Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018 Part 2

It’s taken me a while to write this post because I’ve found Edinburgh Yarn Festival a real challenge to describe. It stands apart in my mind from all other yarn shows and I wanted to explain exactly why that is.


For a start, it’s a big show. Much bigger than you would imagine from the size of the building that contains it. This year, I think for the first time, there was a marquee at the back of the venue which had space for 500 knitters and crocheters to sit and chat, drink tea, eat cake and knit, and crochet, and there wasn’t a single time when I ventured in there, where it wasn’t filled to that rafters with happy gossiping voices all cooing over each other’s yarn purchases and projects. It was a truly wonderful thing to behold. It was also nice to be able to get a seat whenever you needed one rather than having to squeeze your bum on the end of a sofa where there really isn’t a bum sized space.

This also has the added bonus of making the market place much less of a crush. There wasn’t a point where I couldn’t squeeze through the throngs or couldn’t get the see a stand. I had time to browse, time to read labels and time to squish, which made the whole experience rather relaxing.

There was also another smaller area for refreshment (my friends dubbed it the purple room) which contained the lovely podcast lounge where I wanted to linger but there was never a spot free – and I was, ridiculously, too shy to speak to Louise Scolley from Knit British, who hosts it – but no matter, there is always next year. Blacker Yarns and Garthenor were also here and I gathered lots of ideas for future online purchases.

So, to the market place. For me, this was a delight as there are so many vendors from the Scottish Highlands and Islands who so rarely get to shows further south. It was fabulous to be able to talk to so many passionate producers of yarn, who could tell you which farms their fleece comes from, describe the sorting process of the fleece and talk with love about their mill equipment and their product. It gave me a real buzz to know that my yarn purchases were supporting the employment of so many, often in quite rural locations where jobs are scarce..

Obviously, at this point, I was sticking to my 2018 resolution to only buy yarn that is grown spun and dyed in the UK, so my first purchase was from the Knockando Woolmill, who are based nearish to Inverness but not actually near to anywhere really. Their history stretches back to 1784 and they are still using some equipment dating from 1870. The mill is run by a charitable trust which was established in 2000 with the aim of “rescuing and restoring the mill to ensure its future survival and promoting and educating people about its unique heritage”. The restoration of the mill was completed in 2013 and they produce the most gorgeous textiles, but it was their yarn that interested me most.  I was particularly drawn to an undyed North Country Cheviot double knit yarn which was grown on Dalrachie Farm, located just 12 miles from the mill. This news, together with their story, pressed all my sustainability and supporting British farming and industry buttons, so I bought a sweater quantity. And I’m now on the search for the perfect project to do justice to the yarn, and to the mill.


Then on to The Knitting Goddess and her One Farm Yarn was on my list. I’d previously purchased a set of grey and black mini skeins together with an undyed skein and then decided, for the shawl project I had in mind, I need a further set of mini skeins, and another undyed skein just to be on the safe side. The ply on this yarn is really pretty and The Knitting Goddess’s colours are gorgeous, plus the fact the yarn is NOT well travelled speaks to my eco soul.

Next stop was Uist Wool. I have been stalking them on social media for a while. The idea for the mill, built in North Uist in 2013, “emerged from a collective will to find a fresh purpose for local fleece that would reconnect the community with their cultural heritage of wool-working”. They have restored machinery that has its origins in mainland mills from the middle of the 19th century and the wool they produce is very individual. I wanted some buttons for my striped cardigan and they stock porcelain buttons from Shoreline Stoneware. The buttons take their inspiration from the shoreline of Uist and are just a joy.

I also had to have yarn from Uist Wool but I was aware that my carry on bag was filling up so I decided to restrict myself to just one skein. This makes the skein I chose even more precious.

I also visited Jamiesons Of Shetland and bought these gorgeous 25g balls of their Spindrift yarn, without a project in mind but I’m thinking a fairisle cowl.

Then we stopped at The Crochet Project and coo-ed over all the shawls and I bought the lastest shawl pattern book on a complete whim. At this point we stopped for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and I observed my now bulging bags and announced to my friends that I might not be able to buy any more yarn, otherwise I might not be able to get it home.

