It’s a bit like Christmas. There’s masses of work before hand, it goes like a flash and then leaves you feeling worn out, wanting more and beginning to plan to the next one! I rate Woolfest high up, if not top of my list of favourite events to sell my woolly wares at. It is the UK’s premier wool festival, celebrating everything woolly from sheep to finished product. It is run superbly by the team from The Wool Clip, and is housed in Mitchell’s Auction Mart at Cockermouth in Cumbria.
For weeks beforehand my family had to fend for themselves while I beavered away up on the third floor of our house in my woolly garret, making sure I had enough jumpers, jackets and sweatercoats to do the show justice. I’d found a factory making hand loomed Scottish knitwear and managed to bag two boxes of these beauties which made for some awesome creations. Incidentally, all three of the above sold quick as a flash. Two didn’t even make it as far as Woolfest, and the one in the middle is winging its way to Vermont in the USA as I write. I get so stressed about not having enough stock, and from what I hear from other stallholders, this is a common worry.
Then there’s the packing. Boy does this take a while! Everything has to be labelled priced, bagged and carried down from the top floor. Then there’s the stall fittings to fetch from the garage – grid walls, feet, rails, stands, mannequins, table, chest of drawers, signs etc. Thank goodness for my lovely husband who, working from home as an accountant, stopped work to give me a hand. In fact not only did he help me pack and unpack the van, but he came over with me to help with the set up and take down at Woolfest. Thank you Tim. I really appreciate you! The selling bit in the middle isn’t really his thing so he took himself off with his bike and a tent and explore the coast of Cumbria for two days.
The drive over to Cockermouth along the A66 past Keswick never fails to take my breath away. It is absolutely stunning! The mountains rise majestically in the North Lakes and I feel so privileged to have this as my commute to work. This is Blencathra, or Saddleback. I do wonder if my mountain climbing days are over? I’ve climbed a fair few in my life, with my highest being Mount Toubkal in Morocco, but these days I’m not as fit as I was, and I fear the coming down would be just as painful as the going up. Maybe I need to set myself the challenge of getting fit enough to climb mountains again?
Another thank you needs to go to Julie from One Off Projects in Carlisle, who helps me sew. Julie also kindly gave up her time in between sewing bridesmaids dresses to come and help me set up and take down the stall. Julie found me a couple of years ago at Brocksbushes Christmas Fair, and has been helping to make ponchos, baby blankets and bedspreads ever since. Without Julie’s help there is no way I’d have been able to get where I am today with the business. Julie, you’re a star! She also arrived at Woolfest with a yarnbombed bike which took pride of place above the stall.
When you arrive at Woolfest, you get given an empty, hosed down cattle or sheep pen, depending on which room you’re in. I was in the cattle shed, in row K, a great place to be in. There’s loads of space, natural light, and large size pens, not to mention music throughout the day. The only downside are the pigeons that sit high up on the beams and drop surprises on your stock and customers from a height! I had to put an umbrella up over my sweatercoats, and at night everything needs to be covered with dust sheets.
Last year, I’d built my stall rather high, and then realised that I’d totally obliterated the view of the poor guy selling drop spindles next to me. I felt so guilty that I asked to be put in the corner if I got accepted for a place the next year. As I prepared for Woolfest, I wondered if I’d shot myself in the foot and would be hidden away, especially if whoever was in the stall next to me had also built high.
I needn’t have worried. I had a terrific pitch! It was huge. Almost three spaces for the price of two, and there was a wide aisle space I could use, as seen in the photo above which only shows a third of my space! I put my sweatercoats and jackets right at the front as folk walked in. These were my best sellers last year, and I wanted them to have pride of place.
The other two thirds of the stall were filled with ponchos, baby blankets, kiddies’ ponchos, cushions and bedspreads.
It look six hours to set up the stall!
Exhuasted, Tim and I retired to our van in the car park which was to be my home from home for the next two days. It’s great that there is a place to park up with portaloos provided – it helps to keep costs down, and there’s a great atmosphere amongst fellow traders as we talk over the day with a glass of wine. I’m pretty self sufficient in the van, with a comfy bed, sink and cooker. It’s not a posh camper van, but a converted builder’s van, and does us just fine! The view over to the mountains from Woolfest is magical, and I love to have a little wander before bed to take in the scenery with my camera. I didn’t sleep that well – a mixture of excitement, anxiety and generally over thinking things, which is pretty normal for me before any big event. I also had a terrible sore throat, and chest infection so wasn’t feeling at my best at all when I gave up on sleep at 5.30 and got up to face the day.
Debra who some of you may know as the ex owner of The Bee in the Butterfly in Hexham, drove over to be my sales assistant for the two days. She soon became chief swisher too as she swished and swirled around the arena wearing my sweatercoats! This colour combination definitely suited her, though the sweatercoat in question didn’t hang around for long! Thanks Deb for your help. Sorry if this is sounding a bit like the Oscar’s!
In fact most of my sweatercoats ans jackets sold, and I’ve now got a full order book, and have my work cut out to get more made for The Green Gathering, which is my next big event. I do have a few left, so if you’re after one, or anything else for that matter, head over to the website store to see what’s in stock, or get in touch via the contact form on the website if you’d like me to make you something special.
I love seeing photos of happy customers, but I must have had the setting on my camera wrong, or my lens cap on, as I only have a few piccies. If you bought something from me at Woolfest, I’d love to see a photo of you wearing it. You can send me one via email or post it to my Facebook page.
We even managed to get this police officer in one of my black sweatercoats. I think we could be starting something here. Maybe the police force would like to funk up their uniforms a bit with a Woolly Pedlar coat?
It was all such fun! Debra remarked that she had face ache from smiling so much.
The atmosphere at Woolfest is nothing short of sensational. It is rammed to the rafters with folk who appreciate the time and effort that goes into making handmade items, and who love wool and colour.
It leaves you with a warm glow inside, and the happy knowledge that your work is appreciated.
As if this all positivity wasn’t enough, as the event was drawing to a close, a posse of Wool Clip ladies approached and presented me with the ‘Stallholder of the Year’ award.
Oh boy! My eyes welled up and exhaustion and emotion got the better of me for a moment.
As some of you may already know, five years ago my teaching career ground to a halt for one reason or another, and I was left jobless, and without any idea where to go next.
This award meant so much to me. I’m back on track!
Thank you so much Woolfest, to the team from the Wool Clip, my fellow traders who are all simply lovely, and to the catering team at Mitchells who even rustled up some cake and custard for me to keep my energy levels up.
One of the perks of the Stallholder of the Year Award is that I have a guaranteed place at next year’s Woolfest. It will be hard to top this year’s, and I’m already really looking forward to it. It’s a bit like Christmas!