On Friday, after two and a half hours of frantic emergency housework (in preparation for my in-laws coming to stay) followed by one and a half hours of gentle driving, J and I arrived at the sea. This was a trip that had been booked and planned many months ago, a trip concocted by me in the midst of a very weary and busy summer period when I was feeling very much in need of a break. Just the knowledge of having these few days waiting patiently for me on the other side of Yarndale has been wonderful, sometimes I think the mere anticipation can be almost as good as the actual thing itself.
This trip was pretty much a repeat of the few days we spent away at this time last year - I've just looked back through my bloggy archives but sadly it seems like I just didn't get around to telling you about it last year. No matter, like I say, the two weekends were very similar. This was to be a precious child-free time for J and I to spend together, a few days beside the sea in gentle recognition of our wedding anniversary at the very end of September (16 years this year), and my birthday which comes in mid October (tomorrow in fact, and that'll be 49 years for me on this planet). Around this time of year I always experience a driving desire to be beside the sea, maybe you might remember a few of our past October trips to Robin Hoods Bay (here and here)? The pull is so strong that I feel almost powerless to resist it, and luckily for me, J knows my ways well by now and is happy to let me have my way.
So last year and this, we went to the North East coast and stayed in a quirky little hotel in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The hotel is perched high up on the cliff side (you can just see it on the left of the photo above), with uninterrupted sea views which made my heart speed up a notch.
Arriving up there on the side of the cliff and taking in the familiar sea view made me feel all kinds of happy. I felt like I was breathing out properly and able to relax for the first time in ages. Precious indeed.
We'd decided before we arrived that we would do a short walk on Friday afternoon before settling ourselves into the hotel. I just couldn't wait to stride out along the cliffs - coastal walking is my very best favourite kind of walking. So after pottering a little way along the sea front, we quickly began to climb up and up....
....to join the Cleveland Way coastal path. The Cleveland Way is one of the Uk's National Trails and is 109 miles in length. I would dearly love to walk the entire trail one day (it's on my personal bucket list), but I am more than happy to enjoy little snippets of it whenever I get the chance.
This walk was just a short 4.5 mile circular route - a couple miles along the coast, then back inland a little way to return to Saltburn. It was windy on Friday, and the sound of the waves below us was noisy and joyful. I absolutely love love love to have the sound of the sea filling my ears, it makes me so happy.
I had read about this sculpture before we did the walk, but coming across it in real life was still unexpected somehow. It was larger than I thought it would be (around 5 ft tall) and managed to look so at home and so out of place at the same time.
This steel "charm bracelet" was designed and made by artist Richard Farrington around twenty years ago, and I love it very much. The dangling charms (which tell stories of local folklore) clank gently in the wind and the whole thing is just so simple and uncomplicated. There is a wooden bench close by, so it makes for a sweet place to stop and take a breather and ponder the delights of all things coastal.
The return part of the walk involves a steep climb up a blinkin' great hillock, with a trig point on the top where you can collapse and gasp noisily for the breath that has left your body during the assent. Climbing steep hills is exhilarating, no doubt about it, and I do quite enjoy the challenge to my poor weary, out of shape body.
Returning down to the flatness of sea level was rather lovely after all that exertion.
We took a stroll out along the old pier as the sea pounded onto the shore beneath our feet.
The sea at Saltburn is ever so wavy, and as a result it's a place where surfers come to well, to surf. I am fascinated by people who choose to do this kind of thing for fun, honestly, I am in awe. You couldn't pay me enough to throw myself into all that cold, frothing water, it just would never, ever happen. I truly adore being by the sea, and occasionally I can be convinced to ride on top of it in a boat, but I am most definitely not someone who enjoys being inside the stuff. I might paddle my toes on warm sunny days, but full body immersion?? Nope, never. And on a completely different note, aren't those beach huts beautiful? Bright stripy colours - just exactly my thing.
After our walk, I tucked my camera away and put myself thoroughly in the moment. We had a wonderful time, J and I. We enjoyed good food followed by a few cheeky cocktails in a local bar with a view right out over the sea. When it got dark and the tiredness set in, we took ourselves slowly back up to our hotel (oh so many steps!) to loaf about and indulge in being away from home and in a hotel no less. We don't get to experience hotels all that often, so it feels like quite a luxury really. We were able to open our window wide and listen to the sound of the sea below, which pleased me hugely.
The following day (Saturday), following an almighty Full English breakfast, we set out to walk a little more of the Cleveland Way. This time we were a bit further down the coast, starting out at one of my most favourite little coastal places - Staithes.
