My First Woolfest

5.45 am kick off; I walk into Shipley to  catch a train into Ilkley, conscious that  the man walking his dog with a mug of tea in his hand must think I’m doing the Walk of Shame. I hold my head up high, I’m going to Woolfest you berk.

At Shipley the man behind the counter tells me the trains have been cancelled; I wasn’t too surprised, it doesn’t take much rain/flooding to bring the trains on our line to a halt, but apparently there was a tree on the wire or the tracks, can’t remember which as I was already calling for a taxi expressing with some urgency that I had toi get to Ilkley PDQ. The taxi driver had started work at 7 the evening before, was about to go home, had not a single speck of white to be seen in his bloodshot eyeballs and seemed to take my sense of urgency rather too literally, and how I made it to Ilkley alive I do not know, but fought hard the urge to kiss the ground as I got out of the car. I was there picked up by my friend Heather who runs the Knit and Natter at Shipley College and we made our way to Headingly where we got on the coach organised by Baa Ram Ewe, a lovely shop I hadn’t heard of before but which now holds my unflinching fealty. It was a stunning journey through the hills up to Cockermouth, there was some concern over flood-induced delays, but obviously there is little in nature’s arsenal that would stop a coach load of middle-aged ladies getting to yarn.

The event was held at a livestock auction and the 277 were exhibitors set up in the pens. I made my way straight to the top corner where there was the fleece sale. Can I just say that moderation was always my intention and not least because I knew I would have to get the train back from Ilkley. When Heather picked me up (hereafter refered to as The Enabler), she said she wanted to be clear that she was driving me home and had emptied her boot. Hardly my fault then is it?  I couldn’t let her effort and generosity by swiped aside so ungratefully? I had an obligation really. And I didn’t break the record. But I was pretty damn close. So, ahem,  a Berrichon du Cher, Blue faced Leicester x Swaledale, Polled Dorset, Portland and a Texel later, I headed off – with some assistance – to the crèche run by the Air Ambulance to deposit my lovlies. I suppose it is rather bad when even they are shaking their heads.

So, the stalls. My plan of attack was to do a sweep through the aisles and then a more detailed and targeted strike. At the last Knitting and Stitching show I did find a lot of the stalls quite commercial, a little bit samey, lots of kits and all that. Woolfest is entirely different, more makers rather than just shops, everything of amazing quality, sold by people who love everything to do with woolcraft as much as you do and who are more than happy to help and explain. I got a a wrap-per-inch guage from Woodland Turnery, and it was lovely to see them getting back on their feet since the fire that devastated their workshop. He had some very beautiful wheels and I do think I deserve some credit for not succumbing. Elsewhere I also picked up a swift and nostepinne, all essentials, obviously. I have wanted a peg loom for a couple of years, so when I saw one at Hedgehog Equipment I could not resist, nor a new Lazy Kate made of Welsh Oak and both very well priced. This was the joy of Woolfest, meeting the makers face to face, knowing you are supporting their business, livelihood and skills. There were some exhibitors I wanted to meet in particular, not least Daniella of FeltStudioUK who I think of as Morag’s godmother because she read I was after a Haldane Hebridean and got in touch to tell me a friend of hers was selling one. Her dyed batts and yarns were simply stunning, the whole place was visual overload. There were also a couple of big names in rag rug making there, Jenni Stuart-Anderson and Cilla Cameron. The latter I knew through a rag rug facebook group and it was great to finally meet her.

Dyeing is the next step for me really, and there were plenty of stalls selling acid dyes, but I am quite keen to use natural dyes (obviously; why do things the easy way?) and at DT Crafts and Design the lovely lady there talked me through it all and I cannot wait to explore my starter pack and the endless possibilities therein. There was a stall selling all things Shetland, and yes, I picked up another fleece. I was too embarrassed to go back to the crèche so  lugged this one round with me. Funny thing is, the lady who sold it to me looked rather familair and as it turned out I went to university with her twenty years ago. Jolly small world. I think that is it, oh apart from a wee bit of Wensleydale fleece, oh and a giant 25mm crochet hook; first saw these at Harrogate and always regretted not getting one. So there we go, nothing too naughty, it’s not as if I brought a loom or anything is it?

As well as stalls selling their wares, there were lots of different breeds on show; as the day progressed something strange happened, they morphed from being fleece machines who rather rudely hogged onto coats that rightly belonged in my basket, into, well, rather beautiful and rather cute creatures. I found myself looking at sheep earings, and sheep mugs, and sheep posters all in a new light. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of Woolfest. There were of course stalls and stalls of yarns and batts which I have to say I never got to see, there was also live music, a number of talks and demonstrations, but how I could have packed more into my day I simply do  not know.

