This weekend saw the launch of Wool@J13, a yarn show set on Lower Drayton farm, in the midlands. We went along to see what it was all about, and were lucky enough to catch up with organiser and colourful character that is Ingrid Wagner, for a chat.
“I came to an event that was held at the farm, about a year ago, and that event sparked off some ideas. It was the first time I’d seen the farmland, and the first time I saw the possibilities that could be associated with the site,” Ingrid told us. ” There are wool shows running in the north, east, south and west, and as an exhibitor I’ve done about seven years of them. I’ve always thought the midlands is the easiest place to get to, this is just a few minutes off the M6, so why don’t we do something here?”
Although new on the yarn show scene, Wool@J13 used thier smaller stature to their advantage. “It’s really lovely to have a more local yarn show and I think it’s the way forward, to keep it small and with local talent. I think it’s been really well organised and it’s like a mini festival – I think its wonderful” said Terri Evans of Ewe and Ply, one of the owners of a local yarn shop, based in Shrewsbury.
“They’ve got a really good teaching element, a good range of workshops, crafts and products, and the traders are really good,” added Becca Tansley, the other owner of Ewe and Ply. “There’s been a really good atmosphere amongst traders and you don’t always get that at the bigger shows. There’s also the entertainment, the bars and food, which for a trader is great at the end of the day.”
The collection of traders was definitely a varied mix. There were some well known stallholders that are regular wool show attenders, but Wool@J13 also enlisted many local exhibitors, including a few that had never taken part in wool shows before. Lisa Harland from For the Love of Yarn said: “I think it’s got a really good range of exhibitors. A lot of wool shows you go to have a lot of stalls and events that are very similar, but with this it seems like they’ve handpicked a good range of everything.”
The Wool@J13 team focussed on creating a full programme to provide an interesting day out for all. There was music, street food, a bar, a stash swap area, demonstrations, competitions, play areas and areas to meet (and maybe cuddle) some of the farm animals. “Its location sets it apart from other wool shows,” said Fiona Brennan from Sonic Knits (a yarn box subsciption club). “I’ve never been to one outdoors and on a farm, they’re normally in a great big hall.”
“I like that they’ve got bands on,” Fiona added. “My kids are coming tomorrow and I’m not worried about them being bored at all.”
And to add to everything, there was a packed programme of workshops. On each day, there was something that would appeal to everyone – from natural dyeing, to broomstick crochet. When asked about her approach to setting up Wool@J13, Ingrid told us: “I wanted to tap into the people who are interested in wool, knitting and crochet, and bring those people together. I wanted to give them the opportunity to learn, because I think education is so important.”
We thought it was wonderful to see an event that really made the effort to appeal to everyone – including the whole family, not just the yarn-obsessed. Even though the weather tried it’s hardest to put a dampener on proceedings, we thoroughly enjoyed our day out and it appeared to be a real success. So, will we be seeing Wool@J13 return next year? We got Ingrid to give us the inside scoop!
“We certainly want to carry on next year,” said Ingrid. “We’ve given every exhibitor an extensive feedback form, because we think it’s important not only to see it from an organisers point of view but also an exhibitors point of view.”
“It’s too much just to stay on your own thinking, we’ve got to consider other people,” added Ingrid. “We’ve also been getting visitor feedback at the gate, and we’ll put all that together and look at putting on another show next year. I would like to link this year and next year, and do an event every couple of months that is linked to junction 13, as a way of keeping it rolling until the show next year.”
For more about this year’s event and for the latest news, check out the Wool@J13 website.