Wednesday, 5 July 2006


For a while now Rich has been joking that instead of Glastonbury this year we were going to Woolfest. We try to visit the Lake District a few times a year, and I persuaded him to come with me this weekend so we could go to the festofwool! (It also coincided nicely with the first weekend after my exams).

Woolfest takes place at the Mitchells Lakeland Livestock Centre, outside Cockermouth in Cumbria, known locally as the Sheep and Wool Centre. As you drive in off the roundabout, there is a huge white stone sculpture of a sheep looming above the entrance to the centre. I wish I'd taken a picture of it but my camera is still not fixed so I was relying on Rich the Cameraman, who was driving. Hopefully Ruth or Mary or someone else will have a picture: it was pretty impressive.

The festofwool wasn't at all what I had expected, in a really good way. Having seen people's posts of The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace I'd imagined a glossy trade fair with mounds of Koigu and hillocks of eyelash yarn. Instead, it takes place in a huge, open-sided shed, the entrance for people and sheep alike through gates and pens:

As soon as you go into the barn, you're met by sheep, goats, alpacas and rabbits. Here are some pictures of sheep, and an alpaca. I'm afraid I didn't take any notes so I can't tell you what any of them are, except for the one at the bottom which was Rich's favourite. He's called Bruno and likes to be stroked!

The yarn stalls were further in, and even here they were very different to my imaginings! There were lots of stalls of organic wool, most were British, and many were run by the farmers themselves. There were lots of stalls selling fibre, spindles, people spinning, lots dedicated to weaving and of course lots of people selling shawls, felted bags, and handwoven rugs. Of the very few stalls selling brand name yarn, Rooster impressed me with their knitted bunting!

At the back of the barn were some information stalls, and the judging arena. I loved this bit. A real treat when I went to stay with my grandparents on their farm in Cornwall was to go to the cattle market in Liskeard with my grandpa, and although this was a lot cleaner and filled with shepherds and spectators rather than farmers, I felt right at home and could have spent hours there. These are Swaledales (I think! - the Swaledales may have been in the next round), being held by their shepherds for judging.

I'd gone with a very specific shopping list: umbrella swift, a retractable tape measure, a needle guage and a bamboo Addi needle to see what they're like. And I had a budget. Mission accomplished! I thought I had a photo of my haul, but I can't find it now, which is probably good in case anyone with dial-up tries to read this! The tape measure, needle guage and needle were from the Knitting and Crochet Guild stall. I was really pleased to meet the ladies running the stall.

I try to buy as many of my supplies from KCG Trading as proceeds go towards supporting the guild, but they can be a bit fierce on the 'phone! In person, they are lovely and very helpful. The Addi natura has already been put through its paces swatching some Malabrigo yarn from my stash, and so far I love it. I bought an umbrella swift from Don Porritt Looms/Studio Supplies, which is lovely - and a 4 litre bottle of Eucalyptus-scented Eucalan! It's huge. I once made the mistake of sending off for the free samples of Eucalan, and predictably I'm hooked. This gigantic bottle was the equivalent of eight bottles for the price of seven, plus the saving of £5 postage per bottle, so seemed a good investment. Hopefully it should last me a year or eight!

The picture above is the only yarn I bought, from Angorgeous. I hadn't gone with any yarn in mind, and thought I'd done quite well collecting leaflets and making sure I could order things by post (like this stall, Uppingham Yarns) ...

.... until I squeezed a square of this angora plied with angora that had been knitted up and left in the yarn basket. I think I probably made one of those faces you shouldn't really make in public; certainly my heart stood still for a second. This yarn is the fluffiest, squashiest thing I've ever encountered. I enquired whether I'd have to wear goggles and a facemask when knitting with it, but apparently all you have to do is put it in the fridge for a bit to calm it down periodically! I bought two balls to make a scarf, and when I got it home remembered the rabbit tracks scarf pattern, which I've wanted to knit ever since I saw it here. The idea of a rabbit pattern in rabbit yarn really tickles me! (possibly literally).

I'll leave you with a photo of the Wool Centre in its mountainous setting, complete with lowering clouds which split just as we were leaving. A very lovely, very Lakeland day.


Rachel said...

that sounds like an awesome day! what a nice change from exams.

Laura said...

This looks like such fun! I have never been to a wool festival and it's my plan to go to one in the next few years. I have, however, been to the Lake District and it is so lovely. Sigh. :)

Julia said...

Wow, look at that angora! Yum!! The scarf pattern is adorable. Looks like you had a lot of fun; must make it to one of these wool/fiber fests at some point in my life.

Marie said...

It looks like it was immensely enjoyable! I could spend ages looking at all the different breeds of sheep...I'm very taken with the inquisitive little black and white guy in the first photo. Bruno look particularly full of personality too. :)
I love your description of feeling the the bunny yarn swatch! So very apt and the yarn looks scrumptious. Can't wait to see the bunny track scarf take shape.

I need orange said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for commenting on my miscrossed cable fix! I hope it's useful to people.

I love going to shows where I can see all the animals! Petting all the yarn is good, too, but when I can do both.... Excellent!

-- Vicki

Ashley said...

Oh, all the lovely sheepies! (And other assorted fibver-bearing animals.) That settles it--I _have_ to find a sheep-and-wool festival to attend somewhere. What an excellent post-exam break!

Fiona said...

A trip to the zoo combined with a yarn fix in lovely scenery.. pretty good! I'm extremely impressed by your shopping list and budget, too... and that angora looks super soft.

Lara said...

I loved this post, I really wanted to go to woolfest this year but couldn't fit it in. It looked ace, i was quite worried that if I went I would have come back with both spinning wheel and sheep! I loved your description of Angora Rabbit Wool - it looks heavenly. And I thought the angorgeous website was great. Imagine my surprise and joy when on sunday I walked into a long lost cousins house and discovered they owned an angora rabbit. So exciting!

Dulcinea said...

It's great to read about Woolfest! I only learnt it existed a few weeks ago and was instantly seized by the urge to spend a few days this summer visiting my uncle and aunt, who just happen to live in Cockermouth. I can't wait. Where I live (Belfast) is a total desert for knitters. The one wool shop in the city centre is a depressing fluorescent-lit shrine to Funky Fur. The thought of being able to see different types of wool 'in the flesh' instead of ordering them on the internet and hoping they feel nice is so exciting! Thanks for the description of your trip.

AlisonH said...

I'm very, very late at coming across this post, but nowadays I'd most likely add a single stitch to each side of the Rabbit Tracks pattern just to firm up the look of the sides.