Wonderwool 2016

Wonderwool, one of the UK’s biggest fibre shows, was last Sunday and it was an absolutely beautiful day for an adventure into Wales.

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Royal Welsh Showground

There were over two hundred exhibitors at the show, which was held at the Royal Welsh Showground. The advantage of the location was that, despite the crowds of fibre enthusiasts, there was plenty of space to walk around and you weren’t at risk of getting mown down if you stopped to look at anything.

There were workshops to try various crafts, but as is the case with most of these shows, they’d all sold out far in advance. Many stallholders were doing live demonstrations throughout the day and there were ample opportunities to try out some fancy drop spindles and wheels. Another feature of the day was the mysterious ‘Sheep Walk’, which I had assumed would involve parading some of the very grumpy sheep around, but actually turned out to be a wool-based fashion show. Missed that clever bit of naming!

Since I’ve been dyeing and spinning my own yarn, it has become a lot easier to resist buying several kilograms of fibre. However, occasionally I do see something so exceptional that it somehow, accidentally, ends up becoming part of the ever growing stash.

I’d been considering picking up a lazy kate, as they are useful for not just bobbin storage but very handy for putting thread spools on when I’m winding the base maris for stitching temaris. When I saw this Kromski upright lazy kate at the Spin Wise stall, I was taken with just how nice it looked. My wheel is a single drive Ashford Traveller but the bobbins fit easily on the Kromski lazy kate as the standard Kromski bobbins are longer than the Ashford ones. Ashford kit is incredibly functional and usually a good price but often falls a bit short on the form.

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There’s no point buying new bobbins unless you’ve got some extra fibre to spin on them. These were all purchased at Wingham Wools stand. I don’t really like knitting with merino and life is too short to spin anything but silk, so these are all destined for wet or needlefelting projects. There are some sneaky sample packs of cashmere and camel to have a play with as well…

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Hilltop Cloud was a stall that caught my eye with the most gorgeous arrays of graduated silks and wools. I couldn’t leave without this lovely mulberry silk brick, with its array of blacks and purples, as well as a handy thread sizer to use while spinning, which will come in useful in the endless quest for more even yarns.

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Much in the way of a true fibre junkie, the sample pack of cashmere from Wingham had me thinking far too hard about the possibilities of some silk/cashmere blends. It didn’t take long until I caved and ended up with a much bigger bag of the white stuff. This really is lovely quality cashmere and the dyed samples looked fantastic as well. I can also write it off as a charitable deed as Qaria, the supplier, are a social enterprise running projects in Afghanistan on how to prepare and spin cashmere fibres as a means of providing employment.

Speaking of crafting for charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was selling various amigurumi sea critters to raise funds outside of the most interesting crochet construction I have ever seen. The tent was composed of huge blankets, all made of patchwork squares and decorated with various bits of sealife, including this amazing beach scene. There were even ‘life size’ fishmen and mermaids at one entrance. It was big enough you would walk through and see ‘underwater’ life, complete with a very grumpy looking shark! Incredible what you can do with probably several hundred kilos of yarn.

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It might have been a fibre fair, but there was a lot to appeal to embroiders as well. I came across Oliver Twist’s Fibres at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show and was entranced by their stand, which is always a magnificent cacophony of colour. Although they didn’t have any silk gimp, I was able to get some rayon gimp, which I will be dissecting to see how it was constructed for spinning my own. I picked up some of the sparkle viscose ribbon as well, which looks highly metallic without having the horrible scratchiness of most metallic threads. That is destined for a very special temari.

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My love of all things sparkly and shiny mean that these fantastic dichroic glass buttons could escape my attention. They’re rather difficult to photograph but I think they would set off some black fabric very nicely and my current idea is to use them for a waistcoat. Little Gem Felt’s buttons are currently only available for sale at shows only but hopefully will be online soon.

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It wouldn’t be a craft show without hordes of cats and crocheted or felted kitties make ideal presents for the crazy cat demographic in your life. The two knitted cats and associated kit (in the most fantastic organza bag) are from Katy Jane Creations.  The instructions are very clear and detailed, but might not be prescriptive enough for complete beginners. In a testament to good customer service, she did look all over the show for me when she realised I’d bought a demo kit which didn’t include them! A cat-related felting kit from Black Dog and Ginger Cat included some plasters as well – a cute touch that says something about the inevitability of drawing blood when it comes to needlefelting.

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One of my favourite surprises at Wonderwool was a number of temaris stitched by the ladies at the Ceredigion Guild of Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing. All the threads are handspun as well and I love the bright, cheerful colour schemes they’ve used.

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Another highlight of the day was the catering. There was a good range of food (even curry!) and excellent cakes and ice cream. The Millionaire’s shortbread from Love Patisserie comes particularly recommended as well as the salted caramel ice cream from Llanfasdairy Dairy. Definitely a healthy way to spend the day.

Overall, Wonderwool made for a great day out. There was a great, relaxed atmosphere to the show and nothing beats the chance to get your hands and nose in the fibre. I had the opportunity to speak to a lot of different people about how they made their work as well, which is incredibly valuable, and I am always so impressed by how generous people are with their expertise. Hopefully a show to visit again next year.

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4 thoughts on “Wonderwool 2016

  1. Sounds like you had an amazing time! I was sorry I didn’t get to go, but I too was vending (in London). On the other hand, considering all the pretties you mentioned, my wallet probably thanks me 🙂

    I loved the idea of adding plasters to the felting kit 😀 I might think about that – the last one I sold was in a craft fair, to a teenager who began felting right at the event; he came back a couple of hours later with a sore thumb, having already stabbed himself…

    What will you make with the mulberry silk brick? Lovely colours.

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    • Your wallet is probably doubly grateful if you were working instead. Are there any London-based craft events you would particularly recommend? It’s always nice to find somewhere interesting to go.

      I think it might even be worth including multiple plasters… Or can you make/sell the finger guards to go with your felting kits too? I’m surprised how few people I see selling them but I think in some nice colours or with some funky stitching they could be quite cool.

      I’m currently not sure about the brick, I was thinking of making some laceweight for a shawl and perhaps Navajo plying it, although that will mean spinning rather fine. I’d like to keep the same colours adjacent and that seems the easiest way but if you have any ideas, I’d be very grateful for any suggestions.

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      • Oh yes, not spending and getting to make some money means a happy wallet!
        There’s quite a lot of events in London, what types of wares were you looking for? I wish there were more fibre-based fairs around here…
        Hm, I think finger guards aren’t very popular because you lose a lot of sensitivity when using them, which means you don’t have as much fine motor skills. I’d still think plasters and a Good Luck note would be better 😀
        Your silk brick plans sound great! I think it’s a good idea to keep the colours fairly separate because they’re quite dark and might get muddled up if not. I do wonder however if it’d look good fractal spun…

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