On a recent visit to the Wonderwool Wales Festival in Builth Wells, I was intrigued with the journey that wool takes from the sheep to the finished article, whether it was knitted, crocheted or weaved. The myriad of shades of wool and fibres, was a pleasure to behold wherever I turned in the vast halls of exhibits. I have always admired the gentleness of sheep and the way that they graze peacefully in their surroundings. This contented mood is, I believe, reflected in the woollen industry and it is easy to see why it is so therapeutic to work within.
My first “port” of call when I arrived was to Hall 3 where the azure ocean filled “Above and Below the Waves” installation had been orchestrated by Alison Murray from Devon. I loved the vibrancy of the turquoise ocean oozing with sea scuttles and boats. As I walked through, on dry land, the brilliant shades danced over the waves and the undersea rocks to change them into completely different shades. All the items on display had been knitted, crocheted, weaved or felted with love and patience by 2000 generous people to raise funds for the worthy charity RNLI.
Sarah Enoch has a heart for the Felting Workshops that she runs under her banner of www.calonwlanfelt.co.uk in my home town of Llandeilo. It was interesting to speak to Sarah as she has a vast knowledge of the felting process. She spends her time working for her workshops and she said that preparation is key. She loves dyeing wool and started five years ago. Before that, she worked for the RSPB and in conservation and this may have fuelled her passion for the lovely piece of work that she had displayed – the Dinefwr Oak.
I then spent time on the Cambrian Mountains Wool Stand. See www.cambrianwool.co.uk. I loved how the colours of the wool sourced from the Cambrian Mountain area were created to reflect the area’s industrial heritage. I spoke to Jude Howards who told me that they are keen to promote wool from this area as it is excellent quality. I loved the different shades and I picked up a sample of some of the colours represented. Shades of “Slate” and “Gegin” and Hafan” certainly reflected the industrial sense but “Welsh Red” created for me a homely atmosphere; visions of a comforting blanket that one might associate with a Mamgu’s parlour!
I could not leave the show without a visit to a button stand. The one I visited was www.textilegarden.com. There were so many interesting buttons. Should I choose the flowery purple ones or the earthy green ones? Despite my love of colour, I opted for a large silver heart button and two small silver daisy buttons. I had no intention of sewing these onto a garment but would thread them onto a silver chain.
Spinning wheels were everywhere with foot tapping exercises going on. I wondered whether it would send me to sleep if I used one, or would it have been good exercise? One or two spinners confirmed that it was relaxing. I think my patience would have run out long before I had a ball of wool to show for my efforts! However, I stood for a while mesmerised by the actions of the bright wool accumulating onto the spindle.
To complete my visit, I attended the Sheep Walk where brave models paraded vivid and cheerful items that were available to purchase. I left the event giving a friendly pat to a beautiful curly Wensleydale sheep and whispered “thank you for the yarn – it was a good one!”