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Woollinn - A Yarn-Fumed Overview



In this third time that I sit down and try to write about Woollinn, I am coming to terms with a bizarre realisation: I do not actually remember much of it. I mean, I know things happened: I was there for 10 hours! I know I walked around, spoke with people, saw a great deal of yarn, got my picture taken. But beyond that, it's a blur. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep. Or the yarn fumes. Or perhaps seeing my designs on display was more than my psyche could cope with, and so it retreated into a fugue state? Yes, probably that.

Considering how new I am to the world of fibre festivals, it is hard to believe that Woollinn was already my 4th one... In less than a year, and without ever leaving the Emerald Isle! To recap: Last August, I attended Northern Ireland's Yarnfolk, purely as a visitor. Then, in September, I was an exhibitor at the small and very indie Flax Fest, in Co. Derry. In November, I staffed the Apple Oak Fibre Works booth at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin. Woollinn was an event different from all of these, and my role in it was different as well.

The Republic of Ireland's first yarn festival, I would describe Woollinn as a 'classic' 3-day fibre event. In a broad sense: There was a marketplace, with local and international vendors selling yarn. There were workshops and lectures with renown personalities in the fibre industry. There was catered food, a lounge, and evening entertainment. Unfortunately, I had prior plans for most of the weekend which could not be changed. So I did not actually experience the majority of the festival, but was only there for the day on Friday, most of which I spent in the marketplace.


As far as my role there: My designs were exhibited by several of the vendors. So basically, I circulated in an unofficial capacity and talked to visitors about my patterns, answered questions about the various yarns I work with, and so on. An interesting thing to discover, was that I like talking about yarn more than I do about my patterns. There is nothing I love more than giving long and elaborate answers to questions such as 'Will this pattern still work if I substitute the recommended sport-weight yarn, with a fingering-weight, knitted at the stated gauge?' I am seriously in heaven discussing things like this! Perhaps yarn shop employee is my true calling? 

At the show, I was recognised and approached a lot more than I expected - which was lovely and surprising, and also meant that apparently I did little of anything else! Unusually for me, I took very few photos. And I hardly had a chance to say more than a quick Hello to people whom I knew and was looking forward to chatting with. By the time all was said and done, in fact, I probably spent a total of an hour and a half on eating, personal conversations, and browsing the marketplace. 

In the marketplace, I had two general goals. One was to discover new yarns which are breed/place-specific and minimally processed. The other, was to meet two specific knitting industry people. I will not go into detail here, but, happily all of these things happened! At the end of the day, I went home exhausted but happy. 


As far as general impressions of the festival: Firstly, the show felt unusual in that it seemed simultaneously small and big. By 'small' I mean, indie and relaxed in feel, with an emphasis on Northern European yarns. And by 'big' I mean there was a distinct international presence, not only of visitors but of well known personalities in the fibre industry.  Kate Davies, Louisa Harding, Nancy Marchant, Isabel Kraemer, Ysolda Teague, Woolly Wormhead, The Sockmatician, Karie Westermann, Helen Stewart, Countess Ablaze... The combination of the intimate, approachable vibe and these presences, created an interesting atmosphere.  


Also notable was the venue, which was... how to describe this? A sports complex in the midst of an industrial development, just off the freeway, beside Dublin International Airport. Now, I am going to be honest here: As someone for whom yarn and knitting feed into a bigger picture which involves striving to live connected to nature, promoting small and characterful communities, and eschewing motorised transport in favour of walking and cycling, I have to admit the location felt at odds with the way I would conceptualise an Irish yarn festival.

That said, attending Woollinn made me see things a bit differently. Because in truth the venue actually made it very easy for me to attend via a combination of public transport and walking. I took an early morning bus to Dublin Airport, and from there I simply strolled - along an excellent network of tree-lined pedestrian/cycle paths - directly to the show's front door. A more quaint, picturesque location would have made getting to the festival difficult, or even impossible, in this manner for a car-free person. So in that sense, the organisers' choice of venue actually supports my lifestyle. To be sure, there are pros and cons to any festival location. But as far as accessibility and inclusivity, I cannot fault the Woollinn organisers' choice. 


What else... Once again, dear readers, the problem is I was so 'high' the entire time, I cannot remember much! Out of what I do recall, highlights included meeting Kirsty of Cape Clear Sheep (who knitted the beautiful Scéal Grá above for her mother), as well as Deirdre of Olann And Magazine, Martina of Knit AnythingLouisa Harding, Carol Feller, Helen of Craw Craft Beasties, the Walk sisters, Ysolda Teague, and Kate of A Playful Day (who took my photo as part of her wonderful pop-up booth, but I don't know where to find it!) - as well as, of course, seeing all the lovely yarn folks whom I had already met previously. 

And my main disappointments were: Not being able to attend the panel on the wool industry in Ireland. Forgetting to buy the special super duper Woollinn wooden gauge ruler before I left. And... Well. I don't know how to say this nicely. But I visited the Countess Ablaze booth expecting all manner of abuse and dirty looks and eye rolls. And what do I get? The woman was feckin' lovely and pleasant. Ah well, perhaps I caught her on a bad day. 

Woollinn was staffed by an efficient army of wonderful and caring volunteers, spearheaded by Lisa, Jenny, and Jacqui of This Is Knit, and Nadia of The Cottage Notebook. I thank them all for this wonderful inaugural event, and look forward very much to next year!