So, it will come as no surprise to you that I returned from Edinburgh Yarn Festival with a sizable bag of yarn to add to my stash. With over 80 organisations and businesses all competing for our pennies, my challenge was always going to be limiting my desires to fit my small just-turned-freelance budget. Chief among my treasures are:
But more than yarn, I also returned with friendships both new and renewed. From the moment I arrived at Edinburgh’s Waverley station, the whole day was filled with the warmth and friendliness of knitters from all over the world. I saw people helping each other to get on the right bus and get off at the right stop, keeping lone travellers company whilst queueing to get into the venue, making tricky decisions over yarn, reassuring each other that they hadn’t overspent, returning lost bags and purses – kindnesses innumerable. Before I even crossed the festival threshold I discovered three valiant spinners on a sortie from my home county Suffolk (400 miles away), and two knitters from the county in which I married – Cumbria (150 miles south). Yarn brought us all together in the Scottish capital. Hipsters, pensioners, parents – all ages brought together to celebrate wool. And whilst there were a few men present, the overwhelming majority of festival attendees were women. I asked one man, who had driven his wife 300 miles from John o’ Groats so she could go to the festival, what he thought of it all. He didn’t get much chance to reply: his wife interjected with a piece of wisdom for me as a (relative) newly-wed: ‘You’re got to get your husband trained to bring you, starting now. I’ve been working on John for forty years and he’s just about come good!’
Three people in particular stick in my mind from the many I met at EYF2017. First, Elizabeth Johnston (pictured with me, left) from Shetland Handspun, who was at the festival with her older sister Margaret. ‘I get to boss her around here’, she told me gleefully. Elizabeth and Margaret learned to knit and spin as children too young to remember being taught – ‘slavery, really, it was’ says Elizabeth with a gleam in her eye. I leave her stand with a pattern for ‘Sprigs and Links of Love’ gloves to make from my mini Jamieson & Smith stash, and a fervent hope that I can make it to Shetland for their famous Wool Week in September.
Next I came across Jane (pictured left) from Homefarm Wensleydales in the Cotswolds, a corner of England whose towns were founded on the wool trade. It has taken Jane and her team five years to build up their flock of black Wensleydales to collect enough of this rare breed fleece to have it professionally washed and spun into beautiful undyed 4-ply yarn: I feel lucky to have a skein of it in my sticky mitts! Now to decide what to make with it…
And last, but by no means least, Marsha from Arizona. I quite literally stumbled across Marsha: sitting on the floor, propped up against a sofa, I clumsily negotiated her bags of treasure as we both took a moment to pause and survey the damage (to our bank accounts). Sitting side by side we gleefully shared our prize yarns, and got to talking about the knitting groups we belong to: her in Tucson, me in St Andrews. Her group head to the cool of the Arizona mountains each August for a weekend knit-away, taking plenty of food, yarn, wine – and maybe a little something stronger to aid relaxation. Mine drink prosecco and gin, eat homemade cupcakes and hail from Italy, Hungary, Finland, Brazil and the UK. We’ve never met before but in a few minutes I felt that Marsha would fit right in to our group in Fife, and she’s invited me to join her craft cabal in the States. Here’s to hoping we all meet again before too long!