Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Woolfest 2011


I went, I shopped, I drank a lot of coffee, missed my man and did a lot of driving - 650 miles (ouch)

Worth it? Naturally ☺ So what did I get? Well, some hand-dyed tops from Freyalyn and FSUK, silk brick from Oliver Twist, carding stuffs from Wingham, some yarn from Texere, an Andean plyer from the Mulberry Dyer, a spindle from IST, some tops from P&M Woolcraft (I think) a Kucha Kucha scarf kit and some books. Result.

When I can get some decent daylight I'll take some proper pictures.

Some musings on Woolfest
They really need a bigger venue. I was queuing on the A66 to get in, at 10.30 on Friday...and it was packed inside all morning, you couldn't get near some of the stands.
They also need more places to get a drink and something to eat. The café is very good but simply can't cope with weight of numbers. Their veggie lasagne was darn tasty mind, but they were two hours late with the sausage supper :(

There seemed to be a bit more weaving this year, but no pin looms (Hazel Rose type, shame cause I wanted one), and there seemed to be less hand-dyed yarn and crazy carding / art yarn stuff. I think this is more of a change of emphasis on the part of the organisers rather than a shift in customer taste. The focus seemed to be more on sustainability, pure British wool and natural dyes. Which is all good, but a bigger venue would allow for both camps...

ANYWAY. I wanted to tell you about the book I got - The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.

If you have any interest in wool, sheep, other fibre animals, spinning, weaving, felting or breed history, you need this book ☺ You don't need to be a spinner to find it interesting and informative, though it might turn you into a devoted "from-raw-fleece" spinner! Although it is American (what gave it away??) it covers the British breeds in great detail and explains the differences (where they exist) between American and British varieties of the same breeds. Handily, for most breeds, it shows a lock, one or more spun samples, a knitted swatch and a "weavie" square. For some breeds it shows a colour range too, and has a general description of each type of fibre, e.g. longwools.

For particular favourite breeds they go into more detail. They even touch on the interesting, and not very well-known, fact about commercial "Shetland" yarns - the term only means the wool has all been SOURCED on the Isles, NOT that it is all from Shetland breed sheep. So in theory it can be a mixture of breeds. Not a lot of people know that, and funnily enough, the wool brokers don't make a major point of it ☺

There's some interesting thoughts in the book on Down type breeds, so I thought I'd share my limited experience ☺ I have a Shropshire fleece I'm working with at the moment, and I've also had Oxford Down and Texel, which is not strictly a Down breed but is damn close. I think they're underrated as spinners' fleeces. They have good elasticity and crimp, they wash up easily as they don't seem inclined to felt and they spin up nicely into a bouncy, passably hard-wearing yarn. The downside is finding a decent one - Down sheep are mainly meat breeds, so the shearing is often decidedly utilitarian - second cuts and disorganised shearing are the norm it would appear. They're also often filthy and marked with shepherd's paint. They don't hold onto the yuk as badly as a locky longwool, but they do seem to act like Velcro for bits of the landscape. However once you get it clean, they're easy to process with cards or a drum carder, but you might want to use Viking or mini-combs on one if it has a lot of second cuts. I've even English combed some Texel and it made a lovely, floofy, crimpy top with lots of bounce and airiness. Massive amount of waste though as you'd expect.

So in short, don't ignore the Down breeds! Just don't buy all the good ones before I get there ☺

And now I'll finish off with some more pictures from Woolfest:



Teeny Ouessant sheep

Pitiful-looking alpacas

Some of the Clyde Coast Guild on tour

Innes trying out her new Mayan spinner

Spinning in the Travelodge bar


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