Saturday, 28 June 2008

Woolfest 2008

3 members of the woolcraft group, Anneruth, Eileen and Verene, made it this year to the Woolfest in Cumbria. It was an early start and a late finish of the day, and it was worth every ounce of it and it was still not enough time to take in all the wonders of Woolfest.
Check their website ( for full details about this unique Festival of Fibres and its fans.
We felt so lucky that it is within a one-day-return-trip driving distance of Glasgow!

The gist of our experience:
wonderful hands-on down-to earth people with a creative vision and a re-generative mission, especially those who have farms or small holdings with animals. The warmth and wonder of people and their projects on show or on sale was truly astounding.

Our highlights of the day
  • The 'Big Bash' workshop

Experiencing and learning traditional Gaelic Waulking Songs with Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh, the Gaelic Waulking Song Group. Sitting round a long table with a dozen or more women - first observing this old practise of fulling the finished woven Tweed cloth and then learning about its history and practise, before getting a bash at bashing the cloth. Dry, of course, not wet in amoniac as it ought to be! Please go and read about the practise and the group on their website. You can also hear and see a few snippets of the workshop from today on our own youtube channel.

The women of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh have a most refreshing down to earth way of introducing , teaching and performing. And the costumes of pinnies and scarves, and sackcloth decor makes it even more looking authentic, esp when they tell about actually having shrunk a cloth in Auchindrain. The rhythm is hypnotic and healing. That the words of the song lines are the usual blurbs of romance and robbery, doom and gloom, doesn't matter as the refrain to them sung by the group are rhythm sounds. The 4 beat 'bashing' and sunwise circling of the cloth is transforming all. What a great way to connect with other women and with one's work! Me wonders: how about writing song-text which is telling present day dramas and stories...?

Been asked whether they would like to connect up with Galgael in general (other work-songs! boat songs esp.) and with us (woolcraft) in particular: Sgioba would love to :-). Now I can't wait for this to develop...

  • Egyptian Landscape: tapestry from the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre

Talk by Hilary Weir, OBE, chairwoman of he Exhibition Trust gave an in-depth talk with slides on the second generation, relating to us the unique story of this most remarkable art and craft project in Egypt. Again, you go best to their website to learn more about a project that brings to life true community and art in craft.
Here is a quote by the inspirational founder of this community of weavers, spinners and dyers, who all get paid regardless as to whether their tapestries get sold or not:

"I had this vague conviction that every human being was born an artist, but that his or her gifts could be brought out only if artistic activity was encouraged from early childhood by way of practising a craft... The creative energy of the average person is being sapped by a conformist system of education and the extension of industrial technology to every sphere of modern life."

It was a priviledge to touch and feel these intricate tapestries - cotton or wool - and it would have been eeven more of a priviledge to be able to buy one...

More tapestries can be seen on our Woolfest 2008 photoalbum, along with many more pictures we took at Woolfest of the wonders we found there. Why not take the slide show now?

Now, how to choose more highlights from this basket of plenty?
The animals! The real stars! On whose backs and bones grows that wonderous fibre called wool. Be that now sheep or goat, alpaca or yak. Well, the latter we did not see. but we learned more about rare breeds again, and their keepers and guardians.

Here are the curious looking freshly shorn alpacas, and the also curious looking local sheep, the characteristic Lakeland Herdwick. We met a wonderful woman who owns 600 or them and who showed us how to spin thick junky rug wool on a small (= normal) wheel and bobbin, and how to make firm rugs out of it then on peglooms, and as well as soft cushions.

Whilst Verene took a liking to the bold Herdwick (having a go at spinning the wool) inspite of learning about French Merino earlier on, Anneruth fell in love with the delicate North Ronaldsy (and could not resist buying the last fleece!). Both breeds are just so right for the land they belong to - the latter to the Orkney Isles.

Then both of us got carried away buying yet another fleece in the fleece auction: a beautfiul white medium stapled cross breed. What were the names of the breeds again?

We hopefully made a contact for John Maclean from Iona who is looking for a weaver who could weave somethng stylish from his Hebrideans.

Eileen's second day with the woolcraft group, and what a day she has had... check the photoalbum to meet 'Josephine' and her family, a new friend she came away with from the day

.......... to be continued..........



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