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Take home treasures from Wonderwool Wales

By Mark Hayhurst 21 Dec 2017

Thousands of fibre fans will leave next year’s Wonderwool Wales weighed down with their pick of wool and natural fibre products from more than 200 high quality stalls and some of the really lucky ones will also go home wearing the results of their own handiwork.

Returning with its trade mark vibrancy, the annual wool and natural fibres extravaganza, at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells on April 28 and 29, 2018, features a fabulous selection of Woolschools. Each hands-on workshop gives participants the chance to learn or perfect their skills with help from an expert.

Fibre fans can walk off in a beautiful new cowl, arm-knitted with help from Louise Horton, Sian Dinning and Helen Cooper from Wool in the Woods, three friends who are passionate about keeping yarn crafts alive, using modern interpretations of tried and tested practices.

Others are invited to make a brooch, whilst also making a hole in the wool they’ve stored away to use “one day”. Tina Francis will be running a brooch workshop, using oddments of her own, whilst giving people ideas for using up their own wool stash. Participants will leave the session with a stitched brooch on their lapel and a pattern for a larger work that will definitely dent their stash!

Needle felt students can leave sporting a charming fox, hare or badger brooch made with the help of Jenny Barnett. Crochet enthusiasts can learn to make vintage style flower blankets or shawls in a Woolschool taught by Lea Williams of Wild Creative Textiles.

Freelance knitwear designer and maker Lisette Webley hopes to inspire her students with the simple but satisfying art of Freeform Knitting and Crochet, showing how easy it is to produce fun, colourful hats, bags, scarves or even complete garments. Frances Fletcher will show how to dye sock yarn to produce a matched pair of socks.

The popular programme of pre-bookable one and two-hour workshops has something to inspire everyone – there’s also the chance to learn weaving from Bee Weir of Crafts from the Dungeon and an invitation to get “hooked” on hooking with carpet yarn in a workshop led by Carole Rennison of Hooked by Design.

Mary Jolly and Liz Davies of Bridstow Spinners will show how to spin on a drop spindle. Beginners can learn woven wet felting techniques with Pat Johnson. Willow weaver Mel Bastier will give an introduction to weaving with willow bark, showing how to make a beautiful bowl, woven in a hexagonal pattern and stitched with copper wire.

Graham Langhorne from Coastal Colours will run a session showing how to make braid using a wooden lucet. Graham learnt to lucet when taking part in English Civil War re-enactments, when his hand-knitted socks needed a tie to stop them falling down. He now makes and sells wooden lucets which function in the same way as the original pre 12th century models did.

All these chances to get creative with wool and natural fibres are presented alongside a wealth of stalls, special exhibitions, daily demonstrations and have-a-go sessions and the ever-entertaining Sheepwalk (a woolly take on the catwalk). The packed programme makes the 2018 show a must go diary date for fibre fans, craft lovers and makers.

Two BA Textiles graduates from Carmarthen School of Art are preparing for the show with particular excitement, as they have been given the chance to use it to showcase their work as part of a new bursary scheme. Kathleen Lloyd from Carmarthen and Julia Davies from Llandysul were joint winners of the first Wonderwool Wales award set up for students graduating from the BA Textiles: knit, weave and mixed media course at Carmarthen School of Art, part of Coleg Sir Gậr in Carmarthen. Each received a cheque for £1000 as well as the chance to exhibit. Kathleen Lloyd will be showing scarves and tops influenced by a visit to Jaipur and Julia Davies will display her handwoven, mixed yarn scarves, clothes and throws influenced by the industrial heritage of Wales.

A key attraction in hall three will be the ‘Curtain of Poppies’ a massive commemorative WW1 installation which has galvanised the support of schools, knitting groups, craft groups and individuals across the UK. Launched at the 2017 show, it was conceived in recognition of the united determination of women who “did their bit” to support the troops overseas during WW1 by knitting gloves, scarves, balaclavas and socks for the soldiers. Donated textile poppies, strung together into a ‘Curtain of Poppies’, will commemorate those from the UK who died serving their country.

Visitors to the 2018 show can also snap up the chance to see a life-size crocodile whose coat is made up of hundreds of crochet motifs – the result of a community arts project led by Bristol’s Crafting the City.

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