Category Archives: Craft Fairs


I just realised, with a shock, that poor old Woolwinding has gone untended for ages. So while I am stupidly busy, I thought I’d do a few quickie posts which I could complete easily from my phone or tablet – just, basically, saying that I’m not dead, and neither is Woolwinding…

One of the things that’s keeping me busy is the prospect of summer and the pop-up makers’market in which I participate. As usual, it’s the things which need some sewing that are hanging about, waiting for me to just… just…

decide which fabric is going to make the lining of this felted bag. Classic (if mad) brocade, or the 1980s Collier Campbell?

2015, a year in wool

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and that 2016 proves to be a wonderful year. What more can I say, except for BAAAAA!


(Was tickled by this slightly louche Shetland matriarch, wearing her ear tag like a clubbing accessory)

Now the festivities – and other events – have settled down a bit, I’ve fired up my trusty MacBook Pro for the first time in a few days (never thought an iPad would change my life, but hey ho) and have taken a look through the year’s photographs. Two things struck me: a) that I’d actually fitted quite a bit in, despite being really busy on the work front, and b) that photographs don’t always reflect what’s really happening in your life. Not even if, like a friend of mine who is way too old to know better, you are the world’s most obsessive taker (and, yawn, yawn, sharer) of bad selfies. But I’m going to talk about the knitting which has marked this year out, and not the fact that it’s been bookended with funerals. Plus there’ve been deaths in between – mostly of the older generation, but still.* Back to wool!

I started the knitting year with turquoise, and I’m ending it in the same colour,

admittedly, turquoise with other colours but still unusual enough to be remarked upon.

The wooly highlight had to be another journey north: Shetland, and first stop Jamieson’s in Lerwick as I’d heard great things of the revamped shop. They were all, unfortunately, true. Rats. I just had to spend money. Plus there was the museum and the excellent taatit rugs exhibition, and the Bod of Gremista, from which I think these two shots come,

and what with one thing and another I came back with the makings of a Fair Isle cardigan. It’ll be done when I’ve finished the one currently on the needles (also in yarn bought in Shetland, cough, cough).

My hands have been so much better, and I’ve really enjoyed knitting for things like the Harlech Fibre and Fabric Fair in the summer, where I also got a chance to talk about natural dyes with people. Er, once the Fair was actually open, that is. Prior to that it was a frenzy of sorting out signage and bunting and pricing and labels and craftspeople and people doing the teas and, and, and thank heavens I wasn’t doing it alone. Many thanks to Julie. Many, many, many thanks!


I’m not the world’s most expert dyer – by a long stretch – but I still have the daft enthusiasm that allows me to be fascinated by the fact that rinsing a skein dyed with elderberry in water at a friend’s house – on the wool winder – could have a completely different result when I rinsed the next one at my own place (all the colour leeched out – it was most alarming, but did allow me to overdye the wool).

High summer – we did have one, briefly, I have more photographic evidence – saw me spinning in public with some members of the Llyn Guild. It was a completely delightful day, even if we were all quite hoarse by the time we were winding down.


In fact, it was so good that we’re not spinning in public on the official day – towards the end of September – any more. There are so many more people about in August, and the weather is more predictable, plus we can return here. Where there is also cake.

Along the way I’ve opened a twitter account for a cat,


who thinks she runs a wool shop (thinks?) – she’s at @WoolShopCat, naturally – and saw her followers increase in both numbers and interaction in the first twenty-four hours way more than my own (it’s settled down now, which is more than can be said for Bramble, currently in Christmas-catnip mode). I’ve been in a pop-up craft shop during the summer, which was fab, and had a very successful time at the Harlech Craft Fair at the end of November. The problem has been keeping pace but, as I said, my hands are much better. I’ve even fitted in some knitting for me.

And now I need to go and lie down for a bit. But I just have this sleeve to finish, you see, and…
Best woolly wishes to everyone for 2016!

*why this year should have been particularly bad on the funerals front, I don’t know. Except, that is, for the fact that several people were either in their 90s or nearly there, so not entirely unexpected. But why do deaths come in flurries? My grandfather used to get quite wary if there’d been two until there was a third, and it’s not as though there was a geographical factor at work – they ranged from the highlands of Scotland to South Africa. Very odd.

I’ve been a bit quiet…

… and this is why:


Even I realise this needs some explanation. This, incidentally, is Belinda and he is modelling a bias cowl knitted in a yarn I wouldn’t normally go for but which is one of the best ‘fake fur’ yarns I’ve come across, Sirdar’s Touch.

OK, the elephant in the room. Or perhaps the cross-gender bear on the bed.

I’ve no idea why he’s called Belinda but he is definitely male. Not sure how I knew, I just did. I think I wanted a brother when I was given Belinda (a year or so later I experienced the reality and, let me tell you, it was not what I’d imagined) and that may account for my certainty, but why Belinda? I didn’t know any Belindas. I knew a Chloe and a Jean-Louis and a Gerald and a Simon and a Didier and a Susan, but I didn’t know a Belinda. Anyway, Belinda it is and he’s not changing it now.