I've written about this village before, and I absolutely love it here. It's very charming and atmospheric, a rustic, ancient jumble of higgledy-piggledy cottages which tumble down the steep hillside to the sea.
Walking down through the little lanes is an absolute delight, and I am entranced each and every time I visit. There is just something about Staithes which draws me in and makes me not want to leave. We didn't stay as long as I'd have liked here, as J was keen to get walking - I could have spent hours just pottering around taking photos and soaking it all in...but that'll wait for another time....
We were soon climbing back up again and leaving Staithes behind (can you see the dog in the window? Aww!) By golly, the roads and paths along this coastline are seriously steep, and it takes much physical effort to get yourself up 'em. I was huffing and puffing like a steam train....
....but the sea views from high up on the cliffs are spectacular and so worth the effort.
After a few miles we came to another favourite little place - Runswick Bay. As with Staithes, I've written about this place before when we visited two years ago, and it was really lovely to be back. The walking route we were following didn't need us to descend the mega-steep road down to sea level, but at this point I suddenly really needed a pee, and possibly a hot frothy coffee too. So I twisted J's arm and we set about tackling the half mile descent - can you see in the above photo, the pavement on the right is so steep that it's been made into steps? Yeah, hold that thought while we go and pootle around at the bottom.......
....it's so lovely down at Runswick Bay, even on a very grey October day when the clouds decided to let loose the rain they'd been carrying over our heads all morning.
Lucky for us, there is a very cute little cafe right down at the edge of the beach, and we managed to squeeze into the corner by the window to enjoy a really surprisingly good coffee with a sea view while we waited for the rain to ease up.
Now, remember that thought I asked you to hold, the one that contained the half-a-mile of steeply stepped pavement? HALF A MILE!!! It's a shed-load of steps, way more than any person should have to cope with on a drizzly Saturday morning with a belly full of hotel breakfast and frothy coffee. But.......we made it back up to the top, heart pounding, legs screaming and really the entirety of my body feeling on the brink of collapse. Ahh.....you gotta love coastal walking, so pleasurable, so relaxing!! Haha!!
After Runswick Bay, the route began to curve inland away from the sea, and much of the walking was around very green, lush farmland.
At one point we rounded a bend in the track only to come face to face with a whole herd of dairy cows slowly ambling their way back to the farm for milking. There was no way I could make myself walk through the herd (I admit I am a little fearful of these hefty big farm animals in large numbers), so we opted to stand at a respectful distance and allow them to pass through.
Annnndddddd......twenty minutes and a gazillion milk-filled cows later, the path was finally clear for us to carry on our walk.
The last part of the walk was through a really lovely little bit of woodland - ooodles of trees growing very close together made it very shady and very green beneath the canopy. It was ever so tranquil and quiet, and when we stood still and listened carefully we could hear the actual sound of leaves dropping to the ground, how cool is that?
Although the trees are still looking pretty green, Autumn has definitely arrived here in Yorkshire.
I think this whole walk was around 7 or 8 miles in total and I loved every bit of it (with the exception of being breathed on at very close quarters by a huge nosy cow). Even the rather grueling climbs were exhilarating and although we arrived back at the car feeling completely exhausted, it was at least a sound, satisfied kind of exhaustion that I felt right down inside my soul. So so good.
Back at the hotel, and we had some time to just relax before dinner. Complete relaxation isn't something easily achieved during the day at home when you have children, so it does feel more than a little bit special when the opportunity presents itself. The very idea of just kicking off my boots and flopping out on the bed for the pure pleasure of just being horizontal for a while seemed suddenly very decadent and luxurious. Oh, the joy!
Our hotel room had these huuuuuuge floor to ceiling windows, the above photo only show the top half of them. I spent a while just laid on my back on the comfy bed, watching the clouds shift across the sky. It was so soothing, enjoying such a simple thing, with no interruptions and nobody requesting anything of me. It was almost as if time stood still for a while. J made us a cup of and we sat on the bed eating crumbly digestive biscuits and insanely good truffle chocolates, and all was so very happy in my little world right then.
After a bit I noticed the light had quite dramatically changed, so I dashed outside to take in the view.....
It was around 6pm, in that short passage of time where day is closing and evening just beginning.
The landscape looked so beautiful and rather dramatic with those deep dark rain clouds still overhead from earlier and the low slanting early evening sun making everything glow golden.
