Monday, 22 February 2016

Unravelled at Unravel

image by Holly Exley


Well, another Unravel festival has come and gone at the Farnham Maltings and once again I have been left feeling inadequate, inferior, inspired, insatiable and intrigued....oh, and broke.  This was my second time at Unravel but this year I chose to avoid the crowds and go on the last day, Sunday. There was quite a laid back feel going on, or was it exhaustion?  Still, the stall holders all seemed smiley and happy and keen to engage with their customers.  I had several conversations with people while I browsed their stock of yarns, trying to justify adding yet another single skein of DK to my stash and wondering how I would slip it past my hubby on my return home.  Who was I kidding? He knew exactly what I was up to and fully expected me to break the bank.
I don't like to disappoint...

...On that rather advisory note, I should apologise for the lack of photos - rather stupidly, I left my phone in the car and couldn't draw myself away from the yarn to go back to the car park to get it.   I'm afraid you'll have to use your imaginations to conjure up scenes of yarn glory and marketplace carnage in the great hall.  And there was Glory in wicker bucket loads!  In comparison with other fairs/festivals, Unravel is not huge but it's plenty big enough to spend at least a morning or afternoon wandering around and filling your mind with possibilities.  What it lacks in enormity, it overflows in creativity, quality and individuality. It was interesting to see such a variety of sellers and exhibitors, from the traditional and craft focused to the way-out and wacky.  The vast majority of yarn sellers were small-scale producers and dyers, each with their own unique twist on things.  There were some larger names too but they were certainly given a run for their money by the smaller outfits.  

I shopped and I dropped.  It wasn't all shopping though as I did manage to take in an absolutely fascinating talk by Alison Ellen about stitch-led design.  Whilst her designs are not necessarily to my taste, her techniques and thought processes are truly inspiring.  Alison has been designing for many years and it was obvious that I have a long way to go before I come anywhere near her level of skill and expertise; much of her talk went way over my head. I can't really explain anything more about her approach except to say it was about accepting, rather than fighting, the innate nature of knitted stitches and using them in your designs to create shape and movement. 

It wasn't all lovely though and something left me feeling rather more unravelled at Unravel.  The thing that left me perplexed and vexed about my Unravel experience was a topic close to my heart: men, where do we fit in?  Before I carry on, let me be clear, there is NO chip on my shoulder and I hold no grudge, cast no aspersions and pass no blame.  I visited on the quietest day of the festival, so I can't really be certain about the truth of my observations, but, it seemed to me that there was distinct lack of men in attendance. The reasons for this could be debated and picked apart 'til one died of boredom. Having been burnt in the past when trying to have a conversation about gender, I will try to steer clear of the why's and wherefores. I will, however, make one other observation about gender at Unravel: men are in the minority, on the ground and in terms of representation.  The majority of men there seemed to be supporting partners who were exhibiting, a few were stall holders themselves and I could count on one hand the number of men visiting. Yes, this is a perhaps a true reflection of the gender makeup of the fibre crafts world, but what was more vexing was the same gender imbalance in the number of menswear patterns for sale. Perhaps people have put too much stock in the tale of 'boyfriend sweater curse' and now only knit for the women, children and pets in their lives?  

The yarn and creativity at Unravel was inspiring, but what challenged my mind the most was how to get more men involved, creating and catered for?




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