Wonderful Wonderwool Wales

Wonderwool Wales – Sometimes Things Go to Plan!

I’ve wanted to go to Wonderwool Wales for several years, but we have always been busy that weekend. Usually I go to Quilts UK in Malvern a few weeks later, however, this year, I’m involved in Woollen Woods instead (more on this later). He Who Doesn’t Knit was disappointed to miss his annual walk along the Malvern Hills. So, I asked “Why don’t we go to Wonderwool Wales instead?” For once, we were free and I managed to convince him that there would be good walks nearby. New maps were purchased, weather forecasts analysed and a picnic assembled. And so, on Saturday morning, after an early start and a long drive, we arrived at the Royal Wales Showground in Builth Wells.

First Impressions

Wonderwool occupied three halls at the showground. Confusingly, Hall 1 was located between Halls 2 & 3. The first hall I came to was Hall 3, and my first thought on entering was that it did not seem that big. However, this was the smallest hall; there was easily enough, to see and do, at Wonderwool to occupy a day at a calm and leisurely pace. This was aided by the wide aisles, so even though there were a lot of people, it did not feel crowded.

Wonderwool Wales is described on the show guide as “the premier wool & fibre festival in Wales”. This is easy to believe. There was everything you could want if you spin, weave, knit, crochet or felt. A multitude of fleece, tops and yarn in natural and dyed colours. And although I don’t spin or weave, I loved seeing the spinning wheels, drop spindles and looms. I spent the first couple of hours wandering in a daze, trying to absorb all the fibre and yarny wonderfulness!

Giant Exhibitions

There seemed to be a giant theme in the exhibitions this year.

A Cardigan for Cardigan

Designer Lisa Hellier had the idea to create a giant cardigan depicting Cardigan’s heritage to celebrate the town’s 900th anniversary. About 300 people contributed to the finished piece and it took six weeks to stitch it together.

A Cardigan for Cardigan, a giant, five-metre wide garment knitted by 300 townsfolk and visitors to celebrate the town's 900th birthday.

It is about 5 m wide!

A Cardigan for Cardigan, a giant, five-metre wide garment knitted by 300 townsfolk and visitors to celebrate the town's 900th birthday.

The detail is delightful.

A Cardigan for Cardigan, a giant, five-metre wide garment knitted by 300 townsfolk and visitors to celebrate the town's 900th birthday.

It made me smile for all the right reasons!

Knitted Gingerbread House

The Knitted Gingerbread House was created in 2007 by Ann and Alison Murray together with about 700 knitters from across the UK and overseas. It has been exhibited around the UK to raise money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital and overseas to raise money for Knit for the Needy.

The Knitted Gingerbread House was created in 2007 by Ann and Alison Murray, with the help of 700 from the UK and beyond.

The interior is also knitted.

The Knitted Gingerbread House was created in 2007 by Ann and Alison Murray, with the help of 700 from the UK and beyond.

And there is quite a collection of creatures including this large gingerbread man. You may also have spotted an owl and a cat in my photos.

The Knitted Gingerbread House was created in 2007 by Ann and Alison Murray, with the help of 700 from the UK and beyond.

Animals

The fibre animals are a big attraction of Wonderwool. Here are a couple of angora rabbits from Bigwig Angoras. They seemed a little shy, and who could blame them.

Extremely fluffy angora rabbits from Bigwig Angoras at Wonderwool Wales, 2015

And this is my favourite sheep, a Cotswold lamb from the Pickwick flock.

A Costwold lamb from the Pickwick Flock at Wonderwool Wales, 2015

I also have several blurred photos of some rare Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheepShetland sheep and alpacas from Toft Alpacas and Bird Farm Alpacas.

Yarn

At Wonderwool, there were many exhibitors who produce or spin their own yarn. Often these companies are too small to be widely stocked, so it was fantastic to see and feel the yarns rather than look at photographs online.

When I’m designing knitwear and accessories for patterns, I need to use yarn that will be easily available over a long period. This is because many knitters like to knit in the same yarn and colour as in the pattern. So, I look for repeatable yarn ranges, which tend to be produced by the big yarn companies. However, at Wonderwool there were two medium-sized companies with whom I was familiar from reading magazines and websites. Blacker Yarns and John Arbon Textiles both produce interesting and repeatable yarn ranges.

Blacker Yarns

This lovely display is by Blacker Yarns, from Launceston, Cornwall.

A variety of yarns from Blacker Yarns at Wonderwool Wales, 2015

Blacker Yarns specialise in British breeds of sheep and have a vast range of yarn, in natural shades and dyed colours. I’ve often looked at their website and not known where to begin. Clearly, I’m not the only one with this problem, since Sue Blacker explained that they are streamlining their range to make it easier for people to find what they want.

I left with a selection of Blacker Breeds Pure English Merino and Pure Teeswater, Blacker Classic and Blacker Guernsey Yarn in some fabulous colours from the reduced basket to use for Woollen Woods.

John Arbon Textiles

Devon based John Arbon Textiles produce the fabulous Knit by Numbers range. Each colour is available in six shades starting with a saturated colour then gradually fading. Apologies for the blurred photograph, but you will get the idea.

Knit by Numbers from John Arbon Textiles

Below is their gorgeously soft Viola range; these are produced by careful blending of dyed tops to give the look of hand-dyed yarns. A hank of “Unpredictable” (top right-hand corner) came home with me ready for an already planned swatch. I also bought a hank of their Exmoor sock yarn in “Heather”.

Viola yarn, 100% merino, from John Arbon Yarns

Other Yarns at Wonderwool

I also bought yarn from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop and Black Bat Sheepskins and discovered Whistlebare from Northumberland and Griffith’s Mill from Derbyshire.

Wonderwool Wales is a celebration of British yarn, but the yarn from Midwinter Yarns, who describe themselves as “naturally Scandinavian”, caught my eye. I bought Ullcentrum gradient blue blend, a self-striping yarn made from 100% Swedish wool. Sadly, that photo wasn’t great either. Below you see Pirkkalanka, a Finnish yarn available in a great variety of colours. There was a very tempting Lithuanian linen yarn, as well as yarn from Greenland, Denmark, Norway, and Wales. A somewhat loose definition of Scandinavian, but gorgeous yarn.

Colourful Scandinavian yarn from Midwinter Yarns

The Verdict!

What can I say? In addition to the all important yarn, I met up with friends I don’t see often and ate some delicious food. What a great day. I left with a big smile on my face! He Who Doesn’t Knit had a great walk on the hills. Enticed by the animals and the prospect of tasting Welsh cider and artisan-made Scotch eggs, he even said that next time he will visit the show. Better get planning!

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