This is the third year that I have attended and feel more 'at home' every year. I have noticed that knitting has a much stronger presence than when I first started attending, and am particularly pleased to see plenty of independent producers selling their own work. Whilst Woolfest will still be the place for spinners and those of us interested in the whole process there was plenty to gladden the hearts and eyes of any knitter here. So, what came home with me?
First some small bags of merino roving in a range of greens for livening up my spinning and trying new techniques in colour play. These are from Knitting4fun who stock a huge range of colours at prices keen enough to encourage experimentation.
I was also seduced by these beautiful hand dyed silk tops from Oliver Twists Threads which I am planning to work into my spinning although they are so beautiful as they are I may just keep them as pets.
Next we have yarn. Not for the first time do I wish that this blog came with an optional 'Feel This' facility as most of the pleasure in these beauties is in their softness. I will have to make do with three words. Hand spun cashmere. This yarn comes from Shilasdair who are based on the Isle of Skye. I bought three 50g skeins, enough to make three pairs of fingerless mitts for Christmas presents although the hard bit will be parting with them. For the quality of the materials, the natural hand dying and the hand spinning I was frankly shocked by the price which was less than half of that of commercially spun cashmere sold in high end knitting shops and this is so much more beautiful.
The Natural Dye Studio has always been a supplier that I have a great admiration for both for the beauty of their products and their ethical values. I had a long conversation with Heidi, the extraordinarily creative and knowledgeable woman at the heart of it and came away inspired and with some new and interesting sock yarns to try; alpaca and silk, alpaca and merino and some good old merino just because it takes up the colours and glows so beautifully. I love the way that these natural dyes whilst quite capable of creating intense colour, also have a complexity and subtlety which is very appealing.
I left my more extravagant and self indulgent acquisition until last. 100g of lace weight quivut. Before anyone goes racing for the smelling salts I will run through my self justification. There is enough here to make a substantially warm but very lightweight scarf. For the price I could have bought less than half the yarn for a Rowan jumper. Lace knitting is time consuming and exacting work so I have bought myself hours and hours of entertainment. Most importantly of all, I can say that I have knitted with quivut. Not only is it beautifully soft, it is dyed on top of its natural brown colour to produce wonderful, rich complex colours - I think I need a lie down now....
Here ends the first installment of my report back from Ally Pally. I have one or two other items to share over the next few days. However, by far the best bit of the event was the chance to talk with really knowledgeable people, catch up with friends old and new and to make connections which will allow me to further challenge myself as a knitter, teacher and designer over the coming months. I have been discussing commissions for two new sock designs and teaching another sock knitting class as well as some very kind offers for supporting the Have You Checked Your Breasts socks so am very glad to have had the opportunity to participate in such an inspiring event.