unusual yarns for sale here.

Their website is being renovated, but they happily take telephone orders from their online catalog. The owners go to great lengths to help people get here—they sponsor free yarn bus transportation to and from Manhattan. Make a reservation by calling (877) 359-4648 Toll Free! Plan ahead for your visit because this store is closed on Mondays.

Quick tip: For a refreshing break, check out Coffee Labs Roasters just uphill from Flying Fingers on Main.

Bonus: What is a Sheep to Shawl Festival?

Sheep to Shawl festivals are competition events where attendees can witness the fascinating journey of transforming wool from the sheep through the entire process to producing a cozy shawl. These festivals typically feature various stages of the wool production process, from the shearing of sheep to carding, spinning, and finally, weaving the fibers into shawls.

What’s truly remarkable is that these events often encourage active participation from visitors, allowing them to try their hand at carding and spinning, regardless of prior experience. It’s an inclusive and educational experience, making it an ideal outing for both novices and experts in the world of wool.

The festivals usually center around friendly competitions, where teams race against the clock to create the most impressive shawls. While the spotlight is on wool and craftsmanship, the sheep involved are well-cared-for and cherished as part of the event’s charm.

Additionally, attendees often have the opportunity to purchase these unique, handcrafted shawls and other woolen items, serving as memorable souvenirs and supporting the skilled artisans who make these events such a delightful experience for the entire family.

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