Monday, 29 April 2013


I woke up on Saturday having been giddy with excitment all week : finally time for Wonderwool Wales!
My favourite woolly, yarny event - I love it for the wealth of independent dyers and producers who attend (and the lack of big commercial ones), for its focus on Welsh and British wool and the showcase it offers to our local weaving and spinning guilds. I also really appreciate the setting at the Royal Welsh Showground which is at the heart of Welsh sheep trading, so going there to buy yarn feels like coming full circle.
It also helps that it is set in the Brecon Beacons National Park which makes for a stunningly scenic drive up.

Storey Arms valley
picture borrowed from Google Images - I was driving, my passenger
was having vertigo...
I had the good fortune to be travelling with my friend Machelle from Chopped Tomatoes , a mind who thinks alike and does a double take when she spots signs for Farmers Markets along the way. There was one such sign at the entrance of the small town of Brecon, and as impatient as we were to get to the show, we still decided that a small town market (and flea market!) on such a beautiful sunny morning would be perfection.
We arrived,  Machelle who is a city girl marvelled at the cheap parking (50p! for a whole hour!) and emerged from a little alley and straight onto Bobbins - a charming haberdashery and patchwork shop. The lady there was really friendly and chatty - I even bought a piece of fabric to maybe make a project bag with. (I do sew, but not very well or patiently...)

After a quick wizz around the flea market and some lovely cheese from the farmers section, we ploughed on and arrived in Builth at 11am - only an hour after opening time but to a rammed full parking lot! This was a good sign though: last years show suffered from some really unfortunate weather and there had been grumblings from exhibitors so I was happy to see so many people attending.
That said, all these eager shoppers caused a bit of a problem when we first got to the show - the inability to see any of the actual yarns! Between the packed stalls, keeping track of eachother, looking for the rest of our knitting group, looking for people I needed to meet up with and keeping up with the shopping lists my mother was texting me, I just didn't know where to start at all!
We peeled of for our traditional knitting group lunch and a chance to organise my thoughts.

The idea is to make or bake things at home for sharing
I'm looking at you, tesco sandwiches and coke at the back ;p

The afternoon was lovely - I went and made friends with the sheep and explored a lot of fibres which really inspired me to spend more time with my spinning wheel. I spent a long time amongst the splendid colours at the Oliver Twist stall. I also spent a long time explaining how my Holst cardigan works as so many people were stopping me about it (more on that later).

The impossibly tidy-looking Poll Dorsets
A Gotland sheep, who didn't ask me for the pattern for my sweater 

In the end I had collected a nice little selection of fibres, from the barely house-trained Half-A-Sheep-In-a-Bag to some exquisite pure cashmere. And then it struck me: apart from things bought for friends and family, I had not bought a single skein of yarn for myself. Not one hank! It's tricky being a dyer and a shopper at the same time, there is always a niggling feeling of having a house full of yarn, and many of us use similar kinds of base yarns. Nonetheless, I refused to leave the show without something for me! I took several increasingly frantic rounds through the stalls looking for that unique hank to speak to me. My friend had given up and sat down for coffee and behind her sat a lady crocheting in the most amazing, deep, warm orange yarn. I asked her where she'd got it from and she did say she'd bought the last of that colour, but it was a stall that I hadn't quite paid too much attention too so I felt it worth another look. It paid off : I took down the details I needed for the orange yarn and found an unusual blend of wool and seacell fibre which I hadn't yet tried for my special yarn from the day. It sounds silly, but choosing an actual yarn just made the day feel complete for me.

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