I’ve been busy because of this (well, and work, natch):

a4 craft fair christmas poster 2015

of which I am one of the organisers. And ‘organising’ is probably not the best word, because organising craftspeople, and I class myself in this, is an art right up there with herding kittens and trying to rearrange clouds. And now I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable – the lovely customers, the fellow knitters, are a joy – of course. But there’s also the ‘I can make one of these myself, so can you let me have it cheaper?’ / ‘you can get these in Asda for £2.50’ brigade. Sigh.

Will be back once next weekend is over. Possibly traumatised.

Poleaxed by plague

Oh, OK, it’s a bad cold. Well, one with added bronchitis and a cough that can probably be heard in Ulan Bator, but hey. I am feeling somewhat sorry for myself – especially since this week was supposedly a week off for a family visit over half term. Instead of which I have probably achieved nothing other than to give my nearest and dearest their worst colds of the winter. Nice.

But stop – I have also achieved this:


I know, it looks like small furry animal all curled up like that. Soft and fuzzy – which, according to a recent wildlife documentary, is the essence of cute. Admittedly so are big, front-facing eyes which this has not got, but – hm, maybe I’be had too much Ventolin.

It’s actually a cowl,


A double-moss-stitch moebius cowl, to be exact, and it will end up as one of my simple patterns on Ravelry (and here) eventually. It’s part of my determined effort to use up my stash, and specifically the huge amount of lovely angora mix I bought at Wonderwool ahem years ago, and which hasn’t quite found its way into a finished garment. It’s being used double, which means it knits up really quickly.

And I’ve started another variation on the theme. I was going to repeat the moss-stitch but in my current befuddled, be-Ventolined, be-Paracetamolled condition I was unable to cope with the complexities of the pattern (!). So this is a displaced rib, as it were, and I’m loving the texture:

ribbed cowl

Again, I’m using yarn from the stash and again I’m using it double. This is a Queensland DK, 100% pure Merino, very lovely. There were no dye lots, because it’s a small dye-run, totally artisan product, and they suggest you do what is, in effect, a Colinette – knit with two balls, using them alternately every two rows. Tried that: stripes. Marked stripes. My skeins are very different,

different colours of yarn

as is glaringly obvious – in this case, one brownish, one greyish. Using them double is the perfect solution, and so they have been rescued from the ‘Feck this, you’re going to a charity shop’ bin. I don’t need all these cowls (in theory), but there’s going to be a designer-makers’ fair focusing on fabric and fibre in Harlech in the summer, and they’ll make good stock. I’m hoping it won’t be the sort of summer to require 100% Merino cowls, but that people will instead buy them for Christmas.

In the meanwhile, life in this village is a bit like the ‘bring out your dead’ scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and it’s not just me: someone I know said working at a nearby surgery ATM was like ‘working in a bucket of rats’). Now Monty P: that’s something I might watch. Either that or the box set of The  Nazis: A Warning from History. Not that I’m getting depressed about the forthcoming election, oh no. I’m depressed about there being another eleven weeks of pointless point-scoring and bitching and bickering and silly repetitious sound bites and spin doctors and slanted media and far too many ******** politicians. AGH!

Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!


What not to do at a craft fair…

Just before the big Harlech Craft Fair at the weekend, this materialised on the Fair’s Facebook page. It’s from the California Arts Council:


We were very busy – it’s the first year we’ve used social media in an organised campaign – but a couple of us amused ourselves by collecting these. I had several 5s, as usual quite a few 7s (yes, but when will you?), several 10s and a 9 from someone who wanted me to make a long dangly scarf, crocheted in eyelash yarn. Had to explain that not all knitters can crochet (don’t get me going on the eyelash yarn), and she left shaking her head sadly at my incompetence (she can’t do either).

But there were two prize winners. One wasn’t from my stall. There was a pair of fingerless gloves on the other knitter’s stall, very reasonably priced. One of our very right-on residents picked them up and delivered herself of a 1 – though without the specific Walmart ref, natch – with what could only be described as a sneer; I think she was looking for a fight. Stallholder resisted urge to biff this person over the head, which I considered very restrained, and pointed out that the gloves she was talking about were not wool, not handmade, and might easily have have manufactured in some far-eastern sweatshop by eight year olds – the perfect response for our guardian of all social causes.

My prizewinner was a version of 10, I suppose (why these people have to be so furtive, I do not know, but the close examination and muttering always gives the game away – just ask, and I’ll help). Two women approach stall, second visit for one. Returnee goes back to cushion she was examining earlier. Friend also fondles cushion. Meanwhile, I am dealing with another customer. After some time, the two walk away; intrigued, I follow. One is saying to the other ‘so you could do that for me with an old sweater?’ and the other assures her that it would be easy, could do it for Christmas, though she was expressing slight worries about the rib pulling in. Had they asked I would have enlightened them: no, you can’t use an old sweater. It has to be knitted from scratch, largely because of the rib pulling in, plus old sweaters are never quite the right size and some have a surprising tendency to unravel and develop strange bald patches that really show up. I wasted many hours and several sweaters, including one in cashmere, before realising the truth. I hope they’re not planning to do anything else in December…

