Unwinding in Brighton

Yesterday I returned, happy and weary, from attending the first ever Unwind Brighton, a yarn festival held across several stunning venues in Brighton on the south coast of the UK.  A weekend of yarns of both kinds seemed like something I couldn’t miss.

Brighton Pavilion Gardens

There was lots to do, and I hardly had time to take in the sea air, but the yarn fumes made a bracing substitute. The event had a marketplace at its heart, in the Corn Exchange of Brighton Dome. The list of vendors was incredibly impressive, but the stalls even more so.

I helped out with the unloading on the Friday night and early Saturday morning.  It was a privilege to witness each stand come to life as furniture was built, yarn mounted onto custom-made shelving and all kinds of decorative features (ranging from bunting to brown parcel paper and pompoms to fake grass!) added. The hall looked beautiful and I know from talking to other attendees that I wasn’t the only person who found it hard to decide what to buy! It was great to meet some of the indie dyers and designers that I’ve previously bought from online, and also to meet vendors who I hadn’t come across before.  Here are some of the stalls just after the doors opened:


However, Unwind Brighton wasn’t just about the shopping. There were drop-in learning sessions, demonstrations, chances to meet designers and podcasters, and also quiet corners of the buildings and Pavilion gardens where yarn enthusiasts from all over the world could knit, chat and compare experiences (as well as purchases and projects). I met knitters who had come from the US, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy and Argentina, to name but a few.  I particularly enjoyed learning to darn in Tom of Holland‘s free drop in darning session.  It was such a relaxing and satisfying activity that I now am quite keen to find someone with holes in their socks!  Here is the collection of darning paraphernalia that Tom used for the session (including an incredibly moth-eaten sweater in the foreground that he had repaired for a friend):


and to show how darning can be elevated to a beautiful art form, here’s some detail from a plain sweater on which he had done decorative darning, sampler-style:

Tom's jumper

I was also lucky enough to attend two classes. The first was a Colour Theory class with Amy Hendrix from Madelinetosh yarns. It was a fascinating and inspiring mix of theory, science, art history, and practical experimentation, aided by an abundant heap of mini-skeins of Tosh sock yarn in every colour you can imagine! We learned about how you can analyse colour, as well as why certain colour combinations work or suit certain people and how to choose colours to put together.  Here are some of the gorgeous mini-skeins:

Tosh sock

I also attended an all-day class with designer Ysolda Teague on how to make “The Perfect Sweater”.  After learning that there is no perfect sweater, we went on to consider: yarns (how to choose them, how the fibre and construction of a yarn and how it has been treated can affect a project and even a mini field trip into the marketplace to stroke lots of different breed wools at the Woolcraft with Wensleydale and Blacker Yarns stalls); how and why to swatch; how to take measurements and how your shape can affect what size you should choose; and how to adapt patterns to create flattering garments (with some handy maths tips!). It has given me so much food for thought and a detailed set of measurements, and I’m keen to delve deeper into all of the issues that Ysolda covered. Bring on the next sweater project!

With so many international attendees, this first ever Unwind festival seemed to have a significance beyond the UK already and it was hard to believe it was the first time it’s been held. Apparently over 3,000 knitters from 35 countries attended, but the participation extended beyond those who could be there this weekend through online knitalongs via the online knitting community Ravelry.

People have great ideas from time to time, but it takes an incredible amount of vision, energy, diplomacy and creativity, as well as hard work, to make an idea like Unwind Brighton happen.  In bringing this great idea to life, Dani Sunshine (the founder of Unwind) and the rest of the Unwind team not only made several thousand people very happy indeed this weekend, but also connected a new community of people enjoying each other’s talents, ideas and company.  It was an amazing experience to be there.


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4 Responses to Unwinding in Brighton

  1. Emily says:

    Very well written, couldn’t agree more.

    Next time i’ll see if I can commit to getting there early enough to be able to help.

  2. Marta R says:

    Hi Helen, I’m glad you keep on writing your blog!
    There’s a wool festival coming up in Bristol soon, here’s the link: http://www.bristolwoolfair.co.uk/. I think it’s the first time it’s being organised so I’m not sure how exactly it’s going to look like but it’s worth having a look at the website.

    • Yarnful says:

      Hi Marta! It’s nice to know you are still reading it and I hope things are well with you. Thanks for letting me know about the Bristol Wool Fair. I’m not free that weekend but it’s good to know it is happening. It looks as though it will be an action-packed event. Hx

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