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.