But it was a lovely craft fair, and because several people have asked, here’s a general montage of some of the stalls:

Selling my babies (as it were)

Just a quickie post, because it’s the big Harlech Arts and Crafts Fair this weekend and I am one of the organisers. (It’s highly professional, and is absolutely not toecover territory, see previous post, well… generally it isn’t.) I’m also a stallholder, and I have a terrible habit of being very, very, very last minute. I also have a terrible habit of forgetting to photograph things I sell…

This year I have rediscovered my love for all things Colinette. Well, not quite all things, because the patterns are still bonkers and I’m not a huge fan of having unintentionally indigo hands or red bamboo needles. But I can forgive their Giotto yarn almost anything:

giotto 1

simply because the colours are so gorgeous, the texture is so appealing, and it drapes beautifully,

cowl 1

with just enough body to work as a light cowl. It’s my own pattern, dead simple, and I sold several of these last year. One was bought by a friend who wore it all summer, and that’s even though it was a good summer. I’ve some bits left over so I’m experimenting with necklaces, but I’ve not made one I think really works. Yet.

Even the more subdued colourways appeal:

Giotto 2

and I freely admit that I often find them very difficult to sell. Um, to part with: they’re very easy to sell… my inner two year old surfaces and I start channelling Stewie from Family Guy when it suddenly happens to him: Mine! Mine!! MINE!!! (Some might say I channel Stewie at other times too, but I couldn’t possibly comment.)

So sometimes I just give up. Generally I try not to do this with more than one item, but often I fail. My item of choice for this year, which is going nowhere near my stall, is a double mobius cowl, also in a Colinette yarn, Prism this time:

Prism cowl

It’s too smooshy. It’s too soft. It would be cruel, sending it out into the wide world. Wearing it is like having a nestful of kittens draped round your neck, except there’s no fighting and nobody dribbles or pees down your front. It’s just too cuddly:

prism detail

I’ve used Prism before, for a cardigan, and let me just say that it felts beautifully despite being  blend of cotton and wool. I’ll leave it at that, but boy am I going to be careful with this. See? I couldn’t trust anyone else to look after it.


Spinning in the green

Yes, that’s right – green, not grease (you don’t want to spin in the grease in public, really). To be precise, spinning in the Green Fair.

green fair 1

For the last few years a local green organisation has put on an eco fair and plant and seed swap in a nearby village hall. It’s been growing – as is entirely appropriate – and getting more and more popular. Last year and the one before, I was asked to take my spinning wheel and demonstrate spinning, alongside a friend who is a weaver.

This year I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to spin, so I asked a couple of friends to join me, choosing them carefully as people who would be quite laid back whatever the day threw at them (hall evacuation and firemen this time), and making sure I warned them first about the possibility of relaxed organisation and semi-feral children. Oh dear, that’s quite unfair. Let’s say children who are allowed to express themselves, quite probably using an abandoned spinning wheel as an way of demonstrating that freedom. And the Fair is actually well organised; it’s just relaxed enough that it appears not to be draconian.

I wasn’t sure enough about my spinning, or about how long I would feel able to stay, so I took a skein winder and some skeins I wanted to roll into balls.

green fair 2

The skein winder isn’t my most successful piece of kit – it’s an example of what happens when Wonderwool Wales is drawing to a close, you begin to panic a little and have a panic-buying attack – but it entertained the woodworkers. ‘How much did you pay for that?’ was the most common enquiry, so I suggested that they studied it and came up with something better. Or at least something sanded, with timber that wasn’t bowed, and with enough holes in the sides to make it fully adjustable. I’ve had a drill at this myself, so it’s even less elegant than it was when I lost my ability to discriminate late one Saturday at Builth Wells. But it attracted some attention, anyway.

As did our little patch of the Fair.


(Note small child contemplating spinning wheels with a slightly worrying air…)

But the main focus for many of us is the plant swap.


I took along a crate and a box, both full with duplicates – tomatoes, begonias, a fuchsia, a spider plant, a money plant – and I wasn’t going to come away with anything, even though my contribution entitled me to a selection of free plants.


I did come away with some, but of course. I took two tomatoes; I came away with two tomatoes. Different tomatoes, mind, and I’m sure I can squeeze them into the greenhouse somehow. Er, and the rest – an aubergine, several types of kale, etc, etc. Oh well. I tried.

And I got my wool wound, so I popped off to do some shopping and found a scene of organised chaos on my return. There’d been a funny burning smell, and lights had gone out. Everyone was being evacuated into the car park / outdoor exhibition space, and that included the people in the kitchen who moved the soup outside. Free (well, contributions) lobscouse or lentil soup for all. And firemen:


All in all, a good day – plants, people, firemen, lobscouse, and wound skeins of handspun. Then the generally positive weekend was cemented by the fact that Sunday was a very good day, the Sunday Market Spinners in Dolgellau, and I managed to spin for the first time in months. I paid for it later, but I spun. Yipee!

(I’m not sure the physiotherapists would approve, but tough.)