I had a truly lovely time at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and thought you might enjoy seeing some of my snaps from the weekend. If you would like a SONIK version of events, my friend Louise Scollay of the Knit British Podcast recorded us speaking about the festival just after it was all over, and you can hear that here!
My weekend began with a train journey during which I was attempting to weave in many ends on my Missy Elliott Sweater.
I was fortuitously sat opposite Kirsten Kapur who recognised my knitting from instagram! I have admired Kirsten’s designs ever since I espied the wondrous Ulmus pattern, and I truly loved her work for the Shepherd & Shearer project. How wonderful to share a journey speaking about designing and knitwear, about sheep, about creativity and art school, about colours and patterns.
By the time I got to Edinburgh, many ends were woven in on Missy. The sweater kept me REALLY HOT all weekend and came with the added bonus that whenever I was wearing it, I could hear Missy Elliott’s music in my head. The wording on the design says THIS. IS. A. MISSY. ELLIOTT. EXCLUSIVE. with each of the words repeated in its own band and I will be writing more about it in a later post. For now, let us say that I am in love with the lustrous, puffy, steekable Aragon Romney Classic Yarn in which it is worked!
It’s no secret that I deeply love WOOL by which I mean sheepy wool with character and a sheepy smell; non-superwash wool; wool with a traceable provenance; wool that retains its links to land and to farming; wool with roots in specific places. It was the presence of MUCH WOOL LIKE THIS that blew my mind when I first stepped into the marketplace at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival on Friday.
Ten years ago ‘luxury’ yarns were mostly comprised of merino and/or cashmere, perhaps with some silk added. Those fibres certainly have their place but it is heartening and joyous to see the concept of ‘luxury’ broadened to include a more diverse range of wool and fibre types, and to be more connected with concepts of sustainability and durability rather than softness and softness alone. Many stalls at EYF proudly purveyed different sheep breeds’ wool and bespoke blends, presenting a diversity of materials that is hugely enriching from a creative point of view. So many yarns, each with their own personality and back-story; so many textures and tactile experiences for knitters; and so many more sheep breed names and fibre types appearing on ball-bands! These trends definitely point towards designers and makers having a wider variety of materials with which to work; hopefully they also point towards a greater return on labour for the shepherds whose work makes our knitting possible.
With this in mind the only knitting that I took with me to Edinburgh was some yarn from my friend Caro’s sheep, and the wool I was most intent on buying in the EYF marketplace was Rachel Atkinson’s beautiful Daughter of a Shepherd yarn. The back story of this yarn is truly inspiring – Rachel’s father received a grand total of 94p from the British Wool Marketing Board for his wool clip in 2014, prompting Rachel to seek ways of better valuing the wool. She decided to have the 2015 clip combed and spun by John Arbon and the result is a deliciously characterful, hairy, drapey, soft and precious yarn soaked in social history and smelling beautifully of sheep. I love the simplicity and clarity of Rachel’s stand; photos of her father and his sheep, surrounded by shelves covered in slinky dark skeins of joy.
Rachel was sharing a stand with Anna Maltz. Her PENGUIN book brilliantly uses the sheepy shades of Faroese wool to celebrate the plumage of penguins and Diagonapples is perfect for your inner colour-addict. Making use of the enormous palette of available shades of Appletons Old English Crewel Wool, you can choose 40 shades for your version. It was so lovely to see the samples in all their multicoloured glory!
(Anna’s stall also doubled up at times as a creche for Pinglewins and other small accomplices.)
The Shetland Wool Week stand was a joyous place to be! It was brilliant to see many friends from Shetland there, and to espy Ella Gordon – this year’s patron – in a magnificent Crofthoose Yoke sweater of her own design.
Ella makes Crofthoose cushions which celebrate crofting and the knitting – both central to Shetland’s heritage. Like these cushions, Ella’s stranded colourwork designs celebrate Shetland’s history and culture in a way that is engaging, unique and fun. I think Ella has a special talent for bringing historic Shetland knitting to contemporary audiences; if you read her blog, or if you saw her wonderful talk last year with Kate Davies, you will know what I mean. Ella’s Crofthoose hat pattern – designed for Shetland Wool Week – is already proving very popular with knitters and my fingers are itching to cast one on this weekend. You can knit one too!
Friday afternoon culminated in my first workshop of the weekend, The Colours of Edinburgh, for which we were using inspirational photos of Arthur’s Seat taken by Gordon Anderson (who was working on the KDD stand all weekend). I was blown away by the many inventive and glorious ways in which knitters in this class drew inspiration for stranded colourwork from Arthur’s Seat.
On Friday night I went to the Ceilidh and had a glorious time catching up with friends!
