In Praise of All Things Wooly
I am not the most creative of people. I do the odd hooking ‘thing’ – a kind of wooly version of painting by numbers, difficult to go wrong and produces pretty pictures that I can pretend my children did when they were at primary school. My daughter is rather more skillful with bits of wool and knitting needles and gets very excited when ‘The Sewing Bee” hits the TV, briefly harbouring dreams of decking herself out in wonderful home made apparel. She, therefore, was especially thrilled when we were offered a couple of tickets for the local event for purveyors of all things remotely related to anything that can be sewn, knitted, woven, crocheted and lots of other means of producing things out of yarn that remain a mystery to those of us lesser mortals who are new to the world of wooly things.
“Yarndale’ is in it’s sixth year and was voted the best knitting, sewing and wooly things show in the UK for 2016. That might not be exactly what it says on their first prize ticket but rest assured, it has earned praise from all and sundry who know their stuff in this wooly world. The build up to the event seems to involve an awful lot of knitting, stitching, sewing and general creativity. The local park is treated to amazing adornments on the lampposts marking the half-mile path through its centre. Each post has it’s own individual ‘sock’ which is carefully stitched on and may depict a scene (my favourite last year was a series of fish leaping up the lamppost) or a lovingly designed pattern. I travel this route several times a week on my teaching journeys around the local town and am always cheered by this ‘yarn-bombing’ – one of the many new terms I have learnt during my foray into this new world. The day before the actual event the surrounding area becomes festooned in wooly bunting alongside the signposts to the event – each with amusing quirky sheep related additions. The yarn bombing is not confined to the park. The bollards at the auction mart where the event is held are each decked out in complex individual scenes from a well endowed lady sunning herself to an abseiling husband and wife (or possibly the wife pushing a husband over a cliff….a subtle message to a soon to be ex-partner perhaps?). Children from the local schools decorated bikes one year and displayed them in the local woods. Wooly bikes! They looked incredible. Last year the children made endless pompoms, which lined the path to the entrance to the mart.
Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into engaging with the local community but the event accesses a much larger audience. I am told that enquiries and ticket applications come from far and wide. We had guests staying in our B and B from London and Birmingham but they are relatively local. People trekked from all over the world to come to this event in our tiny Northern town. As well as including the local primary school in the event, knitters were invited to produce a small sheep, which were sold at the show in aid of the local children’s hospice. The sheep arrived in abundance from a staggering 33 countries.
My daughter and I rocked up at the event not knowing quite what to expect. I have to say that I spent most of my time inside the auction mart open mouthed and feeling like I had entered a whole new world where, if you were not wearing at least one thing that you had made yourself you were not really part of the in-crowd. The scenes were impressive. Four ladies, who I am sure had exceptionally ordinary day jobs, were festooned in knitted, patch worked, crocheted creations. From the pom pom headband to the cloak of many materials and many colours to the spray-painted and decorated Dock Martin boots they were a sight to behold. I wonder if their bank teller colleagues (I imagined them serious faced in twin set and pearls behind a desk but possibly do them a disservice) have any idea of their weekend antics. However, the most impressive creation for me, amongst the gentlemen with homemade waistcoats, tie-dyed ties and bizarre hats, was the matching crocheted cardigan and bell-bottom trousers. Crocheted trousers! There’s something you don’t see everyday but I suspect you do see every Yarndale.
When I could stop myself from gawping at the spectacle that was the 5000+ ticket holders I then took to gawping at row upon row of stalls displaying all manner of yarn related paraphernalia as well as the yarn itself. From yak to sheep to goat to rabbit – every wooly thing on earth had donated the stuff that keeps it warm in order for this event to take place. Skein after skein, every colour under the sun with examples of what this creative crowd could produce with a little time, a lot of skill and a great deal of imagination (and, if the lady in the bell bottoms was anything to go by, considerable nerve to then actually wear the objects that they created). My daughter was a touch over excited by the wares on offer. Her bags were soon laden with various colourful balls of wool and her head overloaded with visions of perfectly knitted hats and cardigans. Her first project however, is an over-sized knitted fox head, which she plans to fix above our fireplace in lieu of a stag’s head or pair of antlers. I am not quite so enthusiastic about this project and hope that my own vision of a wobbly, misshapen orange ‘thing’ underestimates her creative talents.
Even if you are not the most creative of people and are content with buying your winter woolies on the High Street, I urge you to expand you horizons and for a few hours immerse yourself in this sea of yarn. You will not be disappointed and your world, if only briefly, will be a little brighter. You will certainly feel that your wardrobe is a tad ordinary and maybe, just maybe, you will be persuaded that what it really lacks is those crocheted flares and matching waistcoat.