The third annual festival of all things woollen took place in Farnham on February 26th & 27th. There were stalls, knitted installations, workshops, talks and a fashion show all within the rambling shelter of The Maltings, formerly a 1750s tannery and 1830s brewery which were brought together in 1881 by Farnham United Breweries and remained a site of barley malting until 1956. It was my first attendance at the show and very excitingly it was the platform for the launch of Lady Heather, a multi-wear lace shawl pattern designed by me and commissioned by independent online yarn seller Martina of Yarn to Knit. More shameless self-promotion on that score to follow but first here are my highlights of the two day festival:-
As usual some of my favourite purveyors of hand-dyed luxury yarns were out in force, including Fyberspates, Skein Queen and Easyknits, as well as The Bothered Owl who were doing a roaring trade in Lego stitch markers and bright fabric yarn pouches. There was a strong focus throughout the show on ethical sourcing of materials, organic processing and local production. Artisan Yarns from Hereford for example use Couleurs de Plantes extract dyes to hand paint natural fibre yarns from angora to nettles. The House of Hemp also bring a less familiar but historically well-used fibre to the craft table in their range of fine, 2ply and DK weight hemp yarns.
Since 2002 they have imported raw hemp, grown without herbicides or pesticides, from Europe (as it is currently not productive for British farmers to grow this crop) to be processed at the ColdHarbour Mill of North Devon’s Fibre Harvest yarn company. Tania and Jane the hand colour each skein with dyes that they have made themselves in their Cornish studio. This year they are launching a new fibre which combines the strength of hemp with the softness of alpaca: Hempaca!
Also worth checking out;
Nimu – Yarns of Distinction: Clare from Kent discovered a love of colour and dyeing that outstripped her desire to knit so began selling her one off semi-solids/, 50:50 and variegated skeins on Etsy three years ago. She describes her dyeing process as ‘very organic’ combining a bit of dipping and a bit of kettle dyeing until she is happy with the result ensuring that every skein is different. Her fibres include alpaca, angora, mohair, silk, Shetland, BFL, mohair and merino.
FeltStudioUK: Daniela is a wet-felter, needle-felter, spinner and dyer from Leeds with a fantastic range of hand-spun yarns, hand-carded batts and hand-dyed rovings.
Juno Fibre Arts: I was particularly enamoured of the ethereal shades of sock yarn ‘Buffy’. Her Pearl DK yarn spun from alpaca, merino and silk is now available to buy at Loop in Camden Passage.
The Natural Dye Studio: Amanda, Phil and Val use wood chips, chopped roots and leaves from their organic dye garden on Moors Farm in Suffolk ,with rock salt and cream of tartar as mordants, to make all natural plant dyes. The spent dye materials are composted and go back onto the garden which is grazed by their organic rabbits!
Most stalls had patterns for sale, or example knits to inspire you. Suzie Johnson from The Wool Sanctuary in Weston-Super-Mare took this a stage further with a beautiful selection of her own designs to buy as kits (seen above). She has converted her Victorian flat into a haven for knitters where you can go for advice, workshops or just a cup of tea and a bit of a natter. Well worth checking out if you are in the South West.
Accessories were also in abundance from the likes of Fire and Fibre (Bobbins, Knitting Boards, Lucets, Pom Pom Rings, Weaving Sticks and Peglooms), Nichols Buttons (handmade couture glass buttons made by Lionel Nichols between 1946-66) and Tilly Flop Designs (knitting themed greetings cards and tea towels). I bought a set of thin pearlescent buttons from The Textile Garden, two Hiya Hiya 9″ long circular needles for knitting socks/ gauntlets without DPNs from Tall Yarns (who also sell a range of Helen Deighan dyes so you can attempt your own unique colourway yarns) and a 1940′s Knitting Book and ten vintage buttons from Idas House whose salvaged knitting tools are a delight to eco-knitters.
In the Tannery we found new designers displaying their clothing, cushions, fabrics, earthenware and crocheted art. Two stalls in particular caught my eye.
Seren Stacey is a recent graduate in Textile, Fashion and Fibre (1st Class BA with honours) from the Winchester School of Art. Her portfolio highlights the beauty of fabric textures under macro inspection in pieces that are understated and elegant. Hanging ovewrhead were approximately 300 crocheted bees she had made over the course of a year.
Deryn Relph is the winner of the UK Hand Knitting Association’s Knitted Textile Award 2010 and was commissioned to decorate the foyer of the show with her knitted lampshades. She reinvents discarded furniture with knitted upholstery that draws on retro, natural and scientific graphics as inspiration with stunningly busy and bright results.
Out in the foyer was another inspired use of knitting. ‘It’s not my Boyfriend’s’ is the knit clad motorbike of Fine Art graduate Katie Corbin. Taking inspiration from yarn-bombing she taught herself to knit from YouTube videos before making this statement piece which challenges the stereotyping of gender.
Proving that you don’t have to have a degree to make crafty art The Hampshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (founded 1950) displayed their four year long project ‘Yurt’ in the Cellar Bar. Instigated as a focus for learning traditional skills, every part of the yurt was hand crafted by members of the guild. The coppiced hazel and willow frame was bound by braids made on an inkle loom using yarn that had been carded, spun and plant-dyed by hand. The sixteen panel covers were wet felted and edged with lucet plaits and the whole was decorated with multi-coloured tassels. The Guild meets every third saturday of the month in Shawford, Hamps and runs workshops in spinning, weaving and dyeing throughout the county.
Unfortunately I did not make it to any of the talks but would very much like to have heard Judy Harman speaking on ‘Growing plants for dyeing’. I am already eyeing up a patch of land not already given over to my veg plot where I’d like to plant madder, hollyhocks, and woad although, as this blog shows amazing results can be achieved just sing onion skins, black beans and red cabbage!
I did make it to the Best in Show room where I found this fantastically cheeky, crocheted tea cosy (the very deserved overall winner in the end) by Michelle Green.
I later found Michelle herself demonstrating spinning by wheel or drop-spindle and selling her hand-painted silk scarves, needle-felted model animals, hand spun and dyed yarns, crocheted hats, waistcoats and corsages. I loved the sheep motif waistcoat being worn by her partner and wondered as I looked at his bushy beard if I handed just seen him somewhere else! A truly multi-talented crafter and member of the Wessex Guild of Craftsmen, Michelle offers stress-free tuition at her home in Sussex in dyeing, crochet, wet-felting, needle-felting, silk-paper making and hand-spinning for just £10/ person/ hour . She also gives talks on The Medieval Housewife, Hand-Spinning through the Ages, The Story of Silk and Natural Dyes. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So that was Unravel 2011. I can’t wait to go again next year. I you like lo support local artisans who source their materials with extensive consideration for quality and planet then craft them with skill into works of art then maybe I’ll see you there too.