Our evening was rather blissful - a very delicious meal in the hotel restaurant, which was a big airy conservatory filled with plants and twinkling fairy lights. Then a long soak in a hot, deep bubble bath before climbing into bed to watch a film. I could hardly keep my eyes open, what with all the fresh sea air and exercise from the day, combined with the food, wine and then the scented bubble bath, gosh I struggled to stay awake beyond 9pm. But it was the best kind of feeling, one of total relaxation and a deep kind of happiness and gratitude.
We enjoyed two nights away, which in reality is only forty eight hours but it was plenty enough to really feel the benefits of a complete break from routine. On Sunday morning we had breakfast early, then set out to walk to the the giant charm bracelet on the cliffs again - sounds funny to say that doesn't it?! It was fabulous to take in those huge gulps of fresh sea air before we had to turn our back on the coast and set off back to our inland home.
Such a wonderful forty eight hours, and still very fresh in my memory (and my leg muscles) too.
It's just short of two weeks since Yarndale 2017 took place and I feel like I am finally emerging from the energy crash that typically floors me for a while afterwards. I sat and sifted through all my photographs yesterday, thinking about how truly amazing Yarndale is, and how proud I am to be involved with such a fabulous event.
As I'm one of the five folks who make up the Yarndale team, my journey generally begins in January. It takes pretty much nine months of the year to create our two-day festival at the end of September, then another month or so afterwards to wrap it all up and put it to bed. Then we take a well earned break until the following January when we start all over again.
One of my favourite jobs is designing and making our mascott sheep which we photograph to use for our postcards and sometimes a little advertising in magazines. I work on this at the start of the year with my friend Carole who is another one of the Yarndale team - she and I both share a love of colour and have very creative souls (Carole is also an exhibitor, we both have quite busy creative lives outside of Yarndale).
As you can see from the above picture, the sheep we make are quite large, measuring around 90cm x 120cm. We draw the shape out on a piece of paper to give us an idea of the scale we are working to, then between us we make up the various body/head/leg pieces over a couple months usually. Once all the yarny work is complete, we get a wooden shape cut out at our local builders merchant so that we have a solid template to stretch our woolly fabric around.
Over the years since Yarndale started in 2013, we've created a rather gorgeous and eclectic flock of woolly sheep which have become very well loved by our visitors.
Our famous canvas sheep bags are hugely popular and usually sell out very quickly each year. We had some extra printed this year so if you would like to gift yourself a gorgeous Granny Sheep bag, we have a small number left in the Yarndale online shop.
Much of what I do to prepare for Yarndale is on the creative side, although I am responsible for the social media too. If you have been on the Yarndale Facebook page or Instagram then that's usually my voice you are reading. I also tend to get called on if any general writing is needed - magazine articles, interviews and press releases, plus the content for the brochure, that kind of thing.
But without a doubt, it's the creative projects which really get me excited each and every year. For me personally, I feel this is the essence of Yarndale - it's a celebration of yarn, creativity and community and nothing says it better than the colourful decorative elements we bring together for the festival.
I started making these giant Mandala Hoops back in 2014, originally just for my own personal amusement before I quickly realised that they would make perfect decorations for Yarndale. I've managed to make a couple of new hoops each year to add to my collection, and have also LOVED that a few of you have made and sent your own mandala hoops to add to mine (I can't tell you how happy this has made me). If you want to read a little more about how I attach my mandalas to the hoops, you can find the blog post here.
This is my latest hoop, finished just a week before Yarndale. I used the pattern that I designed for Simply Crochet (more details in this blog post), and I loved how different it looked compared to the soft pastel colours of the original.
I had eleven hoops in total this year, which I strung up under the trees at the front of the Auction Mart - they really did look very eye catching. For next year, I'm planning on making a whole lot of smaller ones - I've already got a bunch of these 30cm metal rings and am so excited about trying out some new mandala designs. I was gifted some beautiful cotton yarn by the fabulous Dutch brand Yarn and Colors which will be perfect - the Must Have Minis are the most cutesome little 10g balls which come in 100 different colours (yes, one Hundred!), check them out at Wool Warehouse, and please do not blame me if you accidentally order yourself some.
Can you see in the above picture that it looks like a yarny river is flowing under my mandalas?? This fabulous creation was made last year by a group of local ladies, to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Leeds/Liverpool canal which runs through Skipton. It measures 15 metres long and is absolutely beautiful.....
....we were thrilled to have it on display at Yarndale again this year, and even more thrilled that it was joined by a remarkable knitted flower meadow........
