This weekend saw the return of Fibre East yarn festival, so we sent our roving reporter Chrissie Asbridge to check it out for us!
The trip to Fibre East in Bedfordshire hit a big snag when the main road leading to the Ampthill location was blocked by traffic cones and ‘Road Closed’ signs. My car was full of crochet fanatics, and we let out groans of frustration. Where to go? What to do? iPhone maps weren’t offering much support…
The car in front of us did a U-turn, the woman at the wheel mouthing to us that the road was blocked up ahead as well. We rolled down the window, half-yelling that we were on our way to a local yarn festival, noting that the woman and her friend in the passenger seat had a certain ‘yarny’ look about them. (You know that look!)
Lo and behold, she and her friend were heading to Fibre East, too, so we thankfully followed her car. As we drove back down the lane, we spied drivers who also had that yarny look, and soon a little convoy was making its windy way down an alternate route.
Twenty minutes later, we parked next to our convoy leader, and spent the next few minutes chatting away in the car park like old friends. This is at the heart of the yarn festivals I’ve attended, and what makes me happy to drive a few hours to swoon at yarn stalls: a real sense of connection, of unspoken understanding and a pervasive sense of joy amongst the crowd.
At a yarn festival you can walk up to a stranger and ask to stroke their buttery-soft cashmere shawl. At a yarn festival you can strike up a conversation with someone over a skein of merino and end up exchanging Instagram details and crochet tips. At a yarn festival you can interrupt someone’s lunch to discuss the yarn on their table. This is all seen as acceptable and normal, and pretty much expected!
Fibre East provided all these delightful scenarios and much more. The annual event celebrates the best of Britain’s wool industry, and it featured a fantastic selection of crochet-specific vendors. The first tent we visited hosted the likes of West Green Loft Yarns (westgreenloftyarns.com), which displayed beautiful, summery crocheted shawls next to the skeins used to create them. A few stands down we found a range of earthy crocheted scarf kits from Whistling Duck Alpacas (whistlingduckalpacas.co.uk), all using natural, undyed yarns.
The aisle turned into a crochet corner, with the bright and cheery Komodo Krafts (komodokrafts.com) offering a place to sit and hook their eco-friendly yarns beside an eye-catching, wonderfully kitsch crocheted floor lamp! Across the way was For the Love of Yarn (etsy.com/uk/shop/fortheloveofyarnuk), presenting a gorgeous selection of handmade polymer clay hooks alongside a rainbow of bright yarns.
Cotswold Alpacas (cotswoldalpacas.co.uk) had a range of cute, natural-toned crochet amigurumi kits available, and Watercolours & Lace (watercoloursandlace.co.uk) showcased stunning crocheted shawls made from their delicate, hand-painted yarns.
Festivals enable you to appreciate yarns up close and in person – you can see the depth of colour, feel the fibres, and often talk about the inspiration behind them with the artisan creators. Crafternoon Treats (crafternoontreats.com) showcased a wall of crocheted shawls, jewel-toned granny squares and a big, beautiful mandala all made from British wools. It was a stall chock full of crochet inspiration in dreamy colourways , some shades which were inspired by friends. Festivals introduce yarns with stories behind them; yarns to be appreciated.
New to my crochet gang visiting Fibre East was Paper Stories (etsy.com/shop/paperstoriesuk), a dazzling stall that drew us in with unique colourways with fun names (most Harry Potter-influenced). It was here that I fell into the Festival Stupor: so many gorgeous shades…do I get this one or that one? Ok…both!
You can catch up with more of Chrissie’s adventures on her blog – chrissiecrafts.blogspot.co.uk. If you missed Fibre East, you can always visit their website for more information and updates on next years show.