Tag Archives: Wonderwool Wales

Back to Wonderwool – wonderful – Wales, 2016

I have had a mixed relationship with Wonderwool Wales. It’s varied from wild excitement (the very first time I went) to slight irritation (the next time, when there seemed to be nothing but one indie dyer after another, which must have been annoying for them too) and to suffering from near frostbite (the Very Cold Year, when stallholders wore their stock and I thought my feet were going to fall off despite wearing walking boots with thick socks). Last year I decided I couldn’t be bothered and, apart from a slight pang, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss the huge crowds, the not being able to get on a stand, the half-hour queue for coffee and the lack of a seat once you’d got it, the inability to get anywhere near a food outlet for lunch…

This year I went. And I went on the Sunday, though I feel I should be keeping quiet about this as too much attention may kill the thing, rather as tourists destroy what they come to see if they come in enough numbers (my old Paris, I’m talking to you).

It was fab.

Heeeeeeeeee heeeeee:

Wonderwool haul 2016

We have: undyed DK for natural dyeing and some dye material (old man’s beard lichen for pink, barberry bark for green, dyers’ broom for a yellow – I’ll probably get khaki for all three), some Rowan cocoon at a stonking price which I couldn’t ignore, a single skein which I said I wasn’t going to buy but somehow did (‘that would be the fairies’), and some fluff. It’s all fab. So are/were the scotch eggs. And the meringues.

We started the sensible way, which is possible on the Sunday: with coffee and cakes and the show schedule:


and worked out where we wanted to go, where we had to go and where we’d better avoid (temptation cannot be easily resisted before lunch), and then we set off. We bumped into friends, visited a particular stallholder, separated, bumped into more friends, took the scotch eggs back to the car, bumped into each other, bumped into someone else, bumped into a stall or two, bumped into a sheep or two,


(this splendidly Roman-nosed job from Home Farm Wensleydales is wearing a rather pretty collar, which could easily have been missed – well, it’s the old daisy/sheep connection, Father Ted), bumped into another friend, separated again, did a quick whip-round all the halls, including Hall 3 with its amazing exhibit/artwork,


bumped into more friends, managed to miss out completely on greeting some others because their stall was wonderfully far too busy, looked up and saw the decorations,


bumped into more friends but managed to miss the part of the sleepwalk in which someone else we knew was modelling (a human, purrrlease, not a sheep), bought stuff, went back to the car to change out of a heavy sweater into something less hot, bumped into more people…

What a fabulous day. I am so glad I went back. And now I need to track down that skein of yarn which I didn’t buy (because I wasn’t buying single skeins, ok, and, yes, I am aware of the fact that I did actually buy one) but which was the most glorious, incandescent, emerald green. If I could sum up the day in one word it would be ‘colour’. Yes, that’s about right. Colour, scotch eggs and meringues. And friends. Colour, scotch eggs, meringues and friends – in no particular order. And yarn: colour, scotch eggs, meringues, friends and yarn. Lots of yarn. One word? How could that be possible?

Here’s a gallery of delights; just click on an image for a slideshow, with captions. How on earth did I manage to choose?

And, amazingly, I stayed in budget, even allowing for the scotch eggs, meringues and delicious pirog I grabbed for lunch. In fact, I was under budget by £20. Wonder if I can track down the sellers of the emerald green skein?


Wonderwool: I came, I saw, I screamed a bit…

and, and, AND I bought stuff – but I stayed on budget!

I’m not quite sure how that happened, but it did. Evidently I’m quite good at walking past things I want when I know there’s going to be an immense bill – no, that won’t do it justice, it will be a William – from the garage two days later. But it was an excellent Wonderwool Wales, nevertheless.

knitted dragon

(Loved the giant knitted dragon, and the almost equally tall knitted books.)

The excitement started early, leaving the house at 6.35 in rain and meeting my friends 45 minutes later for the long drive south. The car was full but the roads were empty and we arrived in plenty of time – time enough to scream at someone we knew in the next-door queue: the WW magic had started. Unfortunately so had the drizzle, and we were allowed in a few minutes shy of 10 a.m. The first thing I resisted buying was indeed a sheep, but I don’t think Woolyknits would have sold her to me.