There were also several guilds and societies represented. A couple of weeks ago much maniacal cackling emanated from my home when I suddenly found myself doing long draw spinning. This was a bit of a holy grail to me, and the technique used on the first Medieval spinning wheels. The world was now my Great Wheel oyster. One of the highlights for me was seeing the Guild of Long Draw Spinners in action. I had a few questions about my technique and they were more than happy to help me and I even got to have a go on their Great Wheel and I don’t mean to boast (and obviously I do) but I pretty much got the record and drew the thread at least twice the length of the grating in the photograph, ending up walking backwards into the crowds yelling at people to get out of the way. I was declared a natural, much to my beaming pride – BEAMING – I tell you!  I am now a member of the Guild and have a swanky badge to prove it. I want a Great Wheel. Which reminds me of a t-shirt I saw someone wearing in the cafe – ‘I saw, I wanted, I threw a tantrum, I got’.

At half-five we set off home, me slightly embarrassed that I was the only one who needed to use the luggage compartment under the coach. Everyone showed off what they had brought, The Enabler had got some lovely yarns and other bits and pieces. I got home after nine, knackered but thrilled, and had an early night.

I would now be terribly grateful if the rain would stop long enough so I can make a start cleaning these fleeces; it is a good job I have become rather fond of the smell of wool as my living room smells like a farmyard. Hopefully the pong will deter visitors so I can get on with some spinning and, ahem, my search for a Great Wheel.

Advertisements

Free digitized nineteenth century patterns

Folksy made mention of this so I’m passing it on – the Richard Rutt Collection, held at the Winchester School of Art is now on-line. An amazing collection of nineteenth century knitting books, with a few nods to crochet, netting etc. A fantastic resource and free to all!

Early patterns can also be found at the lovely Antique Pattern Library, for those who do  not know of it already. Again, an amazing resource – knitting, crochet, cross stitch, tatting etc. Inspiration galore!

Row Counter Goodness!

Oh my lordy me – I’ve been crocheting all day trying to get ready for an event this weekend. My one problem is there are sections where I have to work between four to twelve  rows even. Not only is this TEDIOUS I tend to forget which row I’m on and have to stop and work it all out and count, count, count! Yes I could use a row counter but, well, they’re in a tin downstairs and where’s the fun?

Earlier I made a pile of crochet hooks, one for each row, and for every row finished I put one back in their jar next to my work desk. Great, job done – but it just occurred to me – what if they were jelly beans or some other sugary goodness? What more incentive would I need to work through the boring bits? And although counting beans are nothing new, what better way to keep track of your crochet and knitting rows? Eureka!

 

Patchwork Blanket and Chair Covers

This blanket is based on the project in “201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Patterns and Ideas”.

I used the same square pattern to make a covering for these armchairs in my study. The simple square motif repeated in a single colour also adds a diamond pattern. The cushions and covering for the stool are granny hexagons and granny squares respectively.

Crochet Doll

Well, at last some actual crochet!

I was largely inspired by this free amigurumi pattern; mine ended up nothing like it but it gave me the courage to jump in.

My first attempt had rather shapeless feet and the arms were too long. The dress was not thought through at all, but I wanted to use fabric to bring in as many different textures as possible. I couldn’t decide on the position of the eyes or what I should use for them – embroidery, buttons or felt; alas she still only has pins in place.

For the second attempt I made her with boots and socks and shaped the dress a little more with a thin red ribbon and I sewed the arms through the fabric. I also used ribbon for the boot laces. Although the prototype had plaited wool for hair, I used lots of different yarns for the second attempt. I like the effect very much but having only threaded them through the holes made by the crochet stitches, I need to redo it and make the strands more secure. After all the messing around with buttons,  in the end I just sewed in a single stitch of black wool for the eyes as I made the head, and I think it works. Both dolls are largely made in one piece and each stand at 14 inches.

 

Sept – This is the very latest version of the rag doll. I’ve jointed the hips, knees and elbows  and am much happier with her – she is more rag-dolly, if that makes any sense, lankier and more agile. I get all my fabric  from a trader at the local market and he has such  a lovely selection of vintagey cottons at the mo; part of the fun  of these is matching the  fabric, wool, ribbons and buttons. Which I think makes me a girl after all.