So, I think there might have been something in that tea, because I went to the Iona Craft Shop stand next and bought a cone of their gorgeous single origin double knit wool in the sea greeen colourway. Yes, that’s right, a cone. Not a skein but a huge, incompressible, how am I ever going to get this in my carry on bag?, cone. Still it gave my friends a huge laugh when I sheepishly unveiled it and just look at those colours, and I did eventually manage to arrange the bag to squeeze it in, so it all worked out well in the end. I think I’m going to knit a Tin Can Knits Windswept sweater with it.


Well, after that, the gloves were well and truly off. I decided to buy presents for a couple of friends who weren’t able to come to the festival so purchased a gorgeous alpaca and rose fibre blend from The Border Mill. It will be interesting to see if the rose fibre helps to mitigate alpaca’s desire to stretch. I also bought another friend a present but haven’t given that to her yet so I’m not going to talk about that one, to maintain the surprise.

Then we went to visit Ginger Twist Studios and I must admit with all the gorgeous colours and squishiness and with Ginger being so lovely and friendly, I completely forgot about my resolution to buy British and, in what I can only describe as a buying frenzy, grabbed these three gorgeous superwash merino beauties.

What can I say? It was late, I was overcome with yarn fumes. I am weak. But do I regret it? Not on your life!

And then after having our photo taken with the 8 foot high Toft crochet highland cow, I bought the yarn to make myself one. I have no idea about the yarn’s provenance. I just wanted it. This has been carefully stored away in my cupboard along with all the other kits I’ve bought from Toft and not yet made. I really really must get around it one of these days.

Finally, we stopped off at the Stephen and Penelope stand where my friend bought an armful of mini skeins and I had a little chat to Stephen West, who despite being a total knitting celebrity, was fabulously down to earth and just as chatty and smiley at the end of 3 days of festival as he had been at the beginning. We discussed strategies for squeezing my bulging purchases in my carry on bag and we agreed that I might need to leave all my clothes behind in the hotel room (although not the precious hand knits – I would wear all those – no matter how warm the airport might be). Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and I did manage to get everything in, for yarn is surprisingly compressible. Well, except when it’s on a cone…

Sadly, it wasn’t all fabulous. I’d taken some finished projects to show some vendors what I’d made with their yarn and one or two did not utter the words “ooh, it’s so lovely” or anything similar which was a bit deflating. One of my friends thought one vendor was downright rude about one of my makes, but you can’t please all the folks and maybe the vendor was a bit jaded by it being the last day. I’m not into naming and shaming, but I doubt I’ll be buying their yarn again.

But, it was almost perfect. It was brilliant to hear so many soft friendly Scottish voices and if you have never heard a Shetland dialect before, it is a thing of wonder! There was so much gorgeous yarn for sale, I could easily have spent 3 times as much so I think I’ll be returning next year, with a bigger budget and a case that is going in the hold.


Links to all venders patterns etc are detailed below:

To read more about the Knockando Woolmill’s story including a rather fun timeline, click here

To see One farm Yarn on The Knitting Goddess Website click here

Click here for Uist Wool and here for Jamieson’s of Shetland

To go to the Iona Craft Shop, click here and to see the Windswept sweater by Tin Can Knits, click here

The Border Mill is here

For Ginger Twist Studio, click here and for Toft, click here

And lastly for Stephen and Penelope click here.

Trip to Toft

I could barely contain my excitement last weekend when I wangled a detour to Toft on the way home from visiting my in laws. Visiting Toft has been a long held ambition of mine and it did not disappoint.  As it happened they were having an open day, so after admiring the alpacas, I parked my husband in the cafe, my kids on the craft table with a helpful pva glue and tissue paper loving Toft employee , and plunged headlong into the shop. 

 

You might think Toft is an odd choice for someone who struggles with amigurumi as much as I do (see my recent post on crocheting Easter eggs) but I just adore their animals and their crazy looking birds. I bought a robin kit at the yarn show Unravel in Farnham Maltings two years ago (and have 3/4 made him – only beak eyes and general assembly to finish him -although trying to produce two legs which could reasonably be called a pair nearly defeated me)  and I’ve wanted to see base camp ever since. 

Now, in my mind, Toft doesn’t just sell alpaca yarn, Toft is alpaca, and I spent a long time squishing yarn and amigurumi animals in a sort of trance, before I started to actually read labels and it occurred to me that the majority of what they sell is not actually alpaca but, pure wool. Certainly, all the animals and birds I squished in store were made from wool.   

