Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Yarn Shows That I Love

For a few weeks now, I have been wanting to write about what type of yarn shows I enjoy and why. Oddly, I found it difficult to put into words until I came across a tweet that clarified for me why some excite me while others simply don't.

You may have been to Yarndale or Shetland Wool Week recently so I hope you can tell me why you enjoy them, too. Yarndale is on my list of shows to visit one day and it is definitely one of the good ones that I don't want to miss out on.

The first show

Now, I was quite spoiled by my first ever wool show, which was the last ever Fibre Fest. It wasn't that far from me and I loved the day out and discovered so many wonderful sellers I hadn't even heard of before. Going to such a show opens your eyes to what is available out there and most of the wares won't be in your standard wool shops. So this was quite an exciting experience and I think back fondly of making my own batt with Wrigglefingers, buying my first two spindles, eating seabuckthorn ice cream (I had no idea what that even was at that point - other than delicious), and having a very random, though lovely chat with a fellow knitter as I rested my feet.

The Knitting and Stitching Show, by comparison, is a completely different animal. It has a far more commercial air about it, there are fewer independent vendors and the show is not about fibre and its origins, primarily - even if you focus solely on the knitting side of things.

A close-knit family

What I like about Wonderwool, Fibre Fest and Edinburgh Yarn Festival is that the atmosphere is much friendlier and personal. The majority of visitors who go to these particular shows seem to know the vendors and other visitors. There is a closer relationship and the emphasis lies not on the buying (although of course it is important), but the experience. We want to get to know the people who supply us with yarns, dyes, accessories and tools. We want to hear how the product has been made, where the materials are from. The vendors are easy to speak to and usually small business owners, often one-person businesses. You can feel you matter to them and your purchase makes a difference.

The Knitting and Stitching Show is anonymous. It is big, with ample opportunity to spend money, but it's not as much fun or as exciting or varied. Will you find something unique? Probably not. Will you easily find the same products in shops? Absolutely. And you would never see sheep or alpacas there, I'd wager! 

What do you look for in yarn shows? Which is your favourite and are there some you hope to get to one day?


  1. I completely agree with you about the knitting and stitching show. Very commercial. I'm going to the Harrogate show with my daughter in November, but more for the exhibitions than the shopping. I'll be doing that at Bakewell Wool Gathering this month. It's small and friendly and two of my favourite sellers will be there plus lots of other new to me, relatively local, vendors. No Yarndale for me this year, but friends from my knitting group went and I'm looking forward to hearing about it at our next meeting.

    1. Enjoy the Wool Gathering! The name alone already appeals to me and sounds like it will be a lovely show.

      I suspect that the Knitting and Stitching Show, due to its commercial nature, is the only show that can actually make it in London. The shows I like would be completely out of place there. The rural setting of many shows is just perfect - and you get to see livestock in many cases, too.

  2. I love the smaller shows; each has it's own personality. They are far more focused on working with independent designers, dyers, spinners and wool producers, some of whom only sell at their local shows. I've been to Wonderwool and Yarndale this year and loved both.

    I love the exhibitions at the Knitting and Stitching Shows; the quality of the work on display is fantastic and I always leave inspired and itching to create. However, most of the exhibitors I like don't go; the cost of renting a stall, travel, accommodation and food for several days makes it too expensive.

    Next on my list to visit is The Big Textile Show. I'm going to have a small exhibition and a stall, so wish me luck, I've rather a lot to do this month!

    1. Good luck! I do not envy you. Shows are a lot of work and so exhausting. I hope all goes well.

      Thank you for your comment and your own point I view. I fight that the cost of being on London of course makes the show difficult for many of our favourite vendors to attend. Very good point.

  3. That is so interesting, your reflections on various fiber festivals! I don't go to many- we don't have a lot of them in the Toronto area, just one a year and it's usually the same suspects over and over again, and it's indoors so has that convention hall feel to it. I love the idea of an outdoor one with farm animals!

    1. The one you mention sounds a bit like the Knitting and Stitching show. I do like an outdoor show, but many are also indoors - though that might mean they are in a large barn or agricultural auction centre. I like the variety a lot.