.....wow!!!!!!!!!!! Isn't that just beautiful?? Inspired by nature and wildlife, the meadow was made from over 250 individual pieces of knitting, crochet, appliqué and sewing. It was created by the same local knitting group who created the canal, with participants ranging in age from 4 to 94. This is such a fantastic example of how wonderful our community is when it comes together to celebrate the joy of creating with yarn.
The details in some of the pieces were so inspiring.....just look at that little felted snail leaving it's silvery trail behind it !!
We were also really chuffed to see the return of the famous Thirsk Yarnbombers to Yarndale after their creations were enjoyed so much by all our visitors last year.
They installed some fabulous knitting and crochet over the wooden bollards.....
....which celebrated all things "Yorkshire".....
....and certainly brought about a lot of smiles during Yarndale weekend.
And so we come to the Creative Community project which I organise every year - it's my biggest undertaking for Yarndale, and something which I absolutely love doing. I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone who joined in with this year's Creative Hearts project, it was just soooooo beautiful to see all the hearts come together and was such a powerful representation of how talented, passionate and friendly the crochet and knitting community is. It was a real creative celebration, and it means a huge amount to me to be able to do something like this - I couldn't be more proud of our global crochet community.
All in all, we received around 520 hearts for our display - I'm afraid I lost track of the final count as quite a few parcels arrived right at the last minute, but do you know, they came from 21 countries around the world, isn't that something?
I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've taken photographs of every single individual heart, and I'll be starting work next week on creating some beautiful displays on Pinterest. In the meantime, here are a few images showing some of my favourites......
We decided this year to keep the Creative Hearts display intact and not to sell the hearts at Yarndale. We had our lovely friend Sheila (creator of the Flowers for Memories display two years ago) looking after the hearts during the weekend, and I'm thrilled to announce that through kind and generous donations from our visitors, we managed to raise.............
❤£1227.46❤ for the mental Health charity Mind.
Thank you so very much to everyone who contributed, it means a lot to us to support this worthwhile charity. The hearts are now tucked up safely at Yarndale HQ for a little while, and in the New Year we will start working with our local Mind representatives to see if we can display them or offer them for sale to raise even more money. I'll certainly keep you updated on the ongoing story.
From hearts to circles, well one very big, gigantic circle actually. I couldn't chat about our creative crochet community without sharing this incredible piece of work with you. We were thrilled to be able to have this beautiful 14 foot giant mandala on display at Yarndale this year, it really is the most breathtaking piece of crochet I think I've ever seen. It was created by a lady called Hester (@tessafterall on Instagram) as a result of the 365 #zenmandalaproject - the challenge was to crochet one round of a mandala every day for a whole year, which Hester successfully did throughout 2016.
I found this image on Google (I'm so sorry I haven't been able to find the source so don't know who this lovely Yarndale visitor is, or who took the photo). I wanted to show you the scale of Hester's awesome Mandala, it just blows my mind looking at it and thinking about all the multiple thousands of stitches and hooky hours that are sitting right there. Hester was super-lovely and very humble with regards to her mandala awesomeness - it was really wonderful to welcome her to Yarndale and for our visitors to be able to chat with her.
Oh, there is always so much happening at Yarndale, way too much to mention really, and this year more than ever before we really did have some fabulous things going on. The above photo just captures the spirit of Yarndale perfectly, I love it! We had a return visit from Skipton's Giant Swaledales - these are huge walking puppets created from papier mache, wire and fabric, with a human inside acting out the voice of the sheep...baaaaaaaaaaa!! You can see this sheep is trying out a blanket - this was in the new social area of the festival where among other things (including the fabulous Yarn Doctors) we had a bit of a blanket making session going on, it was fab!
Blankets for the Homeless (or BFTH for short) collects knit or crochet 6" squares which are stitched together by a team of volunteers to make colourful blankets for people in need of a little warmth and comfort. Jayne Roper, founder of BFTH, came to Yarndale this year to host a blanket making drop-in where visitors could pull up a chair and join in with knitting/hooking a 6 inch square. It was a fabulous success, and so lovely to think that a little time spent crocheting or knitting with others can help make a difference.
And so we come to my own little patch of Yarndale where I spend pretty much all my time during the weekend. Yarndale is a hugely busy festival (we had a record 8,500 visitors this year and just short of 200 exhibitors) and during the course of the two days it is very full on. We usually notice a tiny little lull towards the end of each afternoon but other than that there is barely time to eat or go take a pee throughout the day, it really is that busy. But I do enjoy it so much, it's overwhelming and emotional and joyful and happy and intense, and oh, just incredibly wonderful. It makes me feel so grateful, so inspired, so full of admiration for the enthusiastic Yarn Tribe we belong to. I get to meet so many gorgeous people from all over the world who travel to experience Yarndale and perhaps a little bit to see me too. This year, more than in other years, we did notice an increase in our foreign visitors - when I say from "all over the world" I really do mean it! I met lots of really lovely ladies (and gents) from Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Israel.....yes, honestly!
