In its sixth year, Yarndale is one of the growing number of yarn/fiber specific retail craft fairs in the UK. It’s held over two days in late September at the Skipton Auction Mart, giving the event an almost Rhinebeck-like atmosphere (with fewer animals). Since the 180+ vendor booths were in actual animal stalls, the event, while crowded, felt roomier than events with the typical 10’ x 10’ booths. Organizers were expecting approximately 8,000 visitors over the two days.
Knitters know the phenomenon. Showing up at a yarny event only to find everyone wearing the same project. Years ago it was Clapotis at Rhinebeck. Last year it was Carbeth at Edinburgh Yarn Fest. Yarndale 2018 was the year of the Catdigan. The Sinister Catdigan to be precise. Designed by knitter and jeweler Marna Gillian, the cat drawings were part of her signature sign-off and only became an idea for a yoke pattern during a particularly boring long drive.
But I didn’t travel to the Yorkshire Dales all the way from New Jersey to be wowed by a single, albeit lovely and fun, sweater. I let myself (and wallet) enjoy just about everything Yarndale had to offer.
Yarndale prides itself on selecting vendors passionate about their craft, and while there were a few vendors hawking huge bins of discount yarn, the vast majority were hand-dyers, spinners, weavers and makers of many ilk. Some of Britain’s well known designers like Marie Wallin and Di Gilpin had a presence, but more interesting for me were actual yarn makers, like Daughter of a Shepherd Rachel Atkinson (yes, her dad’s an actual shepherd) who on a lark in 2015 started collecting fleeces that were destined for the bin. She now offers limited edition 100% British yarns in natural colors.
Seeing all the “grown and spun in Britain” yarns was exciting and novel to this yankee; but I was thrilled to find Woollenflower and Julia Billings, an Aussie by way of Scotland. Julia plant-dyes an interesting wool blend from French sheep that AREN’T Rambouillet. Her base yarn is from Bizet, Blanche du Massif Central and Noire du Velay sheep which creates a mottled undertone to her beautiful natural dyes.
Yarn makers were not the only vendors showing such attention to detail. Per usual, there were a number of knit and crocheted toys, but where Yarndale stood out was the number of beautiful felted and sewn toys, some with handmade outfits!
There were plenty of vendors with colorful and undyed roving, speckled sock yarn galore, bits and bob of fabrics, notions, trim, but perhaps the most unusual was Janet Browne. Janet creates intricate reverse appliqué landscapes, streetscapes, and florals from hand-dyed cottons, using the towns in the Yorkshire Dales as her inspiration. My photography does not do her artwork justice.
Anyone on the fence about a trip to Yarndale should take the plunge. The level of craftsmanship is inspiring; the surrounding environment is intoxicating, and the pork pie with mushy peas is not to be missed. Oh, and the bus!
Paige Sato leads knitting-focused travel as a trip coordinator with Trips for Knitters. A former yarn store owner, Paige picked up garment sewing a few years ago and now makes her own sweaters and jeans. When she’s not sewing, knitting, or tracking down her young adult children, Paige runs, and makes an effort to take a run in every city and country she visits.