Remember when I said I was going to do daily updates from Edinburgh Yarn Festival …
[insert riotous laughter]
Even as I typed that sentence last week, I knew it was probably wishful thinking. But it’s good to have goals, right?
As my lack of posting maybe suggests, EYF was a bit of a whirlwind. A happy, lanolin-scented, wool squishing, laugh-filled and sometimes overwhelming whirlwind. There were even a few moments where I was so overwhelmed that I … gasp and pause for dramatic effect … thought I might come home with no yarn. But yarn was indeed bought, special yarn from lovely producers that I feel really happy to be supporting. But really, yarn shopping was a small part of the week. The highlights of the festival for me were spending time with knitting friends, old and new and the excitement and inspiration of classes, a stimulating talk, and the stunning work of other knitters that was constantly on display.
I’ll be honest that I’ve struggled a bit thinking about how to write this post, especially since I took so few photos — often pictures really help me organize my thoughts! Since it was my first time at EYF and it was all quite new to me, I’m going to tell you a bit about my impressions each day, as briefly as I can, then do a bit of summing up (complete with talk of what I brought home with me and my plans for it). Since this might be a bit of a longer post, I’ve headed each day with a quick description of it’s activities, in case you’d like to just read about a certain aspect of the festival 🙂
So Tuesday morning, my knitting and I boarded a train for Edinburgh, a city I’ve visited many times and really love. The train ride from Lancaster to Edinburgh is a breeze — just over two hours. It was beautifully sunny when I boarded the train around 10 am, and my train ride was gorgeous — sun shining on rolling fields, which at this time of year were filled with ewes and ambling lambies! I worked on my Lumineux socks and arrived at the place we’d booked, a nice apartment not far from charming Ginger Twist Studio, the delicious Art and Vintage cafe, or Arthur’s Seat — it was basically in our backyard!
All the friends I was staying with had further to travel. My dear friend Grace (who came with me to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival almost two years ago!) flew up from Devon. Intrepid Kate of Rosalind Craft Supplies had come all the way from Wellington, New Zealand! And Sharon and her husband had come nearly as far, traveling from Melbourne, Australia. Our international group (#teamEYFglobal) all made it though with very few issues, descending on the apartment nearly at the exact same time! None of us knew every person staying in the flat, so there was meeting to be done, lunch to be had, yarn to knit, and jet-lag (for some) to be recovered from. Kate gave us each a lovely, sheepy zip pouch to remember the trip by … she’s so talented!
And there were Tim Tams, courtesy of Sharon. Delicious, chocolate coated Tim Tams.
Wednesday – Quotidian Colo(u)rwork with Felicity Ford
EYF started on a real high note for me, with a colorwork class taught by the supremely talented Felicity Ford. I was particularly excited about this class as it was about taking inspiration from the colors and shapes of everyday objects and interpreting them in stranded colorwork. I chose a picture I’d taken of this door in a stone wall that I pass each day … I love the complexity of colors in the stone, and the bright blue of the door with it’s previous paint color peaking out from underneath.
The class was super well designed so you were never sat with nothing to do (and you got the chance to dive into and play with a huge spread of Jamieson and Smith jumper-weight yarn). By the end of the class, I had a small circular swatch focused on interpreting the colors and splotches of the bottom right of the stone wall (specific I know) and heaps of inspiration for taking my swatching forward.
If you have a chance to take a class with Felicity Ford, I highly recommend it. She did a fantastic job of creating an environment where the student feels empowered to try and explore. She’s smart, kind, funny … and also has an amazing, encyclopedic knowledge of J&S colors — she can tell you the shade number for any color you throw her way!
Wednesday ended with a lovely dinner at Wahaca (how I’ve missed Mexican food since we moved!) and some knitting and hanging out at the flat, joined by lovely Jenni, whose currently based in Edinburgh and kindly loaned us all her ballwinder and swift so we can wind any purchases (thanks again, Jenni!) I went to bed Wednesday excited but already a bit tired, with a hastily scribbled list of stalls I wanted to visit when the marketplace opened the next day.
Thursday – Marketplace, Day 1 + AKVA Knit Night meet up
One of the perks of signing up for classes (other than that they’re awesome!) is they give you the chance to get in to the festival a full hour before it opens for general admission. And this year, for the first time, the EYF marketplace opened on Thursday, though only to those who had pre-booked tickets, either when booking a class or when the general admission tickets went on sale. Some roadworks delayed our bus, but we arrived around 9:30 am on Thursday (Sharon, Kate, and I all sporting the Stasis pullovers we’d all knit for the festival!)
That first half hour was quiet, and then all of the sudden, it felt like people were everywhere! My first stop was The Wool Kitchen, where I picked up a skein of sock yarn for a Lancaster friend who couldn’t make it to the show. And then … I wandered, talking when I could to the women and men on their stands, marveling at all the wool, and all of the people in wool, and wondering how I’d ever make a single decision!
