Amazing and overwhelming and wonderful, and completely chock a block full of yarn – and that was just my shopping bag – it must be time to tell you all about Yarndale.
Back before we had children, and even in the early days when parents still outnumbered small people, yarn festivals were a regular part of my year. I learnt sock design and the history of Bohus knitting and bought yarn and fibre and knit and spun my way through the rest of the year in a happy haze induced by cosy toes and the hypnotic slip of wool over needle. And then the children came, and for many years my days were filled with cuddles and nursing, with walks to the playpark, cleaning mysteriously sticky spots from the kitchen floor and trying to balance the unbalanceable while juggling being a wife, a mother, an employee and at the same time not let my creativity burn out through neglect.
There has been knitting and sewing and quilting and writing and pictures because those are the things that restore my soul, but if you’ve been around here a long time, or you’re married to me and you wonder why all the socks in your drawer have holes in them, you’ll know that I’m nowhere near as prolific a creator as I used to be, and that’s OK. This is my season of mothering tiny people (and the not so tiny anymore) and this time will not come again, but I realised over the summer that in accepting that, and in moving my focus over to parenthood, I’d lost a bit of my connection to the knitting community; I was less sure what everyone was making, or who was emerging as a new dyer, and I missed it, just a little bit.
And into that nostalgia came Yarndale; a chance to take a day just entirely and completely for me, to dive back right into the heart of all things woolly and wonderful and spend a day surrounded by yarn, fluff, sheep, the biggest mandala you’ve ever seen, crochet decorated buses, and above all, friends who wanted to talk about knitting.
I owe it all to John’s aunt; she mentioned it in passing when we were up in Yorkshire in July and I jumped at the suggestion with both hands. By the time September came she’d persuaded another friend recently returned to sticks and string and the three of us set off across an uncharacteristically sunny Yorkshire lured on by the wool fumes and happily discussing circular needles, different yarn weight wpi, everything Ravelry, and a dozen or so things I’ve forgotten already; it was wonderful.
The Auction Mart is set up on the hill outside Skipton and arriving by bus (Rotary Club Park and Ride from the Skipton Building Society for the win!) you get a top deck view of the yarn bombing, the dales away in the distance, and the massive queue snaking away beyond the door. No one was going to arrive late to Yarndale that’s for certain. Fortified by coffee and amazing flapjack from the food van outside we entered the fray. I’d had half a thought of bringing Kitty after she’d enjoyed the quilt show so much but if you’ve ever thought an NEC quilt show busy it’s going nothing on Yarndale first thing on Saturday. There were just so many beautiful things to look at, and so many people to look at them. I’ve always been glad to be tall, and I can’t help but think it a serious advantage to be able to see things and to keep your head out of the crowds for a bit (top tip for next year: if you’re not 6’0″, wear stilts!). I’d think it was because everyone starts at the edges and works up and down the rows but they were all just as busy as each other!
Eventually people started to peter off for lunch and workshops and there was enough room to breathe but I still found even on the third or fourth pass of a row I was seeing new things. I could have spent my pocket money by the end of the first row if I’d tried and, released into the wild after so many years of encountering yarn only in my stash and through a computer screen, I found myself repeating the mantra “sheep are not an endangered species; you do not have to buy all the yarn.”
Really, truly, I didn’t; though a bulging bag of purchases would seem to give lie to that. I hold Kitty responsible; thanks to seven years of concerted growing it now takes an extraordinary amount of yarn to clothe my eldest daughter; we’re so far past the days when three skeins and a weekend would render her a new jumper she’s not that far off the quantities I’d buy for me. And then there was the yarn for a jumper for Elma, and a blanket in the perfect colours for Pip’s room, and some sock yarn form John, and yes, well, I have the next few months well planned and my only challenge is restraining myself from casting on all of the things right now. It’s not going well.
I want to share some of my favourite stands with you, the places I went back to time and time again, but just to give you a little taste of what it’s really like to be at Yarndale, including the fact that I was so overwhelmed by yarn fumes I had complete camnesia for a large part of the afternoon, I made a little film:
What’s funny is that I’ve been happily watching everyone else’s YouTube videos and I can see so many things that I don’t remember at all – next year I think I need to go for both days, I wonder how many pairs of socks I need to knit to convince John to go on a weekend break to Skipton in which he goes off sketching and I go wool shopping?
So, the favourites list (and forgive me if you had a favourite and you can’t believe I’ve left it off – it probably meant that I just couldn’t get to their stand!)
- Devon Sun Yarns – gorgeous bright colours in sock yarn and a little DK; I have a skein of what looks like a pure unicorn rainbow that I’m hiding from the children to make Christmas socks.
- Blacker Yarns – their Black Swan falkland (4ply and DK) passes the small child softness test with ease and based on the sample on the stand it softens even more knit up than in the ball. I have a beautiful bag of turquoise with Kitty’s name on it.
- John Arbon Textiles – why yes, I did go all the way to Yorkshire and make my first three purchases from Westcountry companies, what can I say, blood will out! John Arbon make Knit by Numbers, a soft and fluffy merino that comes in DK and 4ply. The rose pink (in the video) is going to be a jumper for Elma but this would be perfect for fair isle because the yarn is just the right amount of grabby and comes in every colour of the rainbow. They also had fibre on the stand which was worth ordering just to watch it be wound out of the barrels – 200g of Siren will be mine; some assembly required.
- Fig Tree Yarns – branching out as far as the Channel Isles, this company imports yarn from North America and you can spot that colour saturation a mile away; UK dyeing is just a little bit more muted. Gorgeous yarn, gorgeous patterns.
- Janie Crow – a crocheter who needs no introduction; her CAL patterns are legendary and just as stunning in real life; had I not got a hydrangea blanket under construction I would have been seriously tempted.
- Purlescence – they had Kate Davies’ books, Sweet Georgia ombre mini skeins, Fyberspates and Coop Sock – need I say more?
- Gamer Crafting – if you want bright colours and sparkle and Halloween themed yarn, or yarn to make your husband socks that look like a firework explosion, this is where you go.
- Jem Weston – a fellow lover of all things blue, green and yellow I could have moved into her stand it was just that pretty; her books make me want to knit everything and the moody blues blanket called my name. In a year from now Pip will have something amazing to cuddle up with on the end of his bed.
- The Little Grey Sheep – seriously beautiful colours and the Fine Wool passes the softness test; it is a miracle I came away with only a mini skein.
- Mrs Moon – beautiful colours of singles yarn for hats and a scarf pattern that I didn’t buy but must now hunt down over the internet. The baby yarn and patterns makes me wish mine were tiny dots again.
- Ann Kingstone Design – if you were there and saw the program; Ann Kingstone designed the sheep socks on the penultimate page. For everyone else; watch my needles (eventually!)
So who’s going next year?