Every year Mummy and I like go on little adventures to pastures new. Preferably pastures with a spa and nice restaurants close by. This year we have already managed to squeeze in TWO getaways, which is very exciting. We had booked our annual trip and then I spotted an ad for Wonderwool Wales (which hooked me on alliteration alone) on the Mollie Makes site (I love looking over this; they always pick up on really good events, not to mention PRETTY PICTURES), so we decided to go here too.
Accommodation and Food
Wonderwool is held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells and the first important lesson we learned was to book early and go with a B&B. As with lots of little places in Wales, there are not that many hotels and the lovely little farm B&Bs book up really quickly – this is a popular event. We very luckily managed to secure a room at Holly Farm in Howey, which I would highly recommend. Howey itself is a lovely little place, minutes away from the showground which you definitely want after you have been trawling round all day carrying wool, and all of the B&Bs seem to have little brown signs so they are super easy to find. Holly Farm also has the advantage of being a walkable distance from the Laughing Dog which is a traditional looking pub with friendly people (and dogs) and a really impressive menu. Even though we arrived a few minutes late they kindly did us some fab fish and chips and we will certainly be going back next year.
As this was the ten year anniversary and we have never been before I can’t say for certain what was put on in celebration and what was usual but I would imagine the format is pretty stable! There were three buildings full of stalls, all run by very helpful people who were always happy to take the time to explain what they were selling, how it was made and even let you have a go. If you are new to crochet, knitting, weaving, spinning, etc, this is a great place to go to get more information from experts and see demonstrations. They also run ‘Wool workshops’ so you could learn a new skill or perfect one you already have. If you are more practised in these arts then you will have a ball- so much to buy!
My favourite part was seeing all the animals that the wool comes from (inner child jumped for joy!); alpacas, lots of different sheep and rabbits are there to be coo-ed over and stroked. I had never seen an angora rabbit before-they are FLUFFY. Obviously.
There were stalls selling buttons, shawl pins, hooks and needles, spinning wheels, patterns, spindles, finished products, accessories I didn’t even know existed and wool, wool, wool in whatever state you prefer, from fleeces to the finished ready-to-knit/crochet 100g ball!
There were also food stands on site and loads of places to get coffee. We had really good luck with the weather so taking a picnic and sitting outside was possible; this is Wales however so sunny skies are not guaranteed every April.
Stalls that stood out to us
There was so much there that you really need to take the two days to go; we wandered and considered and drank coffee and then did most of our buying the second day. However, if you see something you know you want, buy it then because things really move at these events and we lost a couple of things we wanted because we took too long to decide! The stalls we were really impressed with were:
I had been looking for a peg loom as we know several people who love crafting but have problems with their hands (carpal tunnel, arthritis, reduced hand-eye coordination) and a peg loom means you can make lots of lovely things with reduced dexterity. I had seen some before but wasn’t really sure whether they would make a good gift for an experienced crafter; Maureen Preen convinced me! She was so helpful: letting us have a go, showing the things she had made and suggesting other possible projects from a simple scarf to a wall hanging that you could embroider/appliqué onto if you wanted. I did end up buying one for a present, as well as her helpful booklet to get started – really want one myself now!
Another lovely lady! She was selling patterns, wool and some gorgeous shawl pins and buttons. I find it so hard to find really nice wood shawl pins for a reasonable amount of money – this is the place. I also bought some funky ‘rosebud’ buttons. I have no idea what I am going to do with them yet but they were so lovely I had to have them. (I am a button hoarder!) The wool she was selling was so soft you just wanted to bury your face in it and maybe take a nap – or perhaps that was just me. Either way I did a lot of standing and stroking things here. I bought the Orchard Rose jumper pattern: I cannot knit…I try again and again and my knitting gets smaller and tighter and I get crosser and crosser and then give up. So I am really hoping to persuade Mummy to knit this for me 🙂
Unbelievawool (got to love a pun)
First things first: they have an etsy shop. So I suggest going there and saying ‘oooo’ a lot. The colours were amazing. Something that seemed really popular across the whole show was wool with sparkles woven through. I am a big fan of natural fibres so usually shy away from wool that has any man-made component but sparkles. Unbelievawool have sparkles. And again, the wool is very soft and you could easily imagine making a whole host of gorgeous, unique and sparkly (or not, if you are odd and don’t like sparkles) things to flounce about in.
Again, an etsy shop. More softness. More colours. Total woolly joy. Another yarn that seemed quite popular at a lot of stalls was wool with Donegal neps in; these are basically little flecks of natural coloured wool woven through whatever shade your yarn is dyed, giving a tweedy appearance. Historically this has made quite scratchy wool but this is not the kind of wool that Moonlightyarns do! I bought some of their ‘Mossy forest floor’ wool with Donegal neps and I plan to do a lacy Nicki Trench shawl with it as a present (post to follow!). I am intending for it to be a feeding shawl so I made sure it was super super soft.
Bunnies. There were actual fluffy bunnies with fluffy ears and fluffy feet and really I just wanted to take a bunny home but since I couldn’t do that I bought some wool. The lady on the stall was really helpful and friendly, giving advice on how much I might need for different projects. I decided to make some booties with bunny buttons – everyone I know seems to be pregnant so I am making a lot of very small things. Which are very quick and satisfying to make, so no complaints here.
I have long been a fan of Colinette; their colour palette is amazing and I return to their Jitterbug yarn again and again because I know it will make up beautifully and wash well. The advantage of the Colinette stall at the festival was that they had offcuts at really good prices; they are often at the higher end of the price range which means they might not be first choice for some projects! However, I picked up a mix of 6 colourways in their Jitterbug yarn for £15; they weren’t labelled so I didn’t know how much was in them but I thought that since I am doing lots of small projects at the moment I could manage something. Turns out that some of them had 120 metres on! I think the shortest length was 73 metres (yes, I measured them all. It took a while) but I think this is still a good length; you could easily get something for a baby out of it, or jazz up a plain coloured jumper with snazzy cuffs or a collar. Bargain.
What we learned
1. Since this was the first time we had been, we learned a lot. It was really clear that spinning your own wool is much cheaper than buying it spun; even after dying the roving was significantly cheaper than the spun wool. I did a spinning course a while back and have been casually looking for a wheel every since so I will step that up a bit. Obviously I will then need to buy a time turner to find the hours to spin it.
2. Book ahead and give yourself the whole weekend.
3. Take cash. There are no cash machines on site and whilst some of the stalls did take cards, a lot of the smaller businesses did not.
4. Drink a lot. By the time you have walked around all the buildings and got lost and tried to find that one stall with that thing you wanted right at the start and instead ended up walking round the whole thing again, you may well have shrivelled up like a prune if you don’t take water. Or possibly gin.