Blooming Woolfest planned for June

Woolfest 2018 (Friday 22 and Saturday 23 June 2018) at Cockermouth promises to be “blooming” marvellous with wool flowers all over the show as the popular event falls within British Flowers Week. As well as woollen flowers filling the Small Ring at Mitchell’s Lakeland Livestock Centre as part of a fundraising project with West House, this year’s Memorial Stallholder continues the flower theme as Izzy Middleton’s business name is Wildflower Weaver.

The original British festival of wool, Woolfest is now in its fourteenth year and it regularly attracts over 5,000 visitors to Cumbria from across the UK and beyond. Woolfest 2018 will feature over 150 different stalls, including about 20 livestock stands, and Mitchell’s promises to be transformed with colour.

“Wool crafts and creativity are as popular as ever,” says Jean Wildish, a member of The Wool Clip at Caldbeck and one of the organisers, “and Woolfest continues to attract the best of wool craft businesses, designers and makers to Cumbria. With additional exhibitions, events in the two Rings, local music and dance, food and drink and one of the biggest bouquets of woollen flowers ever, it is looking like another varied and inspiring Woolfest.”

Floral connections

In the past, Woolfest has celebrated the skills and enthusiasm of its visitors by involving them in a project. The bunting that decorates Mitchell’s each year was created from donated pennants and £1000s were raised for Farm Africa by auctioning wool crafted sheep of all shapes, breeds and sizes made specially for Woolfest.

For 2018, visitors are being asked to create flowers in wool – knitted, crocheted, felted and sewn, even pompom-ed – and to bring these along to the event. In a partnership with local charity West House, the flowers will be collected, displayed and then sold or used by the charity in its cafés in Keswick, Whitehaven and Workington and its garden shop in West Cumbria.

“This is a good chance for us to promote our work with disabled young people and adults,” says West House Fundraiser, Emma Robinson, “and to get involved in a local event that’s close to the hearts of many of our team. We’re not quite sure of what to expect in terms of quantity of flowers but we’re anticipating some stunning examples that may be sold separately while others may be put together as bouquets or used in our cafés. Above all, we’re looking forward to meeting lots of Woolfest visitors!”

Memorial Stall in its twelfth year

Each year, a young wool-related business is offered a stall free of charge at Woolfest in memory of one of the event’s founders, Carolyn Rawlinson. This year, the Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall is going to Izzy Middleton, otherwise known as the Wildflower Weaver, who is based at Farfield Mill near Sedbergh and is already building a reputation for her approach to weaving, sustainability, recycling and unusual plant fibres.

“I was previously a florist, hence the Wildflower Weaver name,” says Izzy, “and I started weaving just three years ago. I’ve since discovered that it is a strong family connection as my paternal grandfather was a textile designer and my maternal great grandmother was one of the first women to weave georgette at a mill in Preston. There’s a lot to learn about cellulose or ‘bast’ fibres such as hemp, bamboo, peppermint and nettles but they are fascinating to work with and a challenge for spinning, dyeing and weaving. I also follow the ‘Slow Cloth Philosophy’ and am part of the Green Cloth Collective, working with vegan fibres, recycling yarn from other garments and upcycling textiles into new scarves and shawls.”

“After the surprise of the invitation to Woolfest, I’ve had to plan quickly for woven stock and ideas for my stall. I am really looking forward to it and very grateful for the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for spinning, weaving and plant fibres with other craftspeople.”

Animal magic

Woolfest is known for its wide range of local and rare breeds, fleece animals and raw fleece – the roots of all things wool. Over 20 different breeds of sheep, goats, alpacas and rabbits will be on show along with 100s of fleeces from different breeds.

“The daily Rare Breed Parade in the Main Ring is a highlight for many Woolfest visitors,” says Alice Underwood, an enthusiast for British breeds and another member of The Wool Clip. “Visitors have a chance to see lots of different animals and to talk to their breeders – the livestock area is known for its enthusiasm! And the raw fleece sale is hugely popular as it’s such a rare opportunity to buy fleece direct from the farmer. Over 400 fleeces were sold at Woolfest last year and it’s always good to see what our visitors have created from their past purchases.”

Practical details

Further details of all aspects of Woolfest 2018 are on the website at www.woolfest.co.uk.

Woolfest 2018 takes place on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 June from 10am when the event takes over Mitchell’s Lakeland Livestock Centre in Cockermouth for those two days.

Entry is just £10 per day (including full programme) or £15 for a two-day ticket with free entry for accompanied children and free parking. Directions, details and online ticket ordering can be found at www.woolfest.co.uk or via social media channels.

08_izzymiddleton.jpg Izzy Middleton