The First Edinburgh Yarn Festival

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Sitting around the tables with the tea, the knitting and the conversation all flowing we often turn to the same topic – Wouldn’t it be great if… This is generally followed by something like “they made all kids learn how to knit again”, or “there was the perfect cafe with the perfect lighting and free cake/tea/champagne on tap” or “it could be gloriously warm and sunny in Edinburgh for more than 2 days” or “we could all afford to quit our day jobs and just tat/crochet/knit”. In the weeks leading up to and following on from any kind of craft show the “wouldn’t it be great” was invariably followed by “we had something like that here”.

And then it happened.

3 of our group took the Wouldn’t it be great and asked the next question – Why not? and then they started working.

The result, after many months of hard work and what must have been incredibly stressful enthusiasm from the rest of us (what if it fizzled?) was the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Mica, Jo and Linda managed to pull together an impressive list of vendors from all over Scotland and as the event drew closer and the vendor interviews went online you could feel the excitement in the air. What you couldn’t do was actually see Mica, Jo and Linda – they were far too busy.

We heard about all manner of exciting things, like cake and lots of hand dyed yarn, celebrities, buttons, banners, badges, mugs and bags. Those of us not involved in volunteering (I opted out as I’d have the girl to look after, but I did agree to teach) were squirrelling away our spare £2 coins and planning our purchases. We even had the press arrive at our knitting night! Some were also making travel arrangements – Ilze and Paul took the opportunity to have a weekend away in Edinburgh and so flew up from London on Friday night.

Not EYF

What I Expected…

To be perfectly frank, I expected to see a hall with quite a few vendors and a respectable number of people mingling amongst the stalls, squishing and purchasing at a leisurely pace. Something a bit like this picture from a holiday craft market in Flint, MI, USA.

In my mind’s eye there were some couches and a cafe serving the 400 slices of cake at a calm pace. Still, this event was set up by my friends and my friends were volunteering at it and also having their own stalls so I was still excited. At the very east I’d be able to sit down with my friends and have some cake and chat and knit. But the implications if this could actually be successful are huge – I miss the amazing atmosphere of Dublin’s craft scene and while I’ve found the most amazing group of people here, the lack of shopping makes you feel a bit on the niche side. With that in mind I set myself a generous budget and determined to spend it all on lovely squishy yarn. I even went so far as to warn my fellow Stashdown group that March would involve adding to my stash, not depleting it as planned.

Cow Sheep

And then came Saturday. Despite the horrid weather and non-stop rain we woke up feeling like kids at Christmas. A quick breakfast and sort out the baby and we were off, in the pouring rain (did I mention it was raining – it was, lots!) and onto the bus.

On our way in to town I started to get the text messages from friends to tell me there was a queue. A queue! In this rain! As we walked up the street to the venue we saw a steady stream of people walking towards us, most with yarn poking out of the tops of bags.

Luckily the queue had gone by the time we arrived and so we ran in under cover, past the Cow that was now a Sheep:

And on into the main hall. So remember that picture I showed you before, nicely ordered people calmly walking past the vendor tables? They organisers were hoping for about 400-500 people on the day, which over 7 hours works out at about 70 per hour. That’s not what we found! Once we’d squeezed past the crowds actually getting to the tables to see the stock was hard work – I haven’t seen a scrum like this for a long time! The final tally was 1600 people – 228 per hour or 3.5 people every minute!

The vendors were working their behinds off, with some of them even selling out completely and most completely forgetting to eat during the day. The cafe called in extra staff, there was even queueing for the couches. After a while we popped back out to get lunch in Leith and came back. Th ecrowd had died down a little, but was still crazy. With a slight break we could at least stop a bit and look at all the wonderful hand-knits that were on display, with lots of “ooh what pattern is that hat”, I swear it’s better than the red carpet at the Grammy’s!

I tried to get some photos but it was too crazy for good ones – these are the best I could do!

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And my class? It went fabulously with all of my students picking up the technique – 4 new needle tatters in under an hour!

My haul was rather pathetic. In all the excitement I was overwhelmed by the choices and ended up not purchasing anything except some stitch markers. I did however get home and start placing orders for things I’d seen. Oh and I got myself my new favourite mug!

All of the team, the organisers, the volunteers and the vendors were amazing and managed to pull off a truly phenomenal professional event that will be the talk of the town for some time.

I can’t wait until next year. On the back of the success of this one we all expect it to be even bigger! Now if you need me I’ve got to plan what I’m going to knit to wear for the second Edinburgh Yarn Festival…

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