The marquee provided a much-needed additional space for knitters to sit and enjoy their purchases.
Every year in the middle of March, the flight attendants on the planes from London, Paris, Frankfurt, Stockholm – well, from every larger European city essentially – to Edinburgh get treated to a curious view: Knitter after knitter after knitter in the most beautiful handmade shawls and hats and sweaters boards the plane, takes out their project bag and starts chatting to their neighbours about which workshops they’re going to attend and which vendors they’re excited about. Every once in a while a flight attendant will ask why there are so many knitters on board and inevitably, one of us starts explaining about EYF – Edinburgh Yarn Festival (EYF), one of the largest yarn festivals in Europe.
When I was boarding my plane from Berlin to Edinburgh last Thursday, the view was no different. I was looking forward to one and a half days of woolly goodness, meetings, and chats with knitting friends and business owners and to writing about all of it afterward to bring you a taste of both the show itself and the trends it alluded to for the next year.
EYF 2018 took place in the Corn Exchange again, a festival venue that’s a ten min bus ride from the city center. The festival offers both an extensive catalog of classes, ranging from learning about very specific knitting techniques like double knitting to tech editing and knitwear design courses, as well as a marketplace with over sixty exhibitors.
This year’s EYF was characterized by growth – mindful, but very clear growth: The festival’s workshop schedule already started on Wednesday and ran on until Sunday. The marketplace got extended from a two-day event to a three-day event and the festival venue itself was expanded by a marquee that could fit another 500 seats where people could sit and chat and knit. The organizers Jo and Mica also added a special Sunday event for the first time ever: “Meet the Shepherd/ess” featured a host of yarn producers who focus on “farm to skein” yarns.
Both the extension of the marketplace and the venue contributed to a very pleasant festival experience, especially compared to 2017, as the festival space was a lot less crowded and knitters could relatively easily find a spot to sit and relax amidst all the yarn squishing. Most vendors I talked to also enjoyed the change – the longer marketplace meant an additional work day for them, but the overall impression was that it made for a more relaxed shopping experience, better conversations with knitters and an overall higher visitor number.
Shoppers enjoying the squishy yarns.
I love attending yarn festivals as a business owner in the fiber industry as they’re a wonderful place to observe trends and see what other businesses are thinking of offering to our knitting target group in the future. At this year’s EYF, a few things definitely stood out:
- More muted colors, especially naturally dyed ones
Where EYF 2017 was dominated by bright neons and speckled yarns, this year’s festival showed a lot more yarn companies that offered muted colors. There were still quite a few companies catering to knitters who love fun, bright colors, but overall the color palette available was a lot more balanced. A special highlight was seeing the increased attention naturally-dyed yarns got: Moel View Yarn, Woollenflower, and Hey Mama Wolf / Rauwerk are just three of the companies focusing on plant and natural dyes and their booths were packed during the entire festival.
Moel View Yarn’s booth with their naturally dyed yarns and impeccable setup
- All the notions
The number of vendors offering notions – knitting needles, project bags, notebooks, postcards – increased significantly compared to 2017, and the knitters clearly loved that. Beyond Measure’s booth with their signature leather wristrulers and broad range of notions was among the most popular ones, but also the notions vendors focusing on specific products were very popular: Tilly Flop Designs attracted the crowds with their knitting-specific postcards and stickers, Soak provided knitters with wool wash needed for blocking and Textile Garden catered to the button lovers.
Beyond Measure’s booth was one of the most popular ones during the festival
- Yarn shop booths
While most of the vendors were selling their own products, there was a noticeable uptake in booths by yarn shops – an interesting development that allowed smaller brands to also be present at the festival through their stockists. Ysolda put up a brilliant “shop-within-the-festival” concept with lots of space to browse their yarns, patterns, and books and to knit and chat, A Yarn Story attracted visitors with book signings and Stephen & Penelope brought both their signature speckled yarns as well as the incredibly popular Stephen West to the festival.
Last, but not least, EYF wouldn’t be complete without the incredible effort they put into making it a social event. Their Blacker Podcaster Lounge was a space to mingle and chat with both friends and influencers alike, and the additional events around the workshops and marketplace such as knit nights and a Ceilidh (a traditional Scottish dance night) provided ample opportunity to meet other knitters. It’s something I tremendously enjoy every year and that makes EYF stand out among the other yarn festivals both in Europe and overseas!
Whether you’re only knitting for your own pleasure or you own a company in the fibre space, I can only recommend attending EYF – it’s a wonderful, intense experience that allows you to observe the latest trends in our industry, connect with like-minded makers and business owners and, last, but very certainly not least, squish some beautiful yarns.
Hanna Lisa is a coach for creative business owners, project bag designer and co-founder of the independent knitwear publisher making stories. She loves knitting, writing, and working with other female creatives on making this world a better place. If you’re curious, you can find out more about her on her website, Etsy, and Instagram.