We recently got back from a wonderful long weekend spent at Woolfest in Cockermouth, Cumbria and before life gets in the way (doesn’t it just have a habit of doing that!), we really wanted to gush about why we think the fair was well worth the five hour car journey. It’s a fair distance from our Ragged Life heartland, so we wanted to share our experience with those of you who couldn’t make it.
Why we chose to exhibit at Woolfest:
Most of the Ragged Life team (me included) are based in the lovely market town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. However, my mum, Victoria (creator of many of the Ragged Life rag rugs on this blog) is originally from the North-West of England, so my brother and I spent many a happy holiday catching tadpoles and sailing dinghies in the Lake District.
So, in a way, Woolfest was a nice excuse to take a trip down memory lane. We applied for a stand and thankfully made the cut! There’s limited space at Woolfest, so it can be quite competitive to get in. Operation Lake District nostalgia holiday was a go! Me and my mum would be returning to Cumbria for the first time in nearly ten years 🙂
Day 1: Woolfest Set up day
The drive up to Cockermouth took us about five hours from Hitchin, but the last part of the journey was actually a lot of fun as we stopped off at some farm shops on the way and the scenery was spectacular as we passed from County Durham into Cumbria.
I’ll be completely honest, exhibiting at a new fair is always nerve wracking. You really hope that people like your rag rug wares, but you never know! So, to avoid disappointment, we decided to treat the show as bit of a working holiday. We’d try our best to inspire people to take up rag rugging, but if things didn’t pan out then we’d just use it as a nice excuse to visit the lovely Lakes. Win win.
We made it to Mitchell’s Lakeland Livestock Centre (the site of the fair) around 3ish and set up our stand. Here are a few photos of the Ragged Life stand before we messed it up by throwing fabric everywhere. It’s actually in a cattle pen, so quite different to our normal set up. I’m just pleased that we didn’t have to swill it out 🙂
After we’d finished setting up and had treated ourselves to a sneaky preview of the show, we headed into Cockermouth for dinner. The name of the town doesn’t sound particularly promising, but for anyone who hasn’t visited before, it’s a gorgeous little town with cute, chocolate box houses and quaint little side streets. We had a little mosey around then headed over to vegetarian restaurant Quince & Medlar for dinner. It was either that or slap up meal at BLOCKS Steakhouse, but I’d have felt guilty after bonding with all the sheep at the show.
After dinner, we headed home to our accommodation. I’d picked out a lovely lodge on Airbnb to stay in, about fifteen minutes from the show. And boy did it have a view…
Mandy, our host, had a real eye for detail as she’d thought of everything to make our stay super relaxing. She even left milk in the fridge, so we could enjoy a lovely cuppa in the morning. We were tired from the drive and all the action, so we conked out pretty quick. zzzzzzzz.
Day 2 & 3: Woolfest!
As well as picking out an absolute gem of place to stay, our holiday started off even better than we could have hoped for as the weather was absolutely stunning. Almost every day, we had our breakfast al fresco…
Which got us right in the mood for the fun of the fair. Here are a couple of photos of us at the show…
As you can see, Victoria was working on an absolutely gorgeous new rug, so watch this space to see the finished article.
It’s hard to know exactly how to describe Woolfest, as so much I love about the show is the feel of it, but essentially it’s a show celebrating natural fibres, wool and craftsmanship. To exhibit at Woolfest you not only have to apply for a stall, but you also have to be selected by a panel. This selection process means that the show has stayed true to its roots with high quality, small scale craft businesses that surprise and delight. You won’t find any cheap Chinese tat there. What really sets it apart though is all the lovely livestock (never thought I’d say that!) You can meet different breeds of sheep, the odd alpaca and even angora rabbits – awwwww! Here are just a few photos from the fair…
I’ve been looking to experiment a bit more with my blanket yarn and the Fire and Fibre stand below provided the inspiration I needed. It’s where I picked up my new peg loom. Watch this space to see how I get on weaving rag rugs from blanket yarn…
Woolfest itself is organised by The Woolclip (a co-operative made up of local wool workers) and below are just a few of their members’ gorgeous textile pieces. I was particularly amused by the make-your-own trolls. The Scandinavian lady at the stand runs classes 🙂
It was nice meeting the RagPuss team. We didn’t get to properly catch up, but apparently the main lady is a real authority on rag rugging! I bought a rug making book at her stand to add to my collection.
