It’s the first of July. and the heat has finally arrived. I was beginning to think that a proper summer was going to allude us, I seem to forget year after year that it’s not really summer until after the last weekend in June. Why? Because that last weekend is home to Woolfest, a place of all things sheepy, yarny and almost without exception, rain!
I think this is my fourth year of visiting Woolfest. What started out as a trip to my parents which happened to coincide with the festival has now become a sacred annual tradition, in the diary without negotiation. The thing I love about Woolfest is that it isn’t simply a knitting event. Instead more of the focus is on where the yarn actually comes from, with almost as much space devoted to sheep, aplaca, goats and rabbits as there is to yarn. They have a “fleece creche” where spinners can park their wears until the end of the show, and it’s held at the Livestock Centre rather than a fancy hall. All of which adds to the rustic and somewhat chilly charm of the place (being a Livestock Centre means the entire rear of the space is open to the elements). It almost always rains and with a profusion of both sheep and knitwear the smell of damp wool pervades. An aroma that I find remarkably comforting.
This year, instead of being armed with the usual three page list of “must haves”, I had only one essential, some mustard yarn from EasyKnits to match what I’d bought the previous year. I’d enjoyed knitting with it so much that I got carried away and ran out of yardage before reaching the sleeves. I dashed to their stall armed with my final length of wool wound around my wrist for comparison. Not an exact match, but as they pointed out I could always alternate skeins or lurk in dark corners.
After visiting them and my other favourite, Ripples Crafts (who’s new yarn base has a hint of yak blended with wool and silk, making it squishy with a beautiful sheen that shows off dye perfectly), we hot-footed it to the main ring to watch a sheep shearing demonstration. I’ve long wanted to see a shearer (or in this case shearess) in action and was awed by the the skill and speed of the work. One person, shearing a sheep in a mere two minutes, talking the crowd through it and moving the hogget around with ease. Not only fascinating, but the perfect pause in our yarn buying extravaganza to see the product in it’s raw state.