I started to reach a sort of peak sensory overload. I work from home, and largely by myself. So all the people at the festival — and the two days of socializing and my Wednesday class — was all a huge change of pace! Luckily, just when I was feeling I needed a little break, Kate, from Northern Yarn, arrived on the scene, up for the day and also ready for a little break. We bumped into lovely Maria of Dodgson Wood and sat down for a much needed cup of tea. And then I met up with my “flatmates,” and we had lunch. Both excellent breaks to take from the busy-ness of it all! I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around, squishing wool, but largely not buying any!
As the marketplace began to wind down, I met up with some friends from AC Knitwear’s Ravelry group to head to AKVA. The EYF organizers had planned a big knit night at the Corn Exchange (which had ticketed entry), but also arranged for smaller, free knit nights that you could book into at some area restaurants — a big group of the AC Knitwear gang all booked into AKVA. To be honest, having found myself a bit overwhelmed by the first day of the festival, I was a little worried about another activity! But I needn’t have been. The AC Knitwear meet up was the perfect way to end the day. We sat, we chatted, we talked about what we’d seen — and though many of us had never met in person, it felt very much like a gathering of old friends! I left feeling excited for the next day, and with some great ideas about matching some of the yarns I was excited about to patterns (largely thanks to a great chat with Maylin of Julia Hedge’s Laces!)
Friday – Marketplace, Day 2 + Kate Davies’ “Handywoman” reading and talk
Friday I set off even earlier for the festival, with a more detailed list and some clearer ideas! In fact, Sharon and I arrived so early that we actually were there before the doors opened, and spent a happy few minutes chatting with other knitters in line. When we got in at 9, my first stop was Jamieson and Smith, where I wanted to lay in some yarn supplies to continue on with my Quotidian Colorwork swatch. I did a sweep of places I’d been the day before and picked up a few things, but had most of my shopping done by the time the Corn Exchange started to fill up at 10:00.
Another feature at EYF new this year (or so I’m told!) was the marquee, a huge tent with tons of round tables for sitting and hanging out. With my shopping done, I joined friends at the table and settled in for a morning of knitting and chatting. The table served as sort of a base for our little group, with people coming and going, knitting, chatting, leaving bags, retrieving bags … a very relaxing space! I barely moved from the spot until 3:30, when it was time one of the events I was most excited about, Kate Davies reading and talk from her in-progress book.
I’ve read Kate Davies’ blog and followed her designs for the better part of the past decade (I still remember when she released owls!), so having the chance to hear a reading from the book — she read a beautiful section on constraint, making, and creativity in her family during her childhood — and then her remarks on craft, knitting, and brain injury was really exciting. I don’t actually know how to do it justice here, so I’m not going to try. I’ll just say that it was a beautifully put together talk — funny, thought-provoking, and moving. I can’t wait for the book, and I think it’s going to offer so much to so many people.
Friday night found our flat and Jenni back at the apartment, bellies full of curry, for more knitting and hanging out!
Saturday – Intro to Tech Editing with Kate Atherley + Marketplace, Day 3
Saturday was another early (and snowy!) start as I had a 10 am class, an introduction to technical editing! I had the briefest of tootles around the market (I had left the apartment extra early as I didn’t know the covering of snow on the ground and streets would affect bus service!) then headed to the class. It was a fascinating three hours, very different than either of the other classes I took, thinking about how editors get patterns ready for knitters to use. No pretty pictures as no knitting was done, of course, but it was a really stimulating class that got me excited to think about how patterns are put together! Kate was a really clear instructor who talked with candor and humor about the world of pattern writing, and the tech editors’ role in that world. And, I have to admit, it was fun being back in a classroom, taking notes on a lecture after years of now teaching myself!
After my class, another real treat was in store — I met up with Kat of Felinity Knits for a really lovely long lunch at the nearby M&S cafe! Kat was just as lovely in person as I imagined she was from her blog and her kind comments, and it was so nice to have a long sit and chat about knitting (including her new and upcoming designs — she’s got so many ideas, definitely watch her space!) We lingered over tea and cake and made plans to meet up in London the next time I get down there — I can’t wait!
Afterwards, I headed back to the Corn Exchange and relaxed with friends until the end of the festival. Sara, one of the very lovely members of our AC Knitwear group who lives in Edinburgh, had invited us all round post-EYF. It was such a special way to see out the end of the festival … the group is filled with funny, smart, and kind crafters and it was a real treat to get to relax together, have lovely food and drink, knit, and process the festival. It was a real highlight of the festival for me — I hope it’s not another year until we all find ourselves together again.
