Woolfest 2018 at Cockermouth in Cumbria promises to be blooming marvellous, with wool flowers all over the show, as the popular event falls within British Flowers Week. The original British festival of wool, Woolfest is now in its 14th year and it regularly attracts over 5,000 visitors.
"Woolfest continues to draw the best of wool craft businesses, designers and makers," says Jean Wildish, a member of The Wool Clip at Caldbeck and one of the organisers. "And, with the From Fell to Fabulous exhibition, events in the Main Ring, local music and dance, food and drink, and one of the biggest bouquets of woollen flowers ever, it's looking like another inspiring year."
In the past, Woolfest has celebrated the skills of its visitors by involving them in a project. The bunting that decorates Mitchell's each year was created from donated pennants and thousands of pounds were raised for Farm Africa by auctioning wool crafted sheep of all shapes, breeds and sizes.
For 2018, visitors are being asked to create woollen flowers and bring these along to the Small Ring at the event. In a partnership with local charity West House, the flowers will be collected, displayed and then sold or used by the organisation in its cafés and garden shop in West Cumbria.
"This is a good chance for us to promote our work with disabled young people and adults," says West House Fundraiser Emma Robinson, "and to get involved in a local event that's close to the hearts of many of our team. We're not quite sure what to expect but we're looking forward to meeting lots of Woolfest visitors!"
Each year, a young business is offered a stall free of charge in memory of one of Woolfest's founders. This year, the Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall is going to Izzy Middleton, otherwise known as the Wildflower Weaver, who is based at Farfield Mill near Sedbergh. Izzy is already building a reputation for her approach to weaving, sustainability, recycling and unusual plant fibres such as hemp, bamboo, peppermint and nettles.
"I'm really looking forward to it," says Izzy, "and very grateful for the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for spinning, weaving and plant fibres with other craftspeople."
Woolfest is known for its wide range of local and rare breeds and raw fleece sale. More than 20 different breeds of sheep, goats, alpacas and rabbits will be on show along with hundreds of fleeces from different breeds.
"The daily Rare Breed Parade in the Main Ring is a highlight for many visitors," says Alice Underwood, another member of The Wool Clip. "They'll have a chance to see lots of different animals and talk to their breeders – the livestock area is known for its enthusiasm!"
Woolfest 2018 takes over Mitchell's Lakeland Livestock Centre in Cockermouth (CA13 0QQ) on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd June from 10am.
Entry is £10 per day (including full programme) or £15 for a two-day ticket with free entry for accompanied children and free parking.
Directions and details are online at www.woolfest.co.uk or via social media channels.