When we moved to Wales last year I was overjoyed – a country in which sheep outnumber humans 4:1 had to be a knitter’s paradise! Unfortunately, it soon became clear not only that the country’s sheep flocks were not interested in producing knittable wool, but that the human population was equally disinterested in knitting. I scoured the local newspapers, yellow pages, and the internet for high-quality, locally produced knitting wool – with negligible results. And then I heard about Glasu – rural development initiative dedicated to developing sustainable communities in rural Wales, and encouraging innovation in the production of food, building materials, and animal products – including fine wool.

Glasu support Wonderwool Wales, a showcase for local Welsh wool production, and a marketplace for UK fibre producers. This year’s festival (which took place over the weekend) hosted over 140 producers and distributors from around the country, selling not only wonderful wool fibre, yarn and clothing, but also alpaca, silk, bamboo, and many more. In its third year, Wonderwool Wales has tripled the number of exhibitors, and is fast establishing itself as one of the leading UK fibre shows.

My husband, mother-in-law and I went up to Builth Wells to attend the show last Sunday – and had a wonderful time! We spent all day looking at all the fantastic products, talking to the producers and finding all the yarns and fibres I had hoped for when I came to Wales. There were yarns and fleeces, spindles and felting kits, natural dyes and exotic fibres – and livestock.

Wonderwool Wales

I broke my yarn fast with gusto!

Swag

Clockwise from top: 200g Garthenor Organic Manx/Wensleydale Laceweight, UK Alpaca shade cards, 200g UK Alpaca 2/12nm black, remnants of UK Alpaca sock yarn in moss and mustard, a crochet flower kit from The House of Hemp, and (barely visible) a pair of felted alpaca shoe inserts for my mother.

Baby Bowmont Braf DK

I also bought a skein of Baby Bowmont Braf DK. Bowmont Braf is the showcase yarn of Wonderwool Wales. The Bowmont Braf project was set up four years ago to test if Wales could produce “fine fibre suitable for high-end quality products”. The yarn is lovely – very soft and lofty, and I couldn’t resist this green colourway. I’m not sure what I’ll use this for – I had reached the end of my budget when I bought this, so I only have a lonely skein – but I’m very glad to be able to buy such a high-quality local product.

I’m also pleased as punch with my Garthenor laceweight! I’ve been dreaming about this yarn for weeks, and in the end I phoned ahead to ask Chris from Garthenor to hold two skeins back for me. It is a very soft and bouncy yarn, and I’m planning a lace stole that incorporates some traditional stitch patterns to compliment its origins.

The best buy by far was the UK Alpaca 2/12 laceweight. The show price was £1.50 for 50g/300m – so my £6 worth bought me a good-sized shawl. I almost bought an equivalent amount of hemp yarn, but in the end I played safe and opted for a little taster crochet kit.

I’m very glad we were able to go to the show. Everyone was friendly and keen to talk about new products and innovative techniques. I saw a huge number of yarns and fibres that I had only ever read about, and made copious notes about equipment that I’d like to invest in. Most of all the show renewed my interest in locally produced wool, and fed my enthusiasm for new fibres and crafts!

I’ll certainly be back next year!

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