Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Wonderwool 2015 in Wales

Two weekends ago I visited Wonderwool (and Wales) for the first time. Wonderwool is an annual wool and natural fibre festival held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. We rented a remote cottage - surounded by sheep - outside Builth Wells with some friends, and spent a couple days visiting the festival and other sights in the area. The weather was supposed to be atrocious, but in fact we enjoyed mostly blue skies.

View from our cottage

I have been to many yarn and craft shows around the country, so was slightly worried that I wouldn't find anything new and exciting. In fact, my first purchase was from Uppingham Yarns, one of the bulk wholesalers that are a fixture at these shows. I picked up 550 grams of shetland for £16.50 - enough to knit a dress, so a great deal, but not particularly exciting.

Rummaging through yarn bins

I was also delighted to encounter one of my favourite new finds from the last show I attended - Namolio, which I think mostly carries Estonian yarns and notions. Last time I purchased her striped wool yarn, this time I went for the lovely Italian linen lace.

Linen lace for my summer knitting schedule.

But fear not, with a show as large as Wonderwool, there are sure to be things you haven't encountered before. I was quite taken with the Triskelion booth, selling hand-dyed yarns from Wales. Even though I'm trying to buy less merino, I had to get a skein of the Gwyn fingering weight, because it contained merino from the Falklands, and I'm a sucker for yarn from new geographic locations.

Triskelion in lovely jewel tones

Speaking of new locations, there was the Midwinter Yarns booth selling Finnish yarn, familiar from our trip to Helsinki. I still have some yarn left over from that trip, so couldn't justify buying more, but I couldn't resist a couple of skeins of Greenland yarn. Because who's ever seen yarn from Greenland before?

Very wooly Greenland wool

I was even more excited by my next find, Whistlebare from Northumberland. Their yarn is spun from Mohair and Wensleydale raised on their farm and hand-dyed in a gorgeous range of colours. My favourite fibres from one of my favourite parts of the country! Both Mohair and Wensleydale are high lustre fibres that take on colour well, so the two of them together multiply the effect and create beautiful, shiny yarn.

So many beautiful colours to chose from!

By this time, just as I was running low on cash, I encountered my best find of the whole festival, Propagansey's stall of gansey (or guernsey) jumpers and wool.

Gansey's are patterned jumpers, tightly knit on small needles with tightly spun yarn - the better to clothe the fisherman who traditionally wore them. The stall was hung round with old gansey jumpers, which were so inspiring I had to buy enough Frangipani 5-ply Guernsey for my own jumper (or possibly even a dress). I picked up a book of traditional Gansey patterns on our trip to Cornwall last summer, which I will use for ideas. I'm getting to the point where I can knit sweaters without a pattern, so I'll go off-piste for this one.

Sadly we neglected to get a picture of the stall, but this pinterest board has a nice selection of old and contemporary gansey knits.

Finally, to avoid leaving the impression that wool festivals only contain yarn (there's also lots of fibre for spinners!), I'll leave you with a final image of a woolly creation from Rosemary's rag rugs, selling ingenious little felted trivet kits.

Stay tuned for the next blog, when I'll discuss my plans for all this new yarn!