But it’s not just any wool. Toft proclaim their wool yarn to be seriously luxurious and indeed it is very soft and squishy and it has a lovely shine almost as if it were spun with a silk mix. It is spun in the UK which ticks a lot of my boxes re buying local and supporting British business but I notice they are quiet on whether the fleece is grown here too, so I’m not so sure I’m supporting British Farmers. 

Toft also say their yarn is great if you are time poor (aren’t we all!) as it knits up really fast and, until recently,  I might have thought this was an odd thing to say. How can a particular yarn knit up more quickly than another? Surely it’s the speed of the knitter that’s the variable? But I recently knitted with some lovely yak yarn from Devon Sun Yarns and that was a speedy knit so I have a new appreciation of these qualities in a yarn.

One thing I had not previously realised is Toft produce a range of clothing and accessories kits and, to my mind, it’s in wearable garments that alpaca really comes into its own as its so soft against skin. As you know, I’m going through a hat phase at the moment so I just adored their hat kits. 

There are a couple of things that set Toft apart from other yarn stores. The first is they only sell their own product. The second is their display. It’s really clear to see that every aspect of the store is carefully considered and reflects their brand. This attention to detail appears right down to their mannequins and the crates they use for their display. No ikea shelves here! This gives the entire store a cohesive and very organic feel which was extremely seductive to me from a purchasing perspective. 

The one thing Toft is not, is cheap. Although amongst all this luxury, you wouldn’t expect it to be. And the kit for say the robin I already own will set you back £24 which, even in my book, is quite a lot of money for an amigurumi bird that you still need to (struggle to) produce yourself. But the thing I wouldn’t have realised had I not made the robin is, in the kit, you will get enough yarn for several robins, or a robin and say, an aardvark. So it was with this in mind that I made my purchases.

  
As you can see, I’ve bought the book of bird patterns and a flamingo kit. But, with the left over white from this, and the left over red from my robin, I should be able to make a stork too. I also bought some sock weight alpaca because, well, I couldn’t visit Toft without buying some alpaca. My last purchases were two lovely chunky French knitting dollies which I plan to teach my children to use this summer.

One thing I would like to have heard about was the story of Toft. It’s possible this was displayed elsewhere in the complex and I spent so long squishing yarn that I didn’t get the chance to explore the rest of the facilities. But, all in all, I enjoyed my trip. I came away feeling delighted with my purchases and keen to return when we were next in the area. If you haven’t been,  and you get the chance, go! Just remember to take a bit more than just your pennies with you,

Postie Stalking

It’s always the way isn’t it? You decide to do something, make a big announcement, get everyone enthused, then have to wait what feels like a small eternity for the things you need to get started, to arrive in the mail. This is the story of the dye I need for my blanket. I’ve spent hours of fidgety torture each day waiting for the postie to arrive only to be disappointed as he zooms past our house and up the lane in his van without giving my letterbox a second glance. So, in an effort to distract myself, I’ve been doing other things…

 come on postie 

It was a surprise to me when I realised it was Easter this weekend. This means two things 1. I will need to occupy my children for a month before they return to school again, and 2. I have, yet again, not produced any Easter related craft items. This happens to me every year with almost every event in the calendar. If I actually start something, the event usually overtakes me and well, it just feels weird making Easter bunnies after the event, even though they can be safely stored for decorations next year.

My children are five years old (I have twins) and I appreciate, in a few years (who am I kidding? Next year), the only thing they will be interested in will be the chocolate, but for the moment they are really keen on painted eggs and little birds to hang  up so I’ve focused  this week and found some contorted hazel sticks and have the very best of intentions to crochet some little eggs, which along with some hasty purchases in our local John Lewis and some other bits and pieces, should make us nicely festive. 

  
I am not, it should be pointed out, very accomplished at amigurumi (weird word so, for non crafters reading this, see here for an explanation). Most of the animals I make end up with slightly demented expressions. At Christmas, I crocheted the Toft robin and I had to make 5 separate legs in order to end up with two that could reasonably be called a pair. Needless to say, he is not finished (beak, eyes and assembly still outstanding). 

 It takes real skill which, like anything, can only be mastered with many hours patient practice. But not having many hours and Easter being only a couple of days away, it really will be best crochet hook forward and, surely, even I can manage a crochet egg?