This is Doris, and I want her. I consoled myself for the fact that she wasn’t for sale by buying an immense quantity of almost-black Hebridean DK yarn here, three giant hanks of about 500g each. Lovely, needs a wash as good wool does – bit lanolin-y – and when I asked how come such a good bargain I was told that they’d just got fed up looking at it in the mill.

yarnHere it is. Not the easiest thing to photograph, but hey.

The next thing I had to do was resist the urge to buy a small loom. A couple of my friends (and WW companions) have just got into saori weaving and, having seen the work they’re producing, I am also hooked. Ever seen something new and thought ‘I have to do that?” I had to have several espressos (!) in order to calm down. Garage bill. Garage bill.

yumBut then I saw something I couldn’t walk past, the balls of faroese yarn on Namolio’s stand. I’ve seen these knitted into shawls, and the effect is wonderful. I could feel my entire knitting group hovering invisibly over my shoulder as I reached for one in black, purple and green and picked up one in blues instead. But of course I had to go back for the Goth one too – and en route I bought a skein of Manos’s silk blend in colours which seemed to merge the two. That will make a little short-row scarf. Plus it was only a fiver.

yum squaredI’d been practising resisting Oliver Twists’ stall several times before I was eventually dragged in – think the Millennium Falcon being hauled inevitably into the maw of the Death Star. The only difference, really, is that Han Solo and the gang found themselves in a garbage dump, not rootling about in plastic bins full of silk. OK, I wasn’t disguised as a storm trooper either, but hey.

What else did I get? Some pressies, which I can’t show; some bits and bobs which do not an exciting photo make (T-pins for blocking, notably).

All in all – great. For the first time the show had expanded into a third giant hall, which made it a much more pleasant experience all round. Ok, there were still some stalls where an electric cattle-prod would have come in handy (as it would occasionally when walking around), but the last time I went – in the deeply scarring cold of Wonderwool 2012 – it was almost impossible to move at all by 11.30. The catering was also much better, and much better organised – even if I was so excited that all I managed was a Scotch egg and a tart from Love Patisseries, grabbed on the go. I took about 48,000 shots as well; here are just a few. Click on one for a slideshow.


Wonderwool approaches…

This time tomorrow I’ll be desperately trying to buy coffee somewhere in a crowded hall, surrounded by wool. I will either be a) so cold that I am wearing everything I have bought, up to and including obscure pieces of spinning equipment and back issues of magazines or b) so hot that I am putting everyone off their coffee, including myself, by wandering around in bra and pants. And walking boots – you’ve got to have comfortable feet.

Yup, it’s Wonderwool Wales time…


and this year I’m going. I’M GOING! Yippee!

Last year my health wouldn’t permit it; this year I’m much better (apart from **7^$8#35!!@ trigger finger, but hey). I’ve been saving up – all £2 coins go in my Winnie The Pooh money box (you mean you don’t have a Winnie The Pooh money box?) and I’ve accumulated nearly £70. Plus I’ve finally trained my brother to the point where he knows that Wonderwool falls just after my birthday, and therefore sends me money. Good boy, though of course I recognise the upside for him: it gets him out of – shhh – actually shopping.

However, entirely due to the fact that I need new shock absorbers – no, not me, my car, though come to think of it I could do with some too – I’m not buying anything. OK?

I’m certainly not buying one of these:


and, despite alpaca temptation, I am not buying one of these either:

hello alpaca

And, alas, I’m not buying any of this,


because House of Hemp / Eye of the Sun aren’t on the exhibitors list. I know they were up for sale, but I can’t work out if they still exist and if so, under which name. It’s probably just as well, though. Even though the colours were fantabulosa, I’ve seldom sworn as much, as often or as creatively as I did when knitting my lacy hemp cardigan. But there you go.

I might be buying some of this:


Garthenor’s lovely organic wool. They often have beautiful garments hanging on their stand which inspire me, but I tend to demur at the cost when I spin organic wool anyway. This time, however, I may give in. I just love the colours of natural wool, which is one reason (the other is having the willpower of a maggot) why I struggle to get into the spare room. When you get the chance to buy a really good coloured fleece, you grab it. Well, I do.

