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Wonderwool Wales a roaring success as visitors flock from around the globe

Wonderwool 2023

Around 6,000 visitors from across the UK and around the world were attracted to the hugely successful Wonderwool Wales, the award-winning show that celebrates all that’s great about Welsh wool and natural fibres, at the weekend.

Many of the 230 exhibitors described the 17th show, held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, as the best yet and several first time exhibitors pledged to return next year following buoyant sales over the two days.

The annual festival brings together people and businesses with a passion for Welsh wool and its versatility as a material for creative crafts, designer clothes, home furnishings and more.

Wonderwool Wales covers everything from the start to the end of the creative process. Exhibits of sheep, goats, raw and hand dyed fibres, yarn for knitting and crochet, embellishments, equipment, dyes and books can be found alongside superb examples of finished textile art, craft, clothing and home furnishings.

Garthenor Organic. Pictured: Sally and Jonny

A new, short documentary, highlighting the forgotten potential of wool in textiles and the industry’s urgent need for sustainable solutions, was well received on its Wales premier at the event.

The work of four students from the University of West England in Bristol, Forgotten Fibre delves into the applications of wool in the textile industry and its sustainable uses, as an alternative to synthetics made from plastics.

Two of the people interviewed in the documentary – Jen Hunter from Fernhill Fleece and Fibre near Bristol, Marina Skua, a yarn dyer and hand-knit designer based in Wiltshire – exhibited at the show.

Two new books were promoted at this year’s event. Ria Burns, who designs and makes sustainable knitwear in Bristol, chose to launch her new book, Dyeing Yarn Naturally, at Wonderwool Wales, where TOFT founder Kerry Lord’s latest publication, Alexandra’s Garden: Flowers, which features patterns to make 30 crochet flowers, was also promoted.

A special exhibition of map wall hangings, depicting seven different places around the UK, was a popular feature. It was the first and last chance to see all the wall hangings, which celebrate the combined creativity of more than 180 knitters, together in one place

The exhibition was co-ordinated by Sue Howell, who founded the Knit Your Town Project in response to the immense amount of interest shown in a knitted map of Llandysul, exhibited at Wonderwool Wales 2017.

Many visitors grabbed the chance to attend the ever-popular Woolschool workshops to learn or perfect their skills with help from an expert, while the Sheep Walk fashion parades of garments made by exhibitors attracted packed audiences.

Wonderwool Wales director Chrissie Menzies was delighted with the attendance and the positive feedback from exhibitors and visitors.

“We were overwhelmed with the number of visitors on Saturday – the show was really buzzing,” she said. “There has been so much lovely feedback, with both visitors and exhibitors saying that Wonderwool Wales is the best and only show to go to now.

“They also commented on what a friendly show it is, having a wonderful atmosphere and nothing but positive vibes, and how happy and helpful our lovely stewards are.”

Exhibitor Helen Hickman, owner of Nellie and Eve, who hand dyes British wool yarns using botanical extracts and natural dyeing methods from her base near Llanwrda, said: “It was an amazing event. Everyone attending appreciates wool and all its benefits.

“Wonderwool Wales has really gathered momentum and people have it in their diaries as a place to go to. There is nothing like it in the UK or Europe and that’s why it attracts visitors from around the world.

“I met visitors from the USA, Sweden and Netherland and another German lady, who usually brings a team with her, was very disappointed that she was unable to attend because of strikes in Germany.”

One of the visitors from the USA was Donny Schultz from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania who said: “This is my first time at Wonderwool Wales and I am having a great time. I have found some really unique pieces, yarns and wools and I am just learning about the craft. It’s a pleasure to be here in Wales.”

Exhibitor Becca Tansley from Ewe and Ply, which has shops in Oswestry and Shrewsbury, said: “For us, it was the best Wonderwool Wales yet. The attendance was up on last year and people were genuinely interested in what we had on our stand.

“Wonderwool Wales has got a tremendous following and people come to the event to have a good time with the intention of looking at what’s on offer and spending their pocket money.”

Wendy and Graham Thorner, who run Mid Wales Willow near Llanidloes, exhibited for the first time at Wonderwool Wales and their willow dragonflies and baskets were very popular with visitors.

“The show was right up there with the best we have done,” said Wendy. “We enjoyed the ambience and everything about the show, including the visitors who, without exception, were all lovely. The show has inspired me to take up knitting again after a 40-year gap.”

Another delighted first time exhibitor was Torie Wilson, of Feral Fibres from Sussex, who makes bespoke woven wares, such as shawls, rugs, clothing and homeware, from sustainable, handspun and hand-dyed British wool yarn.

“The response from everybody, including visitors, exhibitors and staff, was just overwhelming,” said Torie who launched her business online in 2020. “I didn’t know what to expect, as I know my stall is a bit different, but it was wonderful and couldn’t have gone any better.

“I secured a couple of commissions and made contact with other exhibitors about possibly working in collaboration. There were more than 200 exhibitors at the show and everybody offered something different. It’s really important to highlight the variations of wool.”