As indeed it was for the Woolfest chaps - hansom fellows that they were. The breed specimens were one of the many marvels of my first Woolfest visit - I have never seen so many different breeds inside the space of an hour and I was enthralled. To observe at close quarters and to chat to their owners will certainly make working with wool an even greater pleasure.
As for Woolfest people, what struck me from the moment I stood in the entry queue, was what immense passion there is in the North for wool and sharing knowledge. Doing my usual thing of starting at one end of a sizeable event, the Wool Clip aisle happened to be the first one I wandered down and very much set the high standard for the day ahead.
Wool Clip is a cooperative of 12 Northern based fibre makers including spinners, weavers, rug makers, knitters, crocheters and felters. The vibrant nuno felting work of member Linda Bennett of Morendfelts very quickly grabbed my attention - her felted Bluefaced Leicester on silk chiffon was stunning.
I also loved these wool lampshades by Ellie Langley who sources most of her working fibre from rescue sheep on her small holding in the North Pennines. Ellie's creative ideas certainly provide much food for thought and challenges normal expectations of what wool textiles can be used for.
As I took in the many aisles of woolly wonders, I was delighted to find Anna Turnbull of Biteabout Arts. I have followed Anna's work for a while and it was brilliant see her willow and wool combinations first hand and to chat with her.
I find Anna's creative combination of natural fibres and willow hugely appealing and was further impressed to hear that she also grows most of her own willow. I know from my own dabbling the amount of strength and energy that both of these crafts require and the workmanship Anna has achieved is fantastic.
With my enduring passion for silk and flora, the fused creations of Wendy Ann Stanger based at Farfield Mill in Sedbergh were also guaranteed to appeal. Such a creative response to enable pleasure from flora all year round and great for minimising garden waste I imagine!
Indeed recycling was a repeating theme with many of the Woolfest makers and their creative ways of working were hugely inspiring. This statement piece on the Bapple & JoJo stand was made by an usual 'Quillie' rug making technique - also known as 'standing wool'.
Maker Gill Curwen also works with better known 'proddy' rug making and the effects she has achieved combining these techniques are stunning. Plus wool is also such a functional fibre for standing and sitting on and it goes to show that beauty and practicality are very much possible.
The quality of stands at Woolfest were such that many visitors had booked a two day ticket and I could totally understand why. When my aching feet would finally do no more, I popped back for one last look at my favourite live exhibