It’s not all about the classes. As any knitter will know, whether you are just learning to cast on your first row and filled with disbelief that this row of irregular knots on your needle can become a beautiful scarf or you can knock out an Italian twisted cast on and twenty rows of dual coloured brioche whilst holding an in depth conversation about the state of the economy, knitting is about the craic.
I will knit anywhere, I always have a small knitting bag with me. I have knitted in long queues, polling stations, every conceivable form of transport, school parents’ evenings, cinemas. I’ve knitted socks dressed as an Edwardian for a WWI re-enactment (and put a stainless steel knitting needle through my hand, be careful, your granny’s needles really are dangerous weapons!). I’ve knitted and even spun on stage (did you know Joan of Arc’s mother was a spinner, when I played her she was!). I can’t imagine hanging around somewhere without my knitting to keep me busy, and when you whip out your needles people start to talk to you. A lovely lady and I caused a state of panic on the tube from Kilburn to Baker Street. I noticed her fine yellow cable socks, clearly hand knitted and she noticed the needles sticking out of my back pack. Reader we started a conversation. Two strangers on the tube, the rest of the carriage was aghast!
The best yarn festivals have a knitting area. Key elements for a good knitting area are:
- lots of space, not everyone knits on circulars and needles can be a weapon (see above!)
- A mixture of seating. Some people want comfy chairs, some people like to curl up on a sofa, some people, particularly if they are doing a complicated lace pattern or colourwork, want a table on which to lay out pattern and yarns and of course the essential tea (or coffee)
- Seating arranged in areas conducive to chatting and making new friends. No lines of tables and chairs please.
- Occasional tables. We will be drinking tea (or coffee) and we have big bags full of our classwork, exciting new purchases and the jumper we promised ourselves we would finish this week. We don’t want to put our drinks on the floor.
- Good lighting. We don’t care for mood lighting and we are not remotely interested in the interior design. We want to be able to see what we are doing, especially when we were having such a good time that we have to undo the previous two rows. Lights and lots of them please.
We came from all over the world. Even Antarctica!
- Easy access to tea and coffee. Getting up and leaving our knitting and our new friends is something we only want to have to do in extremis. Please don’t make us walk upstairs to get a cuppa. On the same basis, loos nearby are good too. That tea doesn’t half run through you.
- Food. And as above, we don’t want to have to go a long way to find it. Maybe not in the knitting area (though I have been to festivals where the two are combined and haven’t seen a chocolate cake/fine lacework disaster yet).
- Information. We don’t always remember our festival guides and when somebody mentions a really interesting workshop it would be good if we could borrow a guide or see a timetable on the wall. Information about other local events (heaven forbid even non-yarn ones!), a list of local restaurants, taxi phone numbers, bus timetables etc. are all really helpful to the stressed knitter who has been knitting right up to the wire and now has precisely 15 minutes to get something to eat and cross town for their next workshop.
Samples of the patterns available in this year’s Wool Week Annual
- Entertainment. Talks, music, demonstrations. I discovered Mawatas when Katie Seal of Sealy McWheely gave a talk at Loch Ness KnitFest. I also had my first spinning lesson with her a few months later. You never know what you will learn or which new musicians you will discover.
These were just what was on offer in the Hub
I can confirm that SWW achieves all the above with bells on. The hub is a knitters dream. Even Stuart quite happily came and sat with me and chatted to people, admired knitting and tapped his toes to the bands.
That was of course, when he was not bothering the fish at Muckle Flugga. The record catch, a 40 lb cod. Fish and chips will be on the menu in several friends houses this weekend!
I have made new friends from all around the world. I have laughed until I could hardly speak. I have watched in awe as knitters create the most beautiful work. I have discovered new yarns and new patterns. I have learned to knit with a makkin belt. I have watched spinners turn wool into gold (Rumpelstiltskin eat your heart out). I have listened to the most talented young musicians and I have enjoyed just being somewhere where I felt so utterly at home.
Enjoy your weekend
Love Gillie x