Woolfest. Woolfest. Woolfest. I love Woolfest. It was the first knitting show I worked at with p/hop and I love the way you can see the whole process from sheep to sweater in one show. This year I roped (should that be woolled?) MSF’s web intern Nick into coming with me.
While Nick isn’t a knitter, I think the fumes from all the yarn on my desk have infiltrated his brain, plus he hadn’t seen the Lake District. We were planning to camp, however the weekend before Woolfest showed a low of 2C plus ALL THE RAIN was forecast. Luckily my lovely knitting friends came to the rescue with offers of floor space for sleeping on, saving us from hypothermia and saving MSF money.
So on Thursday evening we set off from sunny London in Nick’s car, laden down with our beautiful samples and a couple of thousand knitting patterns and headed north with a cheerful sense of optimism. If only we knew what lay ahead…
After an uneventful journey we arrived at around midnight to find Larissa casting off a Jacqueline Mitt for our display. After a good night’s sleep we headed to Woolfest bright and early to set up our display. We had a rather unusual stand, the milk stand. As we weren’t going to do any milking we had to disguise the milking stalls. The upside was there were lots of places to tie washing line too and drape sheets over, plus Nick is six-foot-a-lot tall, so after a few tweeks and occasional inspiration we converted the stand from this:
to this! Ta daaaaa!
The space worked really well as we could fit two tables into the space, which we needed as we’ve now got over 40 patterns.
Its always interesting to see which patterns ‘sell’ at shows. The shawls and mittens are always popular, though the samples make a huge difference. BasilBogwoppit (love people’s Ravelry names) dropped off a beautiful pair of Ermintrude Mitts for us to borrow as a sample. As soon as they went on the stand the pattern flew off the table and we’d run out of copies in a couple of hours.
The teeny tiny teddy was also a big hit, which isn’t surprising as they are rather cute. Then there are the flurries of sock knitters who come to the stand, which I can relate to as I’m a rather avid sock knitter. To my shame I hadn’t brought any of my own hand-knit socks with me and I really could have used a pair as by the end of Friday the show was rather nippy. The storms that had been forecast had arrived and we could see sideways rain lashing across the car park, the continual river sound on the roof of the Livestock Centre and the wind howling through the aisles. Luckily fibre-folk are made of stern stuff and plenty of people came to the show. I was pleased we weren’t camping.
After a good first day Nick and I headed into Cockermouth, sampled some excellent Cumbrian beer as well as chatting with some interesting locals, had dinner and met up with other stall holders. We were staying with my friend Larissa in the cottage she had hired for the week, halfway between Kendal and Cockermouth in a lovely little village called Thornthwaite.
As we drove back along the A66 we discovered the first turn-off to Thornthwaite was closed due to the road now being a river. No problem we thought, we just carry along the A66 to the next turn-off. That easy drive became rather exciting/worriesome when the A66 became a lake. The rain was driving down hard and while I was tempted to open my passenger door to see how high the flood water was I was pretty sure that would let water into Nick’s car. After a seemingly endless slow slow crawl through deep water, our fingers crossed, with Nick’s car juddering forward, we came out of the flood. Luckily the second road into Thornthwaite was fine so we collapsed into Larissa’s cottage in a nervous heap. I was pleased we weren’t camping.
Needless to say we all slept well.
On Saturday morning we were ready to leave the cottage to head to Woolfest when we spotted a river, coursing down the side of the hill, that hadn’t been there the day before. On further inspection there had been a landslide just down the road (the only way out) and the road was now a river, complete with mud and tree debris. Nick was very MSF, put his wellies on and went out to help clear the landslide. It turned out the course of the new river was beneficial as it was stopping people’s homes from flooding, so the decision was made to leave the road blocked, with no plans to clear it until Sunday. WE WERE STUCK. We were also without a phone signal or internet. Imagine, four Londoners stuck without twitter! The horror, the horror!
Luckily text messages worked so I sent word to Jane and Natalie and hoped they would be able to set up the stand at Woolfest. I only had a pair of flip-flops and a pair of plimsoles (I’ve spent too long in London and lost my Northern common sense) so I was neither use nor ornament. While we were short of food (we had an egg, a tiny chunk of cheese and a portion of porridge between four of us) the neighbours were lovely and we weren’t going to starve, so I settled down to knit. I’d knit about one row when Nick came bounding in saying “the road’s been cleared”. Excellent news! We could even see the top of Skiddaw across the valley. We had an adventure-free drive to Woolfest, checked on Jane and Judith who had done a brilliant job of getting the stand up-and-running, and wolfed down a delicious Cumbrian breakfast in the Woolfest cafe.
The rest of Saturday went well, the weather was better than Friday and those of us who had been affected by the weather compared stories. I was pleased we hadn’t camped!
In the evening we stayed with the lovely Guild of Longdraw Spinners, introducing Nick to another realm of fibre-fanatic with talk of spinning styles and crimp. We walked into town, sampled a different type of Cumbrian ale, and taught Nick how to knit. Again, we had an encounter with an “interesting” local, who was fascinated by our knitting. He’d sampled rather a lot of Cumbrian ale and took to patting me on the head while I knitted. No really, he did. He also wanted a go. The thought of a lively young man wielding DPNs in a cosy pub was to much to bear so we managed to distract him and he went on his merry way. In the meantime Nick mastered the sticks.
The rest of our stay was relatively uneventful, aside from Nick trying the Cockermouth delicacy of curry with cheesy topping. On Sunday we drove back south via a visit to the pencil museum in Keswick which I’ve always wanted to visit (yes, I have another obsession) and got to see some Lakeland scenery.
Now for the important stuff: We raised a fantastic £906.44 at Woolfest! BIG THANK YOU to Woolfest for donating our stand, everyone who helped on our stand, Nick, Larissa, Heather and the Guild of Longdraw Spinners, and Jane and Judith for leaping into the breach when we were stuck behind a landslide. £906.44 will buy 3124 packets of Plumpy Nut, a is a nutritional supplement used to treat child malnutrition. That’s a lot of kids we’ve helped. Nice work fibre-folk!