Sunday – Meet the Shepherd(ess) + Understanding Shawl Design with Karie Westermann
While Saturday marked the end of the big marketplace and the breaking up of our little group, with Sharon and Grace on their merry ways, mine and Kate’s EYF was not quite done! We, along with Mr. N (who joined us in Edinburgh Thursday) headed one last time to the Corn Exchange, meeting up with Jenni for the Meet the Shepherd(ess) event — a chance to see some smaller yarn producers and wind down after the big festival!
And oh, what beautiful yarns there were. I made very few impulse purchases during the main festival, but that went out the window a bit on Sunday! I think because I had mostly done my browsing on Thursday and shopping during the early hours, when fewer people were around, I was actually a bit surprised by the number of people at Sunday’s event! It was great to see such enthusiasm for lovely, sheep to skein yarns with known provenances! I wondered if the stallholders were surprised by the demand! Things seemed to go quickly in a flurry of woolly excitement. I visited a few stands, made a few purchases, and retreated with friends back to the marquee to do some knitting and oh and ahh over our new yarn and say our goodbyes to various friends.
I thought I was done shopping, and indeed, was already going home with bags well-filled with yarn. But as Kate, Jenni, and I prepared to leave the Corn Exchange and go for lunch, we made a final stop at the Birlinn Yarn Company, who make beautiful wool from seafaring Hebridean sheep. Yarn was squished (and sniffed — it has the most amazing smell), colors were held up, and suddenly, we all three had yarn for Threipmuirs. Knitalong to commence!
And last but not least, I rounded out my EYF with Karie Westermann’s Understanding Shawl design class. Karie was another fabulous instructor — she had us dive into trying out our own, simple lace designs and gave us a really solid foundation on which to build.
I loved that both Karie and Felicity’s classes were about building confidence and just giving things a go, regardless of whether they work on the first try! Again, I’d really recommend taking a class from Karie if you have the chance to! She was a great instructor and did a fabulous class, which I think is really saying something given it was at the absolute tail end of EYF!
EYF was an awesome, wool-filled, and not a little exhausting week! I definitely hope to go again next year. I loved the classes I took, and came away with a bit more confidence to try new things — I’d like to continue to find time and space to let myself play with my knitting, without worrying about the outcome! And as I’ve said here (and gushed about on Instagram), I really loved spending time with awesome knitting friends. It was so cool to get to experience the festival with friends from around the world, and to have online friendships blossom into real life ones! And I was so inspired by all the interesting yarn I saw and the people who are making it! I could have come away with skeins from pretty much every stand I stopped at (my bank account is glad I didn’t!) But even so, I got plenty … here’s a little peak, in the spirit of celebrating the cool, independent producers from which it came!
The (future) sweaters:
Iona DK for a Siri Cardigan; Uist Wool Fras, a beautiful DK blend of Cheviot and Zwartbles, for a Stronachlanchar if I can get gauge; Uradale Yarn jumper weight in the most gorgeous, deep red, for Kirigami; Black Isle Yarns (one of the Sunday stalls) sport for a Vita de Vie; and of course the Birlinn Yarn Company 4-ply, my very last purchase, for Threipmuir. All these companies are I think producing gorgeous, interesting yarns here in the UK and I recommend checking them out! I’m looking forward to telling you more about each as I knit with them.
I also, as I mentioned, got some J&S for my wool cupboard. I was very happy to get more colors to use for my swatching, and so that I have some on hand to play with for yokes or other colorwork projects … I very much see this as adding to, to borrow a phrase from Mrs. M’s Curiosity Cabinet, my wool pantry, as a source of inspiration for future colorwork projects.
I didn’t go to EYF with any particular plans to get yarn for accessories, but a few special wools caught my eye:
Two skeins of Woollenflower‘s plant dyed Uradale, bought Friday for an Asklov ; a cowl kit from Black Isle Yarns made out of Gotland with a touch of Shetland; and that gorgeous orange Lifelong Yarns Yarrow 4ply for the First Flurries Mitts!
And last but not least, the final bits and bobs:
Chiaogoo interchangeable needles, which I’ve been thinking about for ages, from Purlescence; The Little Grey Girl‘s EYF bag, Sir Woolly; a measuring tape bracelet from Beyond Measure; Garthenor mini balls to go with ones I got from Yarndale, and the most beautiful buttons from Uist for my Carbeth Cardigan!
Many splurges, to be sure, but all ones I feel happy about — yarn, tools, and books I’ll be enjoying for years to come.
There’s more I could say, for sure, but I think it’s best to leave it there before this turns into a novel! It’s such a great event — my (handknit) hat is off to the amazing organizers Jo and Mica for putting together such a special event that so many yarn lovers come together to enjoy!
Thanks, as always, for reading! Did you go to EYF? If not, did you get up to any special yarn-y activities during the festival?