Woolfest was a real eye opener for me, as it really taught me more about the sheep to yarn process. I was absolutely engrossed by these wonderful carding machines from The Classic Carder. Plus the team were so lovely to chat to!
Our next door neighbour for the show was Muffin Ceramics who made a selection of buttons, vases, jewellery and other ceramic wonders. I couldn’t resist getting one of their lovely crescent necklaces (which I’ve photographed appallingly… oops), as I thought it would make a wonderfully unique gift, but now I’ve decided to keep it for myself. Hehe.
Opposite us (so we spent a lot of time looking at them!) were Made Naturally UK, doing knitting, crochet and macramé. I particularly liked their fresh, modern stool covers, which come as a kit.
And obviously I always make a beeline for colourful things, which is why The Yarn Badger‘s playful socks caught my attention. What fun!
Some of the friendliest and most talented people I met at the show were from Ewenique Fibres. They’d come down from Scotland to display their gorgeous hand-died yarns. They’re even softer than they look!
One of my favourite displays at the show was Temporary Measure. My mum has actually made a few of their knitted products, including a super soft baby alpaca neckerchief for me.
I also thought these bags by Midwinter Yarns were super cute. They’re made of vintage fabrics and really pop in person. Trust me to gravitate to the only non-woollen product on their stand!
I’m also a sucker for a good rummage (probably because my mum practically lives in charity shops), so Eliza Conway‘s stand really appealed to my maximalist aesthetic. She had vintage wares intermingled with wool and textile goodies. Looking around, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I could have spent a good hour looking around that one stand!
I naturally gravitated towards Jennie Howes beautiful work as she’d done some very inventive things with blanket yarn, including a chunky necklace / scarf chain (as awkwardly modelled by me!), woven rugs, braided rugs and more…
It’s always good fun having a chat with the Spin City ladies, who I regularly bump into at the Knitting and Stitching Show. In particular, their drop spindles are an easy way to get into spinning. Their stand is one of the few to rival our Ragged Life one in terms of colour colour colour!
Now onto the main event… The cuddly creatures!!! Oops, I mean majestic animals. Cue awwwing.
I spent quite a while chatting to the lady at Portland Sheep Stall. She talked me through everything from the sheering to the carding and spinning of the wool. She also showed me some lovely rugs they’d done on a peg loom.
So, that was the fair in all its glory. We spent a pleasant couple of days meeting some very lovely and talented fellow artisans, as well as shopping.
And as if we weren’t happy enough, we were sometimes kept company by soppy Tom the sheepdog who greeted us whenever we returned back to the lodge.
Day 4 & 5: Frolicking in the Lakes:
As the Lake District is a fair lick from Herfordshire, we also tagged on a couple of days exploring to our stay. We’d decided to book a different place to stay for our last couple of days as we thought we may be a little sick of the lodge (it turns out we weren’t, but heh ho), but before heading over to Ravenstone Manor near Bassenthwaite (apparently the only “lake” in the Lake District” – good pub quiz knowledge there), we visited a “Garden Safari” open gardens event in the local village of Blindcrake. Here are a few photos of the lovely gardens and classic cars we saw.
After exploring Blindcrake we made made our way to our accommodation. We went via Lakes Distillery, but it felt a little corporate to us, particularly after the wonderfully friendly and small-scale Garden Safari. We did however get to meet the actual alpacas that Temporary Measure use for the wool in their beautiful kits, so that was good fun.
After meeting the alpacas, we headed over to our accommodation – Ravenstone Manor. On route, we’d had a look to see what was going on locally and it turned out that Theatre by the Lake had a music act on that night that both my mum and I were pretty keen to check out. Fast forward past dinner and we were sat watching the Pasadena Rooftop Orchestra.
It was a lively act with excellent comedy and chat from the keyboardist. What’s more, they finished on one of the songs my mum is currently learning on the piano – Nagasaki (as sung in Jeeves and Wooster by Hugh Laurie). What a fun day!
The next day, we finally got out and about for our walk. Below are a few photos 🙂
And then finally, it was time to head back home… But, hopefully we’ll be back next year. We’ve tentatively booked the lodge again, so fingers crossed that we make the final cut again 🙂 Maybe some of you would be interested in coming up next year. If so, comment below to let us know. Maybe we can get a group together.
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As always, happy rag rugging!