I went to Unravel at Farnham Maltings over the weekend. Were you there? If so, what did you think of the show? And more importantly – what did you buy? If you didn’t go, Unravel is a fibre festival, something like Woolfest but on a smaller scale. There were two Gotland sheep penned outside, to my amusement under their own personal gazebo, but these were the only animals. There were talks, workshops and plenty of trade stands. It was very busy. Fortunately there was a good supply of comfy sofas and plenty of milling space so it was possible to find a corner to rest and contemplate the next purchase.
I went to a talk by Susan Crawford. I first met her at Fibrefest 2009 when I bought her book A Stitch in Time. I can’t wait for the next volume! She talked about adapting vintage patterns and choosing the right yarn, it was a fascinating insight into the process. There was a beautiful twinset on display from the new book, it was inspired by some victory buttons which were produced to celebrate the end of the Second World War. The buttons were designed with such detail that they even included the Morse code for V - dot dot dash.
I was especially interested to hear about Excelana, a vintage inspired yarn Susan is working on. The wool comes from sheep bred in Devon, the yarn is processed by John Arbon, also in Devon, and only goes as far as Bradford to be dyed. The sheep the wool comes from are what is known in the sheep industry as mules. A mule is produced by putting a longwool ram onto a hill breed of ewe. The most common mule is the North of England, which is the result of putting a Blue Face Leicester ram on either a Swaledale or a Scotch Black Face. In this case, however, the sheep have been produced by putting a Blue Face Leicester ram onto an Exmoor Horn ewe. They are known as the Exmoor Blueface.
There was a cardigan on display made from pure Exmoor Blueface wool. I had a feel, the yarn did have that slight ‘bite’ people often expect of wool. Personally I’d have worn it but many people probably would be put off. As a result of this handle, the Exmoor Blueface was then blended with pure Blue Face Leicester. The blend gave the desired results. Excelana is 70% Exmoor Blueface and 30% pure Blue Face Leicester. The addition of that 30% has resulted in a yarn with a lovely soft handle. Definitely wearable next to the skin.
Of course I had to buy some samples:
I also bought some raw Gotland fleece. I have never spun Gotland so I am really looking forward to the experience. I will let you know how I get on.