Welcome to Woolfest 2008
Alright, so I am a little late posting about my trip to Cumbria in Northern England, but I have very valid excuses. First, I maxed out my upload limit on my Flickr account in June, and I it took a while to get all my photos organized, tagged and RESIZED (so now I can upload a lot more pics than before). Who really needs all those high res images of my ever growing stash? Secondly, I was actually getting paid for writing this week, hence it became the priority. Not that I would ever neglect my two or three BrittKnit readers (who I do appreciate; especially you, Dad).
We took off from Manchester at around 10am and finally arrived at the agricultural centre in Cockermouth. We had to park in the overflow lot because it was so packed. There were tons of ladies with their packed lunches and thermos cans sitting in their cars as we were finally making our way in. Those were the hardcores that must have been there when the gates were opened.
Penny, Kate, Charlotte and I walked up the first aisle oohing and awing while looking at all the different sheep, alpacas and a lone Angora rabbit in a tiny cage. Poor thing. No wonder it seemed so neurotic´. Penny and Kate were first out of the blocks in making their first purchase. They both spin, so the endless bags of fleece and roving was of far greater interest to them at the onset. I decided to entertain the idea of starting to spin. Logic told me I already had one obsessive hobby and I didn't need another one. Passion told me that I had to try it out. I was just too enticed my all the possibilities: spindle spinning, plying, felting, dry felting with a needle, jewelry making...
What was truly unique about this experience was to finally unite for myself cognitively all the elements of our craft. From the animals to the fleece, the rovings, the spindles, wheels and their makers, the plants and dried herbs for dying, the farmers, the knitters, weavers, spinners and felters; the looms, basket weavers, and the unique hanks and skeins of hand spun and dyed yarn. There were utterly hundreds of people utterly devoted to a wool world. It was truly exhilarating.
The four of us drifted apart and then back together again through the aisles and aisles of fiber goodness. That is the thing when you go to a trade show with a group of people - you are bound to be split up at some point, but you all seem to manage to collide again eventually. After the first round or so, Kate and Charlotte went back to the car due to Kate's very unfortunate allergy to wool - but that does not stop her from going to wool shows nor from working with it constantly. Now that is passion.
Penny and I made another sweep through the aisles before retiring to a semi-isolated hallway for a cup of tea and some mini quiche we had picked up at a farm store on our way up the M6. It was much needed after all of that weaving through aisles and stand packed with wool-crazed women.
I held myself back with buying until I had surveyed the offerings every stand and compared prices. I am a thrift knitter (only to later splurge on things I really, really want), so pricing is a necessary part of any shopping ritual for me.
On one of our passes through the aisles, I saw some really entertaining things. The picture above of the costumed women is particularly interesting to me: Little Bo Peep Meets Marie Antoinette. Everything in her costume was made of and related to the wool industry. There was a real focus here on British wool as well as self-production. The picture directly above this paragraph captures nutty knitter Ingrid Wagner from Newcastle who will very soon be attempting to break the world record for knitting with the largest needles. Those little girls were so ecstatic to be giving it a shot. I got a particular kick out of this image - a mandolin player taking a mid-concert break to eat some ice cream. When I took the shot, he satisfyingly knew he'd been caught. It was a lovely moment.
The culmination of the Woolfest experience was the tatie pot (potato/lamb/black pudding stew) and spin/knit-in that evening which were a benefit for the Wool Clip, the organizers of Woolfest. The Wool Clip is a co-op of farming and craftswomen in Cumbria. It sells materials and products made from their own sheep and goats.
We were most likely the youngest people in the room of over one hundred. Two other younger women, looking sheepishly for a place to sit, joined us at our table. Low and behold, one of them was from Seattle too! It truly is a small world. After a surprisingly tasty meal (black pudding had scared me before that), we took out our projects. Tables started coming down and wheels began to appear.
Here are a few of my favorite shots of the spin-in:
I like these two photos for the intricacies and details shown of the wheels, spindles and hands. They are all working separately, but somehow come together in these images to become one working unit. In a sense, we craftspeople are.
I thought this was interesting. We have a women spinning and another women drawing the spinner's portrait.
And here are just a few more gratuitous sheep pics. You gotta love 'em:
So, that was Woolfest this year. I can't wait to see what a commercial fiber show is going to be like. I wonder if I will be disappointed? Nah.
Knit well and knit often.
PS - Check out my loot...
Roving in 3 colors (Shetland and English 56's), Merino Tops and a needle for felting, handmade birch bag handles (for that bag I shall someday make), a copy of The Opinionated Knitter (which seems to be very hard to find), Gossamer Kid Mohair
in Gorgeous Plum, and a very cool necklace with dry felted black baubles from Mixed Fibres Textile Studio in Edinburgh. A close up of the fibers:
PPS - Check out Bearski's Caribbean Socks...