Now I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love about going to fibre and yarn festivals is to see all the different vendors. Having so many fabulous stands all in one place is brilliant! I usually have a vague plan in my head, having researched who’s going to be there, and scribble down a list of ‘must visits’. I have my favourites, but it’s always exciting to discover someone new. Oh the anticipation of entering each hall or marquee, inhaling those heady yarn fumes and having all your senses attacked simultaneously – the colours of the yarn and fibre, the softness of the skeins, that woolly smell, the sound of wheels spinning and drum carders turning, not to mention all the excited voices of the visitors, the taste of … well, ok, perhaps not the taste, except when you’re having a break, perhaps enjoying a cuppa and a piece of cake!
Here at Fibre-East, we have tried our hardest to gather together some of the best ‘yarny’ folk around for your delectation and delight this summer. If you’ve already taken a sneaky peek at the list on the website, you are probably one step ahead and may have already started a shopping list. Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing many of the vendors to you – some old friends, as well as many new faces – so you can start planning for your visit in July.
Romney Marsh Wools Ltd are no strangers to Fibre-East. Founded by Kristina and Paul Boulden on the family farm in Aldington, bordering the Romney Marshes in Kent, the idea was to use the fleeces from the 1000+ breeding Romney ewes to create a range of products which show the versatility of British fleeces. As time goes by more and more products are added to the range, which now includes toiletries made from Lanolin as well as the more obvious products such as throws, yarns and cushions. The addition of a small flock of British Merinos added extra value to the business as the Merino is world-renowned for having the finest fleece of any breed of sheep in the world. This new addition to a 130-year-old farming business may have seemed an odd decision to begin with, especially as Merinos are a high maintenance breed in comparison with the hardy Romneys, but it has definitely brought new opportunities to Romney Marsh Wools. Selling their products at shows allows them to meet their customers face-to-face and to promote the benefits of British wool products. The lambing season is underway on the farm and the future of the business is being born every day, with Merinos lambing in the shed and the Romneys waiting to lamb out on the marshes. It is an extremely busy but rewarding time of year when it is all hands on deck to produce a good crop of strong, healthy lambs who can provide them with luxurious fleeces in the future. It really is a family business with the next generation of Bouldens (aged 5 and 6) beginning to help with lambing and take an interest in both the family farm and the wool business. If you are interested in using British wool, make sure you go and look at everything Romney Marsh Wools has to offer!
The Knitting Shed are Fibre-East newbies and have been up and running since January. Brother and sisters Paul, Nicola and Louise decided to keep the business going after Paul’s wife Vicky, who started the original Knitting Shed, died in 2014. Nicola has combined her interest in knitting and sewing to design some beautiful children’s clothes with a vintage feel to them. They come as kits containing everything you need (apart from knitting needles and a sewing machine) to make dresses with knitted tops in Pima cotton and Liberty print skirts. Plans are under way to expand the range soon with a romper suit for boys and a winter collection in wool and corduroy for girls. As well as the kits, they also have a range of hand-dyed yarns. Louise, who does all the dyeing, tells me that they currently have four bases; a beautifully drapey alpaca and silk in both laceweight and 4ply, a hard wearing BFL British sock yarn and a lovely soft merino 4ply. Just look at the beautiful colours of the yarn, I can’t wait to see more at this year’s event!
Wendy Fowler is a familiar face at Fibre-East with her business, Wendy’s Yarn Bowls. Wendy makes pottery yarn bowls in several sizes and glaze colours, also double yarn bowls and triple ones and also yarn bowls with lids to keep children and pets away! These are great for keeping your knitting and crochet in one place and stops the ball of yarn from rolling around the floor. Wendy also makes needle holders, notion bowls and has recently begun making a range of shawl pins. The yarn bowls make perfect gifts, either for a friend or for yourself!
Woolly Chic is another family business, run by Helen Ingram. Using the yarn spun from the fleeces of Poll Dorset and Ryland sheep on her uncle and aunt’s farm in Wales, Woolly Chic sells a beautiful range of 100% British wool and unique crochet and knitting kits. The Sheep Tea Cosy is the most popular crochet kit and a new kit for a Knitted Teddy Bear is proving equally popular. Helen, a mum of three young children from Hertfordshire, has turned her hobby of crochet and love of all things woolly into a business selling knitting and crochet designs, sharing skills and encouraging others to learn a new craft. Helen says: ‘It is lovely to create crochet and knitting patterns using yarn that came from sheep that graze on my family’s farm’. Helen will be bringing her kits and yarn, dyed in beautiful ice-cream inspired colours, along to Fibre-East this summer, so if you are equally passionate about using British yarn, make sure you check out her stand.
If you’ve been to Fibre-East before, you’ve probably spent some time browsing through some of the books that Felicity Warnes, from The Old Bookshop, has had displayed on her stand. Felicity will be bringing some of her large stock of books on Textiles including Knitting, Crochet, Weaving, plus books on Embroidery and (her favourite subject) Costume and Fashion. The majority of the books are out of print and second hand, so many are hard to find. Not only that, but Felicity will also be bringing along copies of her newly published book, ‘Nineteenth Century Women’s Fashion’, so you could get yourself a signed copy! The book is a unique record of nineteenth-century women’s fashion as seen through original, hand-coloured fashion plates. containing many fashion illustrations not seen in the public domain for more than 100 years.
Last but by no means least for today’s post comes the colourful world of Sara’s Texture Crafts. Sara, the indie dyer/fibre artist behind Sara’s Texture Crafts works from her home in mid-Devon, drawing on her surroundings for inspiration to produce one-of-a-kind (OOAK) colourways, dyed-to-order repeatables and colour clubs each year, specialising in luxurious fibres and yarns. When she is not busy doing that, she also works with local farmers to bring you breed-specific products. Sara says she is really proud to be at Fibre East again this year. ‘In my boxes I aim to pack lots of new things, like mini skeins, sock blanks, project bags and OOAKs, so please come and say Hi!’ If you’d like to take a little piece of Devon back home with you, make sure you pay her stand a visit!
I hope you’ve enjoyed your first stroll around this year’s marketplace. You’d better start saving those pennies ready for a big yarny splurge in July! Keep your eyes open for the next instalment, coming soon!