To my delight I found myself also meeting many folks whom I’d previously only known online… here’s looking at you Dianna Waller, Sonya Philip, Bristol Ivy, Thea Colman and Co. It was such a joyous, fun and giddy time… let’s do it again soon!
Saturday began with more teaching; this time it was Quotidian Colourwork, with a focus on translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork.
Just look at these interpretations of a Parisian apartment, Birch tree bark and vintage coffee cup…
On Saturday afternoon I also met Mae, who showed me the first of her Magnolia Mitts, worked for the current #knitsonikmittsalong.
It is always very exciting to see what people have made using the KNITSONIK System and I confess to having been perhaps a little bit overexcited to see this MITTSONIK in the wild! However, one of the things that is great about EYF is that nobody bats an eyelid when folk are this happy about a piece of knitting. I can’t wait to see your other mitt, Mae!
I spent some time with Kate on Saturday. Some of you may have heard it already but I am so thrilled about the traceability, provenance and creation story of Buachaille (a 100% WOOL yarn by Kate Davies) that I have written this yarn its own celebratory song. I love what Kate says about wool in the introduction to her book and it seems particularly befitting that this wool should have had its first public show/outing in Edinburgh in Scotland!
Buachaille is the realisation of a long-held dream for me – a yarn with bags of Scottish character, as hardy and beautiful as the landscape from which it hails. The yarn is “raised” in Scotland, but “made” in Yorkshire, and I am very proud that all of Buachaille’s processing was completed within a 10 mile radius of Bradford, the historic heart of the British wool industry. I feel particularly happy that, in all the work involved in Buachaille’s production, from the hill to the mill, it seems to me to embody the very best that British wool can be. I hope you love it just as much as I do.
It was stunning to see the Kate Davies Designs stand with its neat cubbyholes of Buachaille in shades representing the landscape where Kate lives, and to see her sheepy wool and glorious designs being admired and discussed with such love by so many comrades. I really enjoyed hearing all the snippets of discussions taking place about the forthcoming Haps book and meeting Roslyn Chapman and Jean Miles who are some of the folk whose stories, memories and research have informed Kate’s investigations for this forthcoming tome. I love Kate’s patterns for their colours and form, but what makes Kate’s work distinctive is the context and history with which she contextualises her designs. I just know the Haps book is going to be amazing.
Saturday evening saw more internet friendships becoming real ones; fantastic conversations over dinner with Åsa Tricosa and Melanie Berg followed by more late night chats with Woolly Wormhead and many other comrades gathered together for the festival. What a happy time! Alas, I have no photos, but thanks to everyone for that wonderful night!
More teaching on Sunday, beginning with Colours of Edinburgh. It was a smaller space so harder for taking lots of photos, but I think this temporary exhibit of swatches above gives some sense of the diversely creative approaches. I particularly like the way this very soft pink shades breaks up the greys in the swatch, exactly as it does in the stones…
How fantastic is the range from very graphic interpretations to softly shaded ideas, and how amazing it is to see the different ways in which folk used Gordon’s photos for inspiration.
After lunch, another Quotidian Colourwork class, and some lovely translations of everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork…
I spent Sunday evening catching up with Nadine – whose piece on the Coburg Fox Sheep you may remember from Wovember; and with Mel and Gordon, whose home was a peaceful sanctuary after the amazing busyness of the weekend.
My woolly comrade, the magnificent Louise Scollay, took FANTASTIC care of me in the days after the festival. We did a lot of walking around Edinburgh looking for addresses where Catherine Hogarth (later Catherine Dickens) grew up; I recorded some sounds for my current commission; we planned towards this year’s WOVEMBER; and I had my first ever periscope experience at Ysolda’s flat! In a special episode of Louise’s Knit British podcast, we reflect on our impressions of the festival. Sitting here today, back in my house, I feel EYF this year was a festival like no other; I met so many amazing people in my classes, in the marketplace, round and about in the city, and the whole event felt brim-full of friends. I have come away feeling very lucky to be working in an industry in which there are so many fantastic people. I think Jo and Mica have done something magic with this festival and it was a total honour to be a part of it. As Clara Parkes wrote last year in her lovely review of EYF;
I’d like you to meet Jo and Mica. All year, they’ve been working to prepare this event. While there was never a moment when they didn’t seem in total control, this was not “their” event, which is to say it was not, even for a moment, about them. They weren’t promoting a book or magazine or yarn store or company, they were simply intent on producing an outstanding event. Which they have, in spades.
Thank you to everyone I met, it was so brilliant to see you and I hope we can do it all again next year.
YOURS IN FESTIVALS,