And I will undoubtedly be watching this at some point:

sheepwalk 2012

The ‘sheepwalk’. This photo was taken in 2012, and I can’t think why none of the models wore full Arctic clothing (it was a wee bit on the chilly side). Or, when in close proximity to so much fleece, why they didn’t seize the chance to stuff some down their clothing. Boy, was it cold. I wore the skeins I’d bought as a scarf. So if you’re going to Wonderwool Wales and you see a madwoman who is almost spherical due to wearing a fleece rather than carrying it (or, alternatively, a semi-nudist in walking boots) do say hi. It’ll be me. Or possibly one of about 3,000 other nutters knitters.

Overexcited, moi???

On not going to Wonderwool

Last weekend was Wonderwool Wales and this year, after much internal (and external – sorry, everyone) debate, I didn’t go. Probably just as well, as I wasn’t too well, but – sigh… I’ve been a lot, and I do love WW:


with one exception, which was last year. Ergh. Yes, I love it – when it’s good, when I don’t freeze despite wearing 85 wooly layers and when I can get an espresso when I need one, which means frequently. And of course memory is selective, which is why I spent some time deliberately reminding myself of the downside to WW.

The Saturday was the bad day for us Wonderwool refusniks, though – as one of my otherwise-occupied friends pointed out – we were saving a lot of money by not being there. But I was feeling OKish, the weather was glorious and the financial advantages of WW avoidance didn’t seem quite so important. In fact, it was just perfect for sitting outside the halls, going through purchases with friends while nibbling lightly on one of Love Patisserie’s delicious treacle tarts. And I was missing out on the best Scotch eggs in the world, let alone all that fibre.

beach walk

So I took myself off for a consoling walk – along the seafront at Barmouth, which I don’t usually visit for walking, just for shopping – and realised it wasn’t quite warm enough. Brrr. Coooold wind. That made me feel a little less nostaligic (is that the right word?) for what I imagined was happening down at Builth Wells.

I thought I would capitalise on that feeling and got out my stash when I came home, spreading fluff out,


(which gave me the opportunity of updating the mothball situation), sorting through the containers and even delving to the bottom of the Laundry Basket of Doom, which is below the bottom basket:

stash 3

I really do not need to add anything whatsoever to the stash, nor to the library, nor to the collection of woolly miscellanea: no need for more needles, more stitch holders, more bits and pieces. No need, really, for anything.

That made me feel a bit better too, and then I remembered that this weekend there was a plant fair at Crug Farm Plants, and I could always indulge myself there if I wanted a little specialist retail therapy (Barmouth Co-op doesn’t qualify) – and I can still garden, a bit, even if I can’t look down for long enough to knit and follow a pattern. I’ve been improvising with a music stand, but I still have to look at my knitting from time to time; I can’t do it all by touch. On the other hand, I can look down for long enough to read a plant label, trowel a hole and pop something in to a flowerbed.

And then my friends returned, singing the praises of staying overnight and doing both days (avoids, apparently, the last-minute panic that makes you buy a cone of something which, though lovely, is nonetheless in a colour which makes you look like a corpse). They brought me goodies: some buttons shaped like sheep and some like balls of wool, a porcupine quill for carefully detaching fluff from a carder. I really wish I’d gone.

Or do I?


This was the result of the plant fair. They’re not all mine, I swear it, but if I’d Wonderwooled, I’d have felt guilty. And, as I say, I can at least garden… wonder what all the other WW avoiders did? Mope, like me, for a day? Or cheer up and spend packets on plants?

To Wonderwool, or not to Wonderwool?

That is, indeed, the question.

I have a dilemma. Wonderwool Wales is wonderful. But sometimes it isn’t quite so wonderful, and I don’t know what to do about this year. I have to make up my mind soon, and I think I know which way I’m tending…

wonderwool 2012a

This is my dilemma in more detail, in the hope that spelling it out might help me determine what to do. In the autumn a few of us decided we’d like to go to both the Saturday and the Sunday this year, and a provisional booking has been made at a B&B convenient for the showground. We now need to pay up, which means I need to decide if I’m going – or if I’m not. And I honestly can’t make up my mind.


Firstly, the reasons why I might not go.

