Despite being an Edinburgh native, and despite my mother telling me repeatedly how good it is, I only made it to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the first time last year. It was good, oh yes, but it was also pretty overwhelming. I wasn’t prepared for how large the marketplace was, and how hot and busy the Corn Exchange would be, and I spent most of the festival wandering about feeling rather shell-shocked, texting Lucy at intervals: “OMG I am literally a yard away from Kate Davies in the flesh! Unreasonably excited!!!”
Although seeing a lot of fibre celebrities in real life was pretty cool, I don’t feel I made the most of the day, and so this year I am making some plans before I go.
First up: what vendors do I especially want to visit? Like a lot of fibre fans, it seems, I’m getting really interested in the provenance of yarns, and their environmental credentials, so I’m particularly keen to check out British-raised/rare breed/small batch/naturally dyed/minimally-processed yarns at the festival. Vendors who fit this description include (in no particular order):
Home Farm Wensleydales – yarn from the farm’s own flock of Wensleydales (and some Blue-Faced Leicesters). Wensleydales are brilliantly eccentric-looking sheep.
Garthenor – undyed organic yarn from British sheep breeds. How gorgeous is their website?!
Cambrian Wool – a community interest company set up to develop products with Welsh wool.
Uradale Farm – organic wool from Shetland
The Border Tart – a Scottish indie dyer specialising in indigo.
Polo & Co – rustic French yarns in natural shades or plant-dyed.
Shetland Handspun – natural and dyed yarns spun by hand in Shetland.
Ardalanish Weaving Mill – yarns and accessories from a farm on the Isle of Mull that uses fleeces from its own and other local sheep.
Daughter of a Shepherd – undyed yarn from the proprietor’s father’s flock of Hebridean sheep.
Woollenflower – plant dyed yarns, and accessories made from reclaimed tweed.
Uist Wool – a cooperative company spinning undyed yarns from local sheep in the Outer Hebrides.
Black Bat – British rare breed wools.
The Border Mill – undyed and naturally dyed alpaca from a lovely small operation in the Scottish Borders. Apparently they have a new 4-ply alpaca-silk tweed range – sounds nice!
Iona Wool – yarn spun from sheep on the island of Iona.
The Little Grey Sheep – Gotland yarn from Hampshire dyed by hand on the farm.
Whistlebare – yarn from Northumberland, dyed on the farm it’s raised on.
Bigger British companies that also produce this kind of yarn include:
Kettle Yarn Co – ethically sourced, hardwearing yarns, some of which are naturally dyed.
Laxtons [http://www.laxtons.com/shop/undyed-yarns-for-hand-dying] – undyed yarns in large quantities.
Blacker Yarns [https://www.blackeryarns.co.uk/knitting-wool-yarns] – spinners of all sorts of British wool, including lots of single-breed yarns.
Whew, that’s a long list! (Well done, EYF organisers, for bringing in so many interesting small producers.) Are you wondering whether I intend to buy from all of them? Of course I don’t; I couldn’t possibly afford to. I want to keep my yarn acquisitions very small and purposeful this year, so I may not come away with much yarn at all. But visiting these sellers, feeling their yarn and learning more about the sheep and people who produce it will be a) pleasurable in itself, b) a good way to learn more about different yarns and their properties, and c) a way of building up a reference index of yarns I like so that next time I need a whole sweater’s worth of wool, I know where to go for it.
This is not a comprehensive list, so if you know of other vendors like this who are coming to EYF, please leave a comment! What vendors are you excited about seeing at the Festival?