Monday, 29 September 2014

Festival goer

Massive crowds, long queues for portaloos, a everyone there a massive fan: festivals are as much a fixture of the year as Wimbledon or the Proms. But you can keep for Glastonburys and your Reading festivals; the one for me is Yarndale.

Last year I blogged about the first ever festival of all things woolly and yarn-related in the beautiful Yorkshire town of Skipton. This year, the team of 5 behind the event learnt from last year's successes and glitches to stage a show that was bigger, better organised and still remained incredibly friendly and welcoming.

My Very Excellent Mate Rachel and I went to Skipton by train, then caught the courtesy bus to the show grounds. The lovely old Routemaster with its jaunty bunting was a lovely way to travel.   As we pulled up and saw the queues to get in, I felt a little smug about buying tickets in advance so we could just saunter past them all.

Our carriage approaches!
About 100 yards of people queueing
Last year's bunting filled the halls and decorated a cafe area, but the wall of crocheted mandalas sent in by over 1100 fans of the Attic 24 blog was the eye-catching exhibit this year. They were fantastic. I wish I could have shown you them all but my photo of them turned out blurry - I guess I was jostled as I took it.  I guess that shouldn't be a surprise to me. For the first 3 hours we didn't so much walk around the displays as get swept along by the tide of people cramming the venue to bursting.

The problems of last year - not enough toilet facilities, nowhere near enough catering, nowhere to sit - were much improved. Lots of portaloos, a new large cafe area and some stall spaces left empty except for chairs so there was a place to sit and eat sandwiches or just rest aching feet. 
Rach said it was crucial we had tea and cake at some point during the day. We passed so many little cafes and tea shops on the bus up to the grounds, but knew they'd be closed by the time we left the festival. Despite her intentions, when we got to the front of the cafe queue in the venue itself it was the locally made pork pies that had her waxing lyrical. It was one of those "didn't know you'd missed them until you had them again" moments - a proper, hand made pork pie with wonderful pastry.
(I'm taking her word for it. I don't eat meat. The custard tart was nice, though)

One of my favourite things about Yarndale is how lovely the people are. A stallholder called Jo taught me how to crochet without needing a foundation chain. That will mean nothing to most of you but to me it means I can tackle loads of projects I'd shied away from because I am RUBBISH at foundation chain crochet. I am very grateful to Jo for taking 5 minutes to show me until I understood how to do it myself.
I bumped into the teacher of my NCT antenatal class from 15 years ago, a woman I took sugar craft courses alongside and a former neighbour.  we hailed each other like long lost mates, all caught up in the friendliness and enthusiasm of the day.

Jo Speckley from the lovely Baa Ram Ewe spent ages with Rachel helping her choose the ideal yarns for a very gorgeous and adventurous scarf. Rach now knows precisely what she wants for Christmas from her family. I love the colours of the Titus yarns nearly as much as I love the names - eccup, chevin, aire...

While Rach shopped, I did a workshop on advanced crochet booked months ago. Finding myself rows and rows behind the others in the the workshop after 10 minutes, I had an urge to scuttle out in embarrassment. I wasn't a complete beginner but perhaps trying 'advanced' was sheer chutzpah on my part.  However,  it wouldn't be in keeping with the spirit of Fearlessly Attempting things to give up. I was clearly the duffer of the bunch but with perseverance I learnt some fab new stitches and feel confident I could do them again. 
What was particularly lovely was the effort and thoughtfulness of the tutor, Maureen, in hand-making each one of us a Work in Progress bag to keep the project in - complete with french seams, beaded drawstring and a little lavender sachet to stop our yarn getting musty. The bags had yarn, patterns and a crochet hook in as well. It was fab of her. 

When we met up again, Rach took me to a stall with knitted knickers as bunting and a fantastic pair of fingerless gloves with 'tattoos' on them. I also loved the shawl/scarf in bright triangles. Fellow Yarndale fans on Facebook tell me it's a pattern called Wingspan. I'd love to try it.

I loved this collection of tiny needle-felted birds that charmed all my kids when they saw the photo. That small lad's hand reaching out to them on the photo was typical - no one could resist touching them.

Actually, that's another striking aspect of the day. It's a tactile overload. The yards were so soft or luxurious or scratchy - we shopped by feel just as much as by eye. Some of the fine carded wool was so soft and snuggly you longed to surround yourself in it and fall asleep - what a cloud would feel like if dreamt by a child. I bought some beautiful and very expensive merino and silk mix yarn in lace weight (that means very fine) as a present for Mark's mum. She wanted to make a shawl and asked me to keep an eye out for something special.  It felt so lovely it almost seems a shame to do anything other than stroke it. I think it will knit up beautifully.

For myself I bought a much cheaper yarn to attempt a crochet pattern I admired and a kit to make a hooked rug Christmas stocking from Hooked By Design. I'd admired the kits she had last year but had run out of money. I was determined to keep enough cash on one side to buy one this year. I also picked up a pleasingly dinky tin of pins from The Stitch Society. Their gorgeous attention to detail in packaging and a shared dislike for cutesy embellishments had Rachel and I hankering after most of their stuff. Some teal merino and silk yarn from the Mrs Moon stall was to die for, but they hadn't got it in stock, only made up in a shawl on their display.

It's a good job Yarndale works on cash only - I spent all I'd brought right down to my last £1. Had I been able to use a credit card we'd have needed a new mortgage to cover it.

Obviously it would be madness to go to Yarndale and not say hi to Lucy from Attic 24. It must be weird to find yourself such a celebrity at the event you've organised. There was a queue to speak to her some of the time.  Every time we passed the Knit and Natter lounge I could see she was surrounded by people. She was friendly, welcoming and interested in people. I expect she'll sleep for a month and be a hermit to recover after such intense socialising. It must be absolutely exhausting.

 Rachel and I stayed at Yarndale to the very end. Then we walked back to Skipton along the Yarn Walk in the evening sunshine, charmed by wild rabbits grazing, a hot air balloon drifting though the trees and a park decked out with bunting, yarn-bombed bikes and lampposts, and brightly crocheted signs.

See you next year, Yarndale!


  1. Lovely, lovely. Thanks for sharing your day. I spent hours there but still missed loads!Great photos. x