Although my health is now well on the way to full recovery, it’s still a bit fragile. I’m trying to put that to one side, though, as a lot can change between now and the end of April. Next, last year’s Wonderwool was problematic. It was freezing, and not just cold, but bone-chillingly, mind-numbingly, purse-clenchingly, freezing. I know that’s out of anybody’s control (and if it is down to anyone reading this, kindly ensure no repeats for this year, thank you), but the catering situation was dire. Cold weather equals a need for hot drinks, unfortunately, and the catering stands were utterly overwhelmed. A friend and I waited in shifts for coffee and a cake – we couldn’t face the long queues outside for hot food, and couldn’t get anywhere near more filling inside options – and it took us over 45 minutes. Frustrating and exasperating.

Then I feel that the show may be getting a little unbalanced. I’ve been for loads of years now (I missed the very first one, but that’s all). There really are a lot of indie dyers, and it seems to me that every year there are more and more. Now, many of my friends are indie dyers, and I dearly love a luxury single skein, but I’d like to see more variety, more stalls where you can buy enough for a garment without either breaking the bank or dealing with colour matching problems. There are a few, and they are almost always mobbed, so I’m evidently not the only one who feels this way.


Plus, of course, there’s the fact that I have the willpower of a maggot. My stash isn’t enormous by comparison to some, but nonetheless I’ve had stash problems (some yarn has been in my stash so long that it’s rotted, possibly due to conditions while all my stuff was in storage a few years ago), and really need do to knit up what I’ve got. I have just discovered some alpaca, for instance, that I bought at WW four years ago. How on earth can I justify going and possibly buying more? Given that I won’t be able to resist?

I mean, who could?


And there’s the expense factor in addition to the maggot-willpower factor: travel, the B&B, two days’ entry, plus all the general stuff I’ll just have to buy.

Positives? Well, the reverse side of all of the above. It will be life-affirming. It might not be cold. I might be able to get something to drink, something to eat and manage to find somewhere to sit down with my friends. There might be new and different stalls (and I don’t mean more people selling things which aren’t really remotely wooly or related to craft). I might be able to resist buying enough stash to soak up the Irish Sea, and I might win the lottery.

Then there’s the craic factor. The people, from the minute the doors open (which is when you stand the best chance of investigating things like which spinning wheel suits you the most).


People you haven’t seen for ages. People you’ve only spoken to on the phone or have only met in the virtual world. People you last saw two hours ago in the car but who have bought lots of exciting things since at stalls you somehow seem to have missed, and who can point you in their direction. People who can help with wooly problems, whether spinny, knitty or sheepy. People whose enthusiasm for what they do or sell carries right over and inspires you too.

There’s the rich variety of stalls (no, not those selling handbags). They can point you in all sorts of directions, make you consider – perhaps – more dyeing experiments, or working with different materials.


I suppose it’s the inspiration factor. Colour, colour, colour and more colour. Textures. Natural fleece colours. Alpaca in all its variants. Silk – and what silk. More unusual things like bamboo, hemp, milk protein. Buttons: contemporary, vintage, ceramic, bakelite, bone, pearl… Books, books current and books out of print; back issues of US magazines…

Option 1: go, and stay over, and de’il tak the hindmost.
Option 2: give it a miss this year and come to it fresh in 2014…
and maybe, just maybe, there’s an
Option 3: go for one day, on the Sunday, with other friends who aren’t intending to stay over.


I’ve just lost my mind – or have I?

Oh, I do hope not.

But hey… maybe all the rain has had a terrible effect; it certainly led me to rework the words to the Welsh national anthem, incorporating slugs for the first time ever, over on my gardening blog. But it’s sunny now – for a moment – and I just reached a natural stopping point with the book I’m working on, and — no, it’s all excuses.

It’s the spinning.

It’s not as though I didn’t have enough to do, you understand, but niggling away at the back of my mind has been the thought that much as I love my wonderfully eccentric home-made spinning wheel,

she can be tough on the hands.

And, let’s be honest, I can be tough on her. It’s not all cups of tea in the garden, oh no. She should be used to some of it, mind; her previous owner did take her to Guild meetings. But I think I put her through a bit more.

