Unravel the knitting revival in Farnham
PUBLISHED: 15:15 15 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:51 17 February 2015
With the huge revival in knitting just lately, it's perhaps not surprising that the country's leading festival of knitting will return to Farnham with an extended three-day programme this year. Caroline Giles finds out what's in store...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2015
Gone are the days when knitting was seen as the preserve of little old ladies; it’s all the rage nowadays, don’t you know, with anyone who's anyone picking up their needles – from Kate Middleton to Meryl Streep and Kate Moss.
Wonderfully relaxing, it’s not only the perfect escape from the stresses and strains of modern-life but it’s also very rewarding too – with (hopefully) a wonderful woollen creation to show at the end of it all.
Even the humble pom-pom, an increasingly popular fixture in Christmas and wedding decorations, has been proving a hit just lately.
Here in Surrey, this gentle pastime seems to be enjoying a particular renaissance, with knitting groups springing up all over the place, people proudly showcasing their creations on facebook, and craft and wool shops doing a roaring trade.
There’s even a form of “guerrilla knitting” taking off – and yes, you did read that right – which has seen knitters secretly decorating public spaces. For example, anyone who has cause to drive past the Deepdene Roundabout with any regularity will no doubt have spied the Dorking Cockerel sporting a knitted hat or scarf from time to time.
But perhaps the biggest indication of our county’s love for casting on happens over in Farnham, where the country’s leading festival of knitting takes place.
A highlight for knitting and crochet enthusiasts everywhere, unravel will return for its seventh year this month – and this time it will be bigger than ever with an extended three-day programme.
Featuring everything from expert talks and live demonstrations to workshops, the festival will also offer an unparalleled shopping experience, with leading retailers and smaller artisan producers travelling from around the country and internationally to showcase yarn and knitting accessories.
“Of all the things that happen here, unravel is my favourite,” says Gavin Stride, director at Farnham Maltings. “It is the most convivial of events involving everyone in making it special.
“Last year, 2,500 people attended the festival over two days, and with the event taking place over three days this time, we are now expecting even more.
“Also, each year, people are coming from further and further afield to see, hear, look and buy.”
Spinning a yarn
Indeed, this year’s festival will have a particularly wide reach to it, with a special series of international talks and masterclasses. Jointly hosted with the magazine PomPom Quarterly, the programme will feature knitting experts from all around the world.
Among them will be Bristol Ivy, a knitting designer and teacher from Portland, Maine, whose designs have been featured in many collections and magazines such as Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People, PomPom Quarterly, Interweave Knits and Knitscene.
Also giving a talk will be Annemor Sundbø, a textile designer and teacher of weaving who is seen as one of Norway’s leading craft experts. She owns and operates a knitting workshop, Ose Ullvare, in Setesdal, and has been honoured for her contributions to Norwegian culture.
There will also be a chance to hear talks by the Sweater Spotter, Anna Maltz and, for the first time, the creative team behind the rather naughty animated Youtube series, Nudiknits.
In the world’s first all-knitted animation, Nudiknits are the quirky inhabitants of a village bursting with Britishness and, er, bare bottoms, and the team will present their first film and lead a short Q&A session after the screening.
“It is such an exciting addition to unravel to welcome this range of expert makers from around the world,” says Gavin. “As well as sharing their wealth of knowledge, they will be introducing new techniques and styles of knitting to the festival.”
As with previous years, unravel 2015’s marketplace will also provide visitors with the opportunity to browse and buy diverse products from over 80 leading companies.
Plus, as well as buying from the stalls, visitors will be able to take part in have-a-go sessions run by stallholders where they will demonstrate how to make new work in their unique style.
And if all that wasn’t enough, there will also be a series of bookable workshops taking place too (see details below).
Having a try
“The festival is designed to get people interested in taking up knitting by showing it’s a fun and social activity where you can produce beautiful and practical designs,” adds Gavin.
“Featuring a marketplace bursting with inspiration for new projects, a wealth of expert advice and the chance to take part in a variety of creative workshops, unravel represents an unrivalled knitting ‘meet’ for all ages and abilities.”
So, whether you’re just starting off with pom-poms or have ambitions of kitting out the Dorking Cockerel with a full outfit, it seems there has never been a better time to pick up your needles.
Unravel 2015 runs at Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square, Farnham GU9 7QR from Friday February 20 to Sunday February 22 (Fri: 12noon-6pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm). A day ticket is £7 in advance / £9 on the door (advance tickets available until Thursday February 19). Box office: 01252 745444 / farnhammaltings.com
Alongside the stalls, talks and have-a-go sessions, visitors of all levels will have the chance to master new knitting and crochet skills in bookable workshops led by experienced professionals. So pick up your needles and have a try at one of these fun sessions…
• Bristol Ivy: An international knitting designer and teacher from Portland, Maine, Bristol will be doing a workshop and a talk on her unique style of tailoring and stitching.
• Sincerely Louise: Known for her knitted animal head sculptures reflecting the taxidermy trend, Louise is back for a second year with a stand and will also run a workshop to help you make your own mini animal heads. Her kits and animal heads are also stocked in the shop.
• Not So Granny: New to unravel, Joanne Scrace creates stylish, wearable pieces, often vintage inspired but always with a fresh modern feel, and she will be offering tips for making your own vintage lace crochet trims.
• Fiona Alice: Tipped for the top, Fiona is from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is an expert in knitting and weaving. She will be leading a workshop on Fair Isle Knitting, a style known worldwide for its horizontal bands of geometric patterns.
• Workshops can be booked in advance at craft.farnhammaltings.com and include the price of same-day entry