Fibre festivals are fairly thin on the ground here in the UK, so when when one happens, as Wonderwool Wales did last weekend, I will do just about anything in order to be there. It was an exhilarating, if exhausting weekend, during which I walked far too much, sat much too little, and talked to more people in two days than I normally do in the course of a month.
We arrived too late for my scheduled class on color theory, with Di Gilpin, but Emily made it, and said it was good. I did get to see Di’s beautiful and amazing work, at her booth, and had a nice chat with her husband. Portland is, apparently, on their list of places to visit during her teaching tour of the US this summer, and his eyes lit up when I mentioned that Portland is a great town for beer.
Despite the fact that it was a work-related deal, the two day festival at the Royal Welsh Showground left plenty of opportunity for schmoozing and Stash Enhancement. I met Kerrie, from Magknits, and Jen, from FyberSpates, and Lee Price, from Glasu (Glass-ee), one of the people who made Wonderwool Wales happen, and who is also the man behind the Bowmont project.
The exhibit that really fired me up was Jenni Stuart-Anderson’s. I had scheduled to take her class, but our late arrival at Wonderwool meant that I was busy gathering audio when I should have been learning to make rag rugs. I stopped by her booth on Sunday, and got a little mini-tutorial on the process, and I came away with a “bodger” (best name for a tool, ever) of my very own.
Jenni uses reclaimed wool that she finds in charity shops (old wool jackets, mostly, and the occasional blanket) which she cuts into strips, and uses to make stunning rugs and wall hangings. The technique using the bodger is a simple process of poking, or “progging” the tool into heavy weight Hessian cloth (burlap), then using the tool to grab a small strip of wool and pull it through. It’s not much different than latch-hooking, really, though it’s much quicker to cover fabric with strips of cloth, than it is to cover the same amount of latchhook canvas with snippets of yarn. The fabric is not knotted, but the width of the strips and their proximity to each other keeps them in place, and they can be easily removed and replaced if they get worn, soiled, or scorched by ash from a fire.
To understand my joy at becoming the proud owner of a bodger you have to step back in time with me to the years BC (Before Cast-on), when I purchased a load of old, and very worn Welsh Blankets at a boot sale, with the intention of building an empire on Welsh Blanket pillows. The process of turning blankets into pillow covers consumed every spare inch of our house, and the better part of one winter. I started with ten blankets, ordered feather cushion inserts, found some vintage buttons on ebay, bought a new sewing machine and set to work. I made and embellished about eighty pillows, and then went in search of a market for them. (Business note: before launching into any manufacturing operation, it is a good idea to find out if there is a market for what you are making.)
To my chagrin I found not one, but several galleries in Carmarthen already stocking cushions made from Welsh Blankets, every bit as nice as the ones I had made, and they weren’t exactly flying off the shelves. No one wanted them. I flogged a few on ebay, and gave away a few as gifts. I stopped making them, tidied away all evidence of their manufacture, stuffed the remainder into large plastic garbage bags, and they have been insulating my attic ever since. Over the years questions regarding the failed venture have arisen, from time to time. “What are you going to do with those pillows?” has become “When are you going to get rid of those pillows?” It’s a fair question.
This summer the pillows are going. The specially ordered, still brand new feather cushions will be listed as a job lot on ebay, and carefully sewn Welsh Blanket pillow covers will be just as carefully over-dyed and cut into strips. This autumn they will meet my new bodger, and become beautiful rugs. The pillows have spent enough time in my attic, and I’ve spent enough time feeling embarrassed about my failed Pillow Empire. Live and learn. It’s time to move on.