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Thousands flock to the Highlands for Loch Ness Knit Fest 2018

By Mark Hayhurst 22 Oct 2018

Thousands flocked to the Highlands from 20 different countries for the annual international knitting festival, Loch Ness Knit Fest 2018.

The four-day event, held on October 18-21, was deemed a great success pulling in crowds of over 2,000 from all over the world.

The programme included 30 workshops and presentations, main-stage entertainment with a comfy Knit’N’Natter lounge, demonstrations in the crafting village, ceilidh, knitting cruise on Loch Ness, highland feast and more. For the duration of the event, Inverness Leisure Centre was used as the vibrant Loch Ness Knit Fest hub and was filled with wool and fibre enthusiasts, connecting people with a mutual love for knitting.

It all kicked off on Thursday with sightseeing tours taking groups of American, Scandinavian, Canadian and European guests on an unforgettable adventure in the local area. On Friday there was a full-day of workshops led by esteemed teachers sharing their skills and knitting techniques such as Shetland lace, fairisle, spinning, ganseys and shawl shaping. Knit Fest goers were then welcomed to the newly refurbished Inverness Town House for a Civic Reception with Provost Helen Carmichael while others attended a performance and ceilidh with the Blazin’ Fiddles in Beauly.

After three years of growth, the festival is now well established and sought out by both fibre pros and newbie visitors for its outstanding makers’ market, featuring vendors offering the finest wool, fibre and yarns as well as finished items. Doors opened to the Loch Ness Knit Fest marketplace 10am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday. Typical of past festivals, this year’s celebration offered something for everyone including hands-on activities for the kids and demonstrations from the Highland Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (HGWSD) in the crafting village. While over 500 donations of beautifully knitted garments and blankets piled up for the charity partner SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit –Raigmore, Inverness).

Stephanie Hoyle, from the HGWSD, said: “We support and demonstrate at least six fibre-focused events each year and Loch Ness Knit Fest is most definitely a highlight. Our group of volunteers work to inspire people to have a go. From weaving to spinning and felting, there’s skills we want to pass down the generations and keep alive, events like Loch Ness Knit Fest help us do that by gathering people under one roof.”

Renowned knitwear designers such as Christel Seyfarth, Jo Storie and Di Gilpin took to the main stage with models walking their garments in the annual fashion show. Followed by talented musicians and performers such as Spud the Piper, Cheryl Heggie School of Dance, Wilson Noble, The North Atlantic Project, 3 Musicteers, Carma Duo, Astar Band and Iain Gordon MacFarlane.

Planit Scotland and Willie Cameron run the event and this year was the third consecutive festival. Guests included people from the USA, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Europe, Russia as well as Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Cecilia Grigor, Loch Ness Knit Fest Director, said: “After three years of experience with this event, we’ve focused on the feedback to continuously improve our offering and it’s really been noticed. It was an ambitious and full programme, but we feel that we have been able to provide plenty of variety to participants. Initial feedback has been incredibly positive with people stating Loch Ness Knit Fest 2018 was the best one yet with a great venue and attention to detail.

“We’ve noticed that many visitors extend their stay for seven-12 days, taking in the classes, tours and cultural experience that we provide at Loch Ness Knit Fest but also exploring the wider Highlands and Islands.

“Overall, a real positive for us has been the sense of community in the textiles and tourism sector, with many businesses and organisations pulling together to showcase Scotland’s rich fibre arts heritage combined with true highland hospitality. From local farmers, to yarn producers, whiskey distilleries, eateries, restaurants and music venues, it’s been a real collaborative project and we’re delighted to see more businesses are coming on board year after year”.

The dates have been announced for Loch Ness Knit Fest 2019, October 16-20, at Inverness Leisure Centre. Tickets will go on sale early next year.

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