Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018

I'm going to tell you a secret. It is not a very cool secret, and chances are that you will already have guessed it if you have been following me for a while. Still, here it is: I don't deal very well with crowds. I am a quiet woman who prefer her own company to large parties, and I rarely enjoy large gatherings. Some people find it difficult to believe because I can get quite chatty online. There is obviously a difference between the person you see on social media and the person I am behind closed doors. I am not shy, but I'm quiet and find large crowds challenging.

However, I freaking love Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I know of no other knitting events like it and it is really difficult to explain what makes it different. Part of the appeal is obviously its marketplace which is filled to the rafters with exquisite fibres and yarns (one esteemed knitting guru said to me "it is truly one of the finest marketplaces in the world" and she would know). Another part of its appeal is its sheer size. This year it was bigger than ever and I never made it round the entire space despite being there for four days(!).

But its biggest appeal is its sense of community.

One of my very first teaching gigs was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2013. I taught colourwork to a small group of knitters. When I entered the workroom, it was early morning and the venue was very quiet. Later, when my session had ended, I stepped outside and faced near-pandemonium. Knitters from across the UK had showed up in droves to meet old friends and make new ones. 

The size of the festival has changed (as has the venue) over the last five years, but the heart remains.

EYF is a place you meet friends, including the ones you did not know you had. People readily chat to complete strangers about their yarn, what they are wearing, what they are making, and much more. Hugs are handed out liberally. Smiles are just that bit broader and warmer. This year the organisers had added a big marquee at the back to accommodate all the knitters who wanted to sit down and knit with friends new and old. I only visited briefly as I was busy elsewhere, but it was a thoughtful addition. 

  L-R: The  This Thing of Paper  KAL participants compare Woodcut shawls; the  Martin's Lab  stall was filled gorgeous hand-dyed skeins; the ladies of  Yarn in the City  take in the marketplace (and Rachel is wearing her  Incunabula  cardigan)

L-R: The This Thing of Paper KAL participants compare Woodcut shawls; the Martin's Lab stall was filled gorgeous hand-dyed skeins; the ladies of Yarn in the City take in the marketplace (and Rachel is wearing her Incunabula cardigan)

This year was quite different for me in a number of ways. Usually I am too busy to spend more than 30 minutes in the marketplace, but my class schedule was arranged such that I could spend most of Thursday walking around the festival. I really enjoyed visiting old favourite stalls and finding new yarnies. #

The breadth of the marketplace means that there was something for everybody: gorgeous multi-coloured speckles from Qing Fibres and Mothy & the Squid via beautiful soft semi-solids from Eden Cottage and Moel View Yarn to heritage yarns like Shetland Woolbrokers and Garthenor. Other stalls specialised in notions, project bags, and books. 

I made the majority of my modest purchases during my Thursday visit: a garment's worth of delicious undyed Norwegian Dala/Dorset Down DK yarn from Knockado Wool Mill (spun on their 19th C equipment in the north of Scotland), a skein of Rusty Ferret to go with an earlier Ferret purchase, buttons from Textile Garden, and yarn from Jill Draper Makes in various shades of blue & teal.  I made my final purchase on the Sunday when I finally picked up some Yeavering Bell 4ply from Whistlebare.  Sunday saw the main marketplace shut and the main concourse taken over by smallholders and small batch yarn from their flocks. I was too exhausted to make informed purchases (the Whistlebare purchase was a Thursday decision) but I lingered over yarns from Hawkshaw Sheep, Black Isle Yarns,  and Uradale Yarns. I do love a good #knitlocal yarn which is minimally processed and still feels alive in my hands. Anyway, I posted photos of my new purchases on Instagram, in case you are interested!

But stash enhancement was only one part of EYF for me. 

I ran three classes: a techniques-based class on colourwork, a masterclass on shawl design, and a conceptual class on storytelling and psychogeography. I enjoyed the breadth of topics as well as getting back into a classroom. Teaching is hands-down one of my favourite things to do and I derive so much joy from seeing my student push themselves into new directions.

My class on storytelling & psychogeography is always challenging to teach as it is student-led and I have to constantly stop myself from imposing structure (it's a thing with me). The EYF students were all exceptionally willing to be led astray and go exploring armed with yarn and needles. Watching knitters trusting each other with deeply personal stories nearly undid me. I continue to be amazed by the knitters I meet and the depth of emotion with which they approach their craft. It is an honour - and it really seemed to fit the EYF ethos. 

  L-R: One of my former design students show me how she's used her background in mathematics to play with construction, a sheep watches over knitters relaxing, the  Travelknitter  stall showcased Larissa's gorgeous jewel tones.

L-R: One of my former design students show me how she's used her background in mathematics to play with construction, a sheep watches over knitters relaxing, the Travelknitter stall showcased Larissa's gorgeous jewel tones.

I wrote in my previous post that "EYF 2018 felt like the first time I showed up as myself rather than as an idealised version of myself." Remember my confession that I am really a quiet woman who prefers small gatherings to large crowds? This is a super-interesting post on clothes as armour and it mirrors some of the many conversations I have had with friends over the last few years on clothes, semiotics, the performance of the Self, gender, social media, and image culture. Some of you might also recognise these themes from essays in This Thing of Paper (especially the Vellum, Psalter, Rubrication, and Bibliotheca essays). It is testament to the friendly and generous spirit of EYF that I do not worry about showing up as myself. It is somewhere I do not have worry because people are lovely. Thank you to everyone I met and apologies to everyone who slipped through the crowds. No names mentioned because you are all incredible.  

It looks as though I have words and thoughts again. This is rather nice. Thank you, denizens of EYF 2018. 

And thank you to Jo and Mica for creating EYF.