She gets hauled in and out of the car on a much more regular basis, for instance. There’s the monthly trip to my Guild meeting at Penygroes and then, in the opposite direction, to the Sunday Market Spinners in Dolgellau.

And then she gets involved in all sorts of embarrassments, like being paraded at craft fairs where she may be interfered with by small boys (and bigger ones), as she seems to exert an extraordinary magnetism on men of all ages. She’s been spun officially in public, once in a park and once in a very cold Caernarfon Castle,

where she is shivering with a few other wheels all waiting for their owners (I’m seeing them as being rather like the ‘horses’ in Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Well, all other wheels are shivering except for a snuggly wrapped Louet Victoria in its carrying bag, that is.

She’s been in a fleece to throw –

where she’s resting, here, between an Ashford traddy and a Little Gem.

She is wonderful, but she is also hard on those hands, and am I being fair to her?

She’s actually 30 this year, but in spinning wheel years she’s probably about 500 given the level of usage. All the hauling in and out of a Toyota Corolla – no 4x4s here – isn’t that good for her, really.

And there’s this tempting me from afar:

Er, from the Forest of Dean. It’s a Louet Julia, and it’s waiting in the wings. Not actually this specific one – this particular wheel was at Wonderwool Wales, where I had a good old go on it and got thoroughly hooked. I’ve been watching out for a second-hand one but they don’t exist; once people have got Louets they seem to hang on to them through thick and thin (guess that depends on the ratio, ho ho – spinning joke, don’t worry about it). No, my particular wheel is being packed up even as I type, ready to be despatched by Forest Fibres tomorrow. I should get her on Tuesday.

I wonder if my wheels will get on?

Anthropomorphise, moi? Surely not.

Dearie me – Wonderwooling, part 2

What can I say? Sometimes life just catches up with you.

But the slight delay in posting has given me time to think a little bit more about my Wonderwool Wales experience. The show was just packed with colour,

and I had given myself one rule: buy colour.

Well, apart from the other rules, such as ‘I’m not buying anything’ and ‘don’t buy a new spinning wheel’ [or a sheep, ed].

It shouldn’t have been difficult. I love working with colour. I was surrounded with colour. All I had to do was get my purse out. Oh, and make a decision. Hm.

All the colour was inspirational, even when understated

(just consider the effect without the yellow ochre, or the lemon, come to that), and there were plenty of gorgeous reds and I love red. (Didn’t see much turquoise / jade / peacock, though.)

So what happened to me?

I lost it.

I naturally gravitated towards naturals – or what my mother used to call ‘shades of shite’ – but at least I’d migrated away from black. As a spinner, I’m inevitably drawn to natural fleece colours, so the Gotland fitted right in.

It’s delicious. But brightly coloured it isn’t. It does take a dye beautifully, yes – but of course the underlying colour means the dyed wool is still subdued. Lovely, but subdued.

And then I predictably made my way to the Garthenor stand,

Definitely Welsh (and it is Wonderwool Wales, after all), all organic, all fabulous. But not coloured. Move away from the browns…

Of course, the root of the problem is me, buying colour for me to wear. I don’t wear colour, you see, except as – hang on, shawls… so I started looking at the single skeins. Of which there were many. But I did find it, the skein, dyed by Helen at Ripples Crafts of Lochinver. And I’m sentimentally drawn to her colours – inspired by Sutherland, where I spent so much of my childhood.

This is called ‘lichen and rock’ and I could easily identify similar inspiration on the walls around me in Snowdonia, especially the lime green – or rather a subdued acid green, as I described it later.

There is some colour in that skein. I plan on making a shawlette when I can manage smaller needles; it’s a 4 ply BFL and nylon mix – sock yarn, but I don’t do socks.

And then I encountered the girls. What had I bought? I showed them, and got a predictable reaction, so we went to a couple of stalls and I asked their advice on various shades of green (which is one colour I do occasionally wear as a garment). They were negative, but we were close to Curlew Weavers,

and their cones (their blankets are pretty wonderful too). I tried every one, with the girls saying ‘that one’, and ‘why not?’ a lot. In the end I was really brave. See that purple, goth-like cone at the front? Guess whether I bought it.


It’s a colour…