Okay, okay, better late than never with this one. It’s been a wee while since the wonderland of sheepiness that is Woolfest packed up for another year and here’s me only just getting around to writing about it. Even so, I think it’s more than worth a mention and a sharing of stash photos- apologies for the quality of these, by the way. Lack of natural light and time has not been kind…
What made this Woolfest special this year was actually the very fact of me being there. Not because of the horrendous weather, although that did give us pause for thought, or because of the complicated childcare arrangements or even my chronic car-sickness. No, for me it was surprising to be there because a year ago, when it was my first opportunity to go for a couple of years, I found I’d lost my knitting mojo and couldn’t actually be bothered. This was probably symptomatic of a lot of other stuff that was going on or indeed not going on at the time, draining my confidence and my energy for getting out into the world. Then I started work on a cushion called ‘Make Do and Mend‘, saw a subs call for a then yet – to- launch magazine called ‘Knit Now‘ and all of a sudden a year had passed and I was going to Woolfest to meet up with people who’d given me yarn support, chat to other designers, say hello to the editor who’d given me commissions and even give out business cards.
Like many, I found the whole scale of the event (it must be three times the floor space it was the last time I went) pretty overwhelming at first and after a cup of tea I needed to get down to earth by meeting some familiar faces (familiar from email contact at least!). Victoria from Eden Cottage had a stall full of scrumptiousness and I was very proud to see my Treacle Toffee mitts on display there, joined by my ‘Starry, Starry Night‘ stole when Kate Heppell from Knit Now arrived with a suitcase full of samples to return. Despite the rain, the place was buzzing with fibre fanatics, but I also managed a quick ‘hello’ to Loraine from Woolly Madly Deeply in the midst of the madding crowd.
In addition to visiting a lot of Alpaca stalls (my friend and driver for the day was a convert as soon as she squidged her first bundle of baby alpaca fibre and would probably have squeezed a live one into her car if she thought she could get away with it) I had a couple of star-struck moments meeting designer heroes Susan Crawford and Kate Davies and also did a (fairly restrained) amount of shopping. I was also very proud to see a ‘Make Do and Mend’ at the Woolsack stand, ready to be gifted to an Olympic athlete
My haul included four balls of natural fleece coloured pure Shetland Wool from Ruth Strong, whose stall was part of the Wool Clip section. It’s beautifully soft but its colour, warmth and robustness make it perfect for the project I have in mind- a hat and scarf set for my Dad where the watch words need to be ‘understated’ and ‘masculine’. I hope to share some WIP pictures here soon.
As well as giving me an excuse to chat to the lady herself, I visited Susan Crawford’s stand to acquire a whole garment’s worth of yarn. I love using British yarn whenever possible and have been looking at what’s on offer from John Arbon Textiles for some time, in particular the vintage shades of Excelana. However, feeling that the colours probably weren’t shown to their best effect on the website, I was really excited to look at them in real life- it’s one of the best things about going to shows like Woolfest, seeing so much of so many ranges in one place, something even the best wool shops just can’t offer. Anyway, if you’re considering Excelana, go for it! The colours are beautiful, soft vintage shades that just cry out to be combined as they tone so well together. That said, I’ve only bought one colour- cornflower blue- which is pegged for a proper, big, ‘hard maths’ project this summer which will be mainly for me and possibly for a wider audience!
Last but not least let me introduce my new pet:
Okay, not really. But since all I do at the moment is stroke and cuddle it, it might as well be! This was my ‘off list’ purchase- the inspiration skein. With the other two lots of yarn, I came with specific ideas about weights, colours and what they were going to be- it’s how I tend to shop for yarn as I’m not much of a stash fiend. However, the last time I bought a skein of yarn just because I loved the colour and feel of it, it ended up as ‘Spirograph‘, which popped into my head more or less a fully formed idea. With that in mind, I allowed myself to buy this vivid pink, stupendously soft Fyberspates Scrumptious DK/Worsted just because I fell in love with it. My hope is at some point an idea for what to do with it will pop into my head.
While I wait for inspiration to strike, don’t be fooled into thinking my needles are still. There’s a lot of Shetland love going on, some serious texture and a fair bit of colourwork- not all on the same project I should add! One year on from losing my knitting mojo, I think I can safely say it’s back with a vengeance.
What’s more exciting than having a design published in a magazine? Having two designs published in a magazine! Knit Now Issue 7 is due to hit the shops on 5th April and I’m delighted to say that you’ll be able to find both my Starry, Starry Night stole and Elfine pixie hood patterns included.
This happy situation had the added bonus of giving me the opportunity to work with some of my favourite yarny people. In the case of Starry, Starry Night it was Vikki at Eden Cottage Yarns. I first came across her hand-dyed yarns when I was looking for something suitable to make my Treacle Toffee mittens (still available through Just Giving to raise money for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, folks!). I’d seen her work mentioned in a magazine and liked the idea of using a fairly local business, as she’s based a little way North of where I am in Cumbria. The Maya yarn in ‘Autumn’ that she sent me lived up to all expectations, with its gorgeous colour and amazing softness and as a result I kept an eye on her website to see what else she came up with. When the ‘Purple Iris’ colourway appeared I knew I wanted to work with it- beautiful deep purples highlighted with soft pink and grey and in BFL yarn produced very close to us in the Forest of Bowland.
The rich hues of Purple Iris somehow made me want to design something with a bit more of a glamorous, romantic feel than some of my other pieces. It made me think of Elizabeth Taylor with her violet eyes and diamonds, of proper grown up party dresses and the night skies above the sort of evening soirees I rarely get to attend these days! What I came up with is a wide stole with an asymmetric hem trimmed in feather stitchlace. Scattered across the stole at the whim of the knitter- charts are provided so you can decide where you want to place them- is a constellation of stars. Formed in eyelets, these allow flashes of whatever fabric is worn underneath the stole to be glimpsed. I had in mind summer wedding guest outfits and the like, but if you aren’t likely to get many opportunities to wear it in this way, the DK yarn means that while it’s a warm cover-up, it’s light and drapey enough to wear round your neck as a scarf. I’ve loved working with Vikki’s yarns and hope to do so again in the future.
The second pattern I have in this issue is the Elfine pixie hood. It forms part of the ‘Designer Challenge’, where three designers
are given the same yarn to see what they can come up with. This time the yarn was provided by a good friend of mine who’s recently become the sole UK importer of Lion Brand yarns. You’ll see these yarns all over the place on Ravelry, as they are well known and widely distributed in the US. As a knitter, Loraine had enjoyed using the yarns when she got the chance and wanted to let more UK knitters get hold of them. Woolly Madly Deeply is the result, and it’s well worth checking out, not just for the mail order yarns but also for the free patterns, offers and blog.
The yarn used in the challenge was Superwash Merino Cashmere and that, along with the delicate pink colour, said ‘baby’ to me. The pixie hood combines my fondness for vintage styles with my knowledge as a mother of young children. Most babies quickly master the art of removing hats and flinging them out of their buggy so pixie hoods offer an advantage in that they can be gently and comfortably tied under the chin. This might not stop the removal and flinging, but it at least slows things down. The scarf part also provides additional cosiness, since the ends can be tucked into the front of a jacket or wrapped around the neck. A textured stitch in the border is interesting to knit up, but the project grows quickly in this aran yarn, so it would do for a last minute present- there are three sizes for baby up to young child- plus it looks so cute!
Images and information on all the patterns in the magazine are available on Ravelry.