Having spent the 5 years after leaving university living in Sheffield it will always have a special place in my heart so when I heard that there would be a new yarn festival, called the Wool Monty, launching there this year I was very excited. Sheffield and wool fondling…throw in a bit of cake and that’s all my boxes ticked! I wanted to share this experience with other people, partly so I looked less frightening walking round with my “happy wool face” on but also because I knew 2 very lovely people who would enjoy it too so I took my mum and my little sister. My mum loves knitting as much as I do whereas my sister is less about the knitting but loves Sheffield (having been a student there).
I’ll gloss over the slightly traumatic start to the day, missing my bus and having to drag my OH and my children out of the house in their pyjamas so they could give me a lift to the train station instead. The train journey itself was a joy though – I’d got the slow train from Manchester to Sheffield that travels along the Hope Valley line so I had views of rolling hills, stone houses and sheep to entertain me. I’d taken a book on Victorian dress making and a kumihimo braiding project with me in case I got bored but I hardly picked up either of them as the views were so stunning.
My knitter’s radar was on high alert for other likely looking travellers also headed to the Wool Monty show. A quick glance around the carriage and I spotted a woman with knitting in her lap – a smile, a nod and a quick “I bet I know where you are going today!” and we were soon chatting away about current projects and what we hoped to buy that day. I was so busy chatting about wool that I nearly walked past my mum and my sister at the train station, much to their amusement.
Once in Sheffield we then needed to get a tram to the FlyDSA Arena where the event was being held. In an ideal world this tram would have gone from the tram stop outside the rear of the train station but unfortunately it didn’t so we had a short walk round to Castle Square to get on the right tram. It turns pout the conductor on the tram was also a knitter and was very interested when we told her what was going on at the arena and why groups of women carrying knitting kept getting on the tram looking a bit giddy.
One drawback to the venue was that the attendees were not allowed to take their own food and drink in to the arena (which ruined my plan for a fancy picnic) but being the thrifty Yorkshire women that we are we had taken a small pack up of ham sandwiches and chocolate sourdough muffins which we ate outside, stood up next to the bins when we arrived with all the class and style that we could muster. My first reaction on walking in to the main room was “where is everyone?”. The space is huge but somehow feels quite cosy at the same time. Admittedly we had arrived only a few minutes after the event had opened but I still had a panic that it was going to be really poorly attended and never run again. I needn’t have worried though as it got busier later in the morning and it was partly a trick of the space that made it feel less busy.
Anyone who has ever been to a yarn show in the UK before will probably be aware that they can be very over crowded (in much the same way as a Christmas market) and can leave you feeling claustrophobic and harassed, you get squeezed along the rows between stalls pushed along with the tide of people and have to make a concerted effort to break free and make a mad dash to the stalls where you then have to employ the use of pointy elbows and forget good manners to have any hope of fondling some yarn. Not so at the Wool Monty show! The open space was amazing, despite having 74 stalls/ exhibitors there were wide open spaces leaving plenty of room for people to walk along without feeling crowded and plenty of space for people with mobility scooters/ wheelchairs/ crutches to navigate the area freely. At the back of the arena a café area was set up with plenty of seating and a relatively quick moving queue for cups of tea. Food/ cake was also available for those not classy enough to eat their butties by the bins at 10.30am! There was extra seating scattered about the stalls too, so plenty of opportunity to have a good sit down.
A few days before the event I had been through the stall holder list and checked out all their websites etc to make a short list of which stalls I wanted to visit in case it was super busy and I had to prioritise which ones I attempted to make my way to. In the end it was such a calm and relaxed atmosphere that we just ambled along looking at all the stalls and not feeling rushed or pressured in any way. There was a good range of stalls that catered for different tastes, from small scale, British, breed/ flock specific producers (my tastes), to commercial producers with affordable yarns suitable for making gifts for non-knitters who don’t know how to care for pure wool (my mum’s tastes), to independent designers with simple stylish patterns in block colours (my sister’s tastes).
If my budget had been endless, and my stash not already bursting at the seams then I could have bought a ridiculous amount of beautiful yarn. However I was very good and only made a small number of purchases, a sweaters worth of Warth Mill Yarn from Wooly Knit in a moss green colour. Yes I know that I could have walked the 5 miles up the road from my house to Wooly Knit itself rather than going all the way to Sheffield to buy it but it is my favourite wool to work with and my mum was buying some from there too. I even made their Facebook page as I was wearing a top knitted intheir Warth Mill Yarns at the show – lets not discuss my giddy wool face on the picture though. I also bought some fibre for spinning from Hawkshaw Sheep – a dark brown Shetland and some unwashed Derbyshire Gritstone fleece. Most of her wool and fibre comes from her own flock with a small additional amount coming from other local farmers, I have bought fibre from Hawkshaw Sheep before and really enjoyed being able to trace my fibre back to source. The fibre I got will be spun up to go with my previous handspun yarn from her and be knitted in to a shawl at some point in the future. As I felt guilty about being a bad mother gadding about fondling wool all day whilst my children stayed at home with their dad (in reality they were having their own muddy outdoor adventures and didn’t miss me at all) I bought presents for them too. I got a card for my youngest with a picture of a unicorn made from yarn on it (from Stationary Geek) and a card with a medieval style tapestry featuring dragons (from Opusangelicanum).
Although I didn’t buy much I did find quite a few stalls that I’d want to buy from in the future;
- Brambles & Me (who has the most beautiful logo ever!) – for synthetic free, naturally dyed yarns and a gorgeous tote bag.
- Bluebell Yarns – British, non-superwash yarns some of which are breed specific.
- Clay and Woodwork – because I am a sucker for ceramics with beautiful glazes!
- Hot Butter Yarns – for some gorgeous patterns.
- Lammermuir Wool – for flock specific Shetland blend yarns.
- Opusangelicanum – medieval style embroidery kits with vegetable dyed wools.
- Romney Marsh Wools – British wool in natural shades and wool soap.
- Ewe and Ply – leather wrist ruler/ bracelet.
- Wooldale Wool – flock specific yarn from Yorkshire.
- Wool Mouse – hand carved wooden shawl pins.
Things my mum liked;
- patterns by Sue Stratford
- Joes Toes – felted shoes/ slippers
- yarns from Wool is the answer
- ceramic buttons from Whim Wham Buttons
Things my sister liked;
- patterns from Handmade by Kunbi
- patterns from JimiKnits
- basically any orange or grey wool on all the stands.
All in all it gets a big thumbs up from me and I hope it runs again next year as I would love to go back after saving up for a bit.