The Faces of Wool
Last weekend we ventured north to the 4th annual Edinburgh Yarn Festival on a yarn pilgrimage to put faces and names together of some of the wonderful wool businesses we follow and admire from afar.
The show packed to the rafters with wool lovers who’d made the same journey, with many from the US, Scandianvia and mainland Europe – proving the pull of real wool is irresistible!
Gorgeous yarn aside, by far the best part of the whole experience was meeting the people behind these independent, creative businesses who have such a passion for wool.
We loved chatting to each and discovering their stories, inspirations and plans for the future.
Shetland Wool Week – we met Gudrun Johnston, this year’s patron, and admired her wonderful slouchy Bousta beanie. The pattern for the Bousta Beanie is now available online at www.shetlandwoolweek.com where they’ve just announced Gudrun’s patronage along with dates for this year’s events which take place across Shetland from Sept 23rd to October 1st.
Carmen, owner of A Yarn Story
A Yarn Story is a Bath based yarn shop that sells a stunning array of yarns from brands like Hedgehog Fibres, Julie Asselin and more. ‘Edinburgh Yarn Festival is such a well curated show with something for everybody’ says founder/owner Carmen.
Julie Asselin yarn sold by A Yarn Story
Garthenor, a family business based in Wales selling organic British yarn sourced from Garthenor’s own flock and yarn from other organic farms from around the UK.
Jonny and Sally from Garthenor
Ardalanish is primarily a farm on the Isle of Mull. They rear Highland cattle and Hebridean sheep, and since 2011 have run a mill on site which processes the wool from their own flocks, this has expanded to take in wool from elsewhere on the island.
They brought little sample boxes of the most amazing tweed woven in their mill. Their website is great, you can find out lots more about their farming life, the production process behind the cloth and yarn, and most importantly, shop a small but lovely collection of products for person and home!
Monica, weaver at Ardalanish Mill
Victoria says that the EYF represents a perfect, once a year opportunity, to make a creative showcase for her brand and in the weeks running up to the show her small team spend many hours dying, stock taking, photographing and preparing for two days of being dashed off their feet.
We loved meeting Victoria and learning a little of the story behind her business.
Sue James and Suzi Park of Cambrian Wool.
Cambrian Wool is a Community Interest Company (CIC) which is not only to selling a stunning range of Welsh knitting yarn and small batch production tweeds inspired by the wild and rugged beauty of the Cambrian Mountains, but is also actively engaged in creating education programmes to retain vital skills in the Welsh wool industry.
Cambrian Wool has been part funded by, and continues to be extensively supported, by The Cambrian Mountain CIC which our Patron, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales initiated in 2008. A lot more information about the Cambrian Wool story is available on their website – worth a look.
The story behind social enterprise, Uist Wool is equally fascinating – it’s taken the dedicated team seven years to bring their yarn to market and they launched a collection at the festival they describe as “elemental yarn for inventive minds and creative hands’.
We love this statement and there is something about their undyed yarn that’s uniquely appealing – the natural colours and textures are just so lovely close up.
The beauty is in the detail of these incredible yarns, all sourced locally on the Outer Hebrides from flocks of Zwartbles, Hebridean and Cheviot sheep that dot the landscape.
Here is Maddie, one of the mill’s engineers with Hazel, the Mill Manager.
From undyed wool from the remote Outer Hebrides to the eyepopping Merino / silk blends hand-dyed in Helen’s Walthamstow Wool Kitchen, whose stand was rightly rammed with knitters trying to choose between a dizzying array of colour combo’s.
Ange Sewell of Weftblown was one of the contributors to the Wool BnB at last year’s Wool Week, and it was great to catch up with her and see brand new throws and blankets at the show which are inspired, as ever, by the changeable skies of her West Kilbride home.
Ange was also selling Louët, Schacht and Glimåkra wheels and looms at the show and we loved watching her spinning.
For Ange EYF represents the opportunity to grow her brand internationally thanks to its overseas visitors.
We dropped into see Marie Wallin, one of the UK’s most respected textile designers, and to admire the incredibly intricate Fairisle throw Marie used to dress her stall with.
Marie runs regular Fairisle knitting workshops which, along with her kits, can be found via mariewallin.com
Di Gilpin showing us her wool leggings. They are amazing and we want some! Di’s Lalland lambswool is spun in Scotland but finished in Yorkshire at Laxtons, you can buy this along with many of her patterns on her website.
Rachel Atkinson from Daughter of a Shepherd, above, who was selling beautiful Zwartbles/Hebridean blend yarn with all sorts of notions, sheepy accessories and her lanolin-rich Farmers Handcream.
Yarn shade cards always catch our attention – this was from the Jamiesons of Shetland stall.
Devonia is a new range by Devonshire spinner John Arbon Textiles. What an ingredients list!
Sue Blacker, with the new Samite yarn.
Blacker Yarns were launching the new Samite yarn range which is comprised of 30% Blue Faced Leicester, 40% Shetland and 10% Gotland wool from Sue Blacker’s own flock. To this 20% Ahimsa cruetly free silk is added. There are 15 colours in the collection, all inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, and you can read about its development in a lot more detail on the Blacker Yarns blog here.
Thanks to Mica and Jo at Edinburgh Yarn Festival for being so welcoming, and special thanks to the exhibitors who took time out of their busy day to join us in a bit of wool chat.
All photography by Laura Meek for The Campaign for Wool Ltd.
If you were exhibiting at the show and would like any of these images for non-commercial purposes only we’re happy to share. Drop us a line.