Another June, another Woolfest. Shows seem to act as punctuation points in the year. Coming back from Woolfest means the summer really has started, I've made it through the busy spring, and should now get a bit of breathing space to work on new ideas.
Not to sure it will work that way this year. I looked at my diary this morning and it's a tad scary. However I am going to get to see quite a bit of the UK, and will get to pass on some skills to lots of spinners.
Looking back though, here's a post all about Woolfest.
First the packing...
All of this gets stored in a stock room in the caravan, as I dye I label, box up and bag everything. That way there's no nasty last minute surprises when I discover the printer won't work! The day before show set up, that stock room gets transferred to the back of Otis the van. It's always a bit of a tight fit, it's not the stock that causes issues, but more all the things required to display it!
The next morning is the drive up the M6, and the turn left on to the A66, and you get walloped around the face with the beauty of the Lake District. Don't get me wrong, wales is stunning, beautiful, and I wouldn't change it, but those Lakeland fells.... they sort of knock you round the head and make you look at them in awe!
I try to blank the set up part of the day from my mind...
It's several hours of very hard graft. We're at the far end of the auction mart and have a long walk carrying everything that was in the back of that van. It's usually gone 6pm before we're even close to done, and we finish off the fine details in the morning.
At most shows Mum ad I sleep in the back of the van. We don't need luxury, and it's no different to sleeping in a tent, with the added bonus you don't have to put it up after assembling the stall, or take it down before going home. It also means no extra driving to get to and from the venue, and particularly on the final day of a show, every little helps!
The morning is a bit like the calm before the storm...
All the stands are stuffed full of stock, looking neat and tidy. I have no real good pictures of my whole stand this year. We were at the end of the aisle, so the stall is long and narrow, with a gap in the middle!
The clouds were new, because even though this is my 5th Woolfest, and I've advertised in the programme for the past 3 years there were still people who came to the stand, or who I meet at guild meetings, who have no idea Hilltop Cloud exhibits at Woolfest.
The stand starts out stuffed to the gunnels with goodies, as the show goes on there's usually at least 3 stock rearranges. The people who can't make it to the show until later on will often get to spot all sorts of hidden gems that the early birds wouldn't have been able to find.
Shows are wonderful, exhausting, stimulating, energising, inspiring, infuriating all in 1 giant parcel. As a bit of an introvert who works from home I usually end the day wanting nothing more than a square meal and my own bed!
Shows are a lovely opportunity to see customers in person, and to see what they've ben making. This jumper is part of the In5pire Challenge for the 5th birthday celebrations.
There's never enough time in the day though, and I usually spend most of the day trying to help 3 people at once. It's always a challenge, trying to have conversations with everyone, but at the same time knowing that there is usually at least one more person who wants to ask a question, and if you don't answer that question they probably won't make a purchase.
It's not all work though. As stallholders we get to see the show in ways that others don't. Walking past the sheep pens first thing in the morning is a delight, as every single sheep thinks you're bringing breakfast! The Border Leicester Rams had got big boy appetites, and were most upset to discover we weren't the food suppliers!
At the end of a show it's become something of a tradition for me to head over to John Arbons stall. I very kindly relieve him of the need to take some fibre back to his van, and I like to think of it as a treat for those who can't make the show. You get to try out fibres that I can only get from the stand as they're not fibres he normally sells wholesale... He loves it when I make him do maths after 2 days of hard work!
Then we're done... and it's time to dismantle it all. Load it back in to the van, and drive home. We were back by 11pm last night, and I then spent today unpacking. The 2 days of a show have at least 3 days work tacked on either end just to get the stand to the show, the dyeing of course has been weeks of work. No one in this business is afraid of bit of hard work...
Well despite my pessimism the wren has incubated her eggs, not been eaten by a rat, and has 4 very cute chicks!
Baby birds are my real weak spot, a friend was showing me kitten pictures which leave my heart utterly unstirred, I'd much rather look at photos of these beauties!
They're already so much bigger than when they first hatches a couple of days ago. At that point they were featherless, and their eyes weren't open. They grow very quickly, and it won't be long until they fledge. It's already a tight fit in the little nest.
The parents have been busy flying back and forth feeding them, it's a wonderful distraction while I'm dyeing. They're utterly un-phased about being surrounded by human activity. We have to walk past the nest regularly, when the female was off the eggs she'd just fly off and come back as soon as we were out of the way. It's meant I can take these lovely closeups providing I'm quick about it.
As for the House Martin nest, who knows. In theory we're just coming in to the window where eggs might be hatching, but in comparison to the frenzy of activity whilst they build the nest it goes very quite while the eggs are being brooded. I'll only know if they're bred successfully when I start seeing them flying in and out of the nest feeding the young.
Last weekend I hosted my guild members for our annual dyeing day. There are certain benefits in having a professional dyer as your secretary and one of them is access to the perfect venue for the more messy aspects of our craft!
Not that we all fit in my caravan, and the weather currently has transformed it in to a giant oven! After all in essence it's a large metal box, and when we get temperatures in the mid-high twenties (celsius) it does get a bit warm in there.
I've been dyeing at 7.30am on a couple of days in an effort to get out of there before mid afternoon when the temperatures really soar.
However, a couple of gazebos for everyone to sit under, and popping in and out of the caravan for water, dye baths and everything else is a very good compromise.
In previous years we've dyed fibre with acid dyes, and used natural dyes on yarn. This year we had a go at Shibori dyeing, so got the indigo vats set up for the second year in a row! Indigo is one of those things where setting up the vat is a bit of a faff, but once it's going is pretty easy to use, so it's ideal for these sorts of days because doing it by yourself for a couple of bits of cloth would be too much hassle.
It's a Japanese technique where you wrap and fold cloth to provide a resist to the dye. Once you've tied up your fabric it goes in to the indigo pot, and comes out as a small odd-coloured lump! In true fashion I was far too busy fishing in the posts for peoples projects to actually take any photos of this stage.
Then of course, the magic happens. As you unwrap the bundle the indigo is exposed to the air and the transformation in the dye molecules occurs. The bits where the dye could touch fabric turn a beautiful shade of blue, and the parts that were hidden in folds stay white.
You can get very random, or very structured, every piece of cloth came out different!
If you're not already in a guild then it's well worth checking out your local group, there are over 100 groups all over the country, and they're a great place to access new aspects of our craft.