So I get to chat and chat and chat! And of course listen and encourage and celebrate and laugh - it's a full on social whirl. It makes me realise that all these words that I sit and tap away at my laptop each week, all these thoughts and feelings and ideas and images that I share do indeed reach out and touch people far and wide. During Yarndale weekend, I get the real life version of my blog comments in three dimensional full colour, it's as if the whole thing quite literally springs to life in front of my very eyes. It's very humbling, and a rather marvelous experience for someone like me who leads a pretty quiet, quirky life.
I am beyond grateful that I am not on my own in this little patch of Yarndale - that very first year in 2013 when I was on my own was almost too much for me to handle by myself. These days I call in the troops! I just love having the Wool Warehouse team with me at Yarndale, they are the loveliest, friendliest bunch and work so hard during the weekend.
Thank you to every single one of you who took the time to come and say hello, I can't tell you how much I appreciated it and enjoyed meeting you all. And thank you also to everyone who was inspired by my blankets and took the decision to start out on a new colourful hooky journey. ThAnK YoU, so much, it makes me happy right down to my toes.
Of course, it wasn't just blankets and yarn and excitable people that filled my little auction ring, no, no! There were socks too, lots and lots and lots of socks! Just look at them all!! This is Christine's famous "Yarndale Sockline" which was so successful this year that we ran out of space to hang them.
This was the third year that Christine organised the sockline for Yarndale, and it is just such a lovely feel-good thing. Knitters were invited to make a pair of socks which will be gifted to those in need of a little bit of woolly comfort and love.
Chrsitine says "...in our world where the media likes to focus on what's going wrong, we need to remember that some things are going right. I like to think that when I tell you that the pair of socks that you knitted has gone to, say, a homeless hostel or a children's hospice, you will smile, your heart will smile and that moment of connection will send love and positivity out into a world that needs all the love it can get." Isn't that just something special?
If you would like to know more about this year's sockline including the Grand Total of Socks Recieved, hop over to Christine's blog for a read.
For me, Yarndale weekend is so many things. It is the culmination of almost a year of planning, creating and working. It is a celebration, a gathering of like-minded souls, a joyful, yarn filled festival full of talent, passion, excitement, friendship, creativity and inspiration. It is a time when we all feel that we Belong to something absolutely, crazy-wonderful.
I took the above picture at 9.30am on Saturday morning, in that surreal window of time when everything is poised and ready to go, and we are just waiting for the doors to open. It's like the lull before the whirlwind! Our exhibitors work so hard to transform their bare concrete and metal pens into beautiful, enticing little showcases and shopfronts, they really do us proud. Sadly, I don't get much of a chance to look around - that's one thing I would love to change about my own Yarndale experience.
I did manage to have a quick squizzy early on Sunday morning, and so had a few photos on my camera, if you'd like to see what caught my eye?
There is such a huge range of beautiful things to see, squish, stroke and admire. Yarndale is very, very much more than simply a yarn show.
There are some fabulous little Yarndale 2017 videos made by a few of our visitors over on YouTube, so if you couldn't visit and would like to get a feel for what this year was like, do go and have a look.....they are wonderful to watch...
I also wanted to share the above images which I came across on Instagram - I think they are absolutely wonderful. Lisa is a textile artist and her eye for detail (and photography) is incredible. She described her experience of Yarndale as "a game of 2 halves...the natural neutrals and the bright Zappy colours"
So that's Yarndale over for another year - the fifth festival and what a success it was. Last week we received the news that Yarndale came 1st in the "Best Knitting Event" category of the British Knitting and Crochet Awards 2017, for the second year running. We are so proud of what we've created, and the feel-good that it brings to our visitors, exhibitors, and of course the lovely little rural market town in which we live.
Thank you ever so much for reading, I hope I haven't been too long winded and that you've enjoyed a little bit of a peek behind the scenes.
ps I'll keep you updated on the Creatve Hearts - I'm hoping to have all the image galleries ready to publish next week.
pps in the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I need to mention that Yarndale is a for-profit organisation and I am one of the five organisers. You can read more about the festival over on the website www.yarndale.co.uk