The unbearable delight of a wool show

Waterloo station had never looked so woolly. It wasn’t a yarn bombing event, but ten minutes until the departure of the 10am train to Farnham, home of the Unravel Festival of Knitting. Right, left and centre on the grand station concourse, there were sweatered, beanied and shawl-wrapped knitters waiting for the platform announcement.

I felt a pang of self consciousness as I got onto the train with this crowd of strangers. We didn’t know each other but we knew with less than a sideways glance, that we did know something about each other. This peculiarly British awkwardness thankfully waned during the journey, as everyone (yes, everyone) got their knitting out and got on with their socks, mitts and other appropriately travel sized projects, so that by the time the train pulled into Farnham station we could acknowledge our familiarity and follow each other on the short walk to the beautiful old Maltings that houses Unravel.

The Maltings is a series of differently sized halls, and during Unravel they are lined with stalls selling spectalular hand dyed yarns, sheepy wools, unspun fleece, wooden knitting bowls, decorative stitch markers, knitty themed stationery and endless riches for knitters in need of a new accessory. Each room reveals more knitters, more astonishing knitwear and more glorious wool.

For this knitter, the radiant and rosy shades of the plant dyed yarns and the British rare breed wools turn into a kind of thrilling rocket-fuelled ride of colour and fibre, but there is something about the crowded funfair of woolly inspiration that surrounds me which can also be overwhelming. I’m hurtling through the air on creative stimulation, and at the same time I also have a yearning, like Max in the Wild Things, to go back home. The smallness of my knitting self is somehow confronted with the hugeness of our knitting world in all its fabulous, creative glory. This tension has visited me before, and I have no doubt it will come again. Scaling up something as profoundly personal as our knitting is a tall order that Unravel delivers with awesome results, but is it ok to say that I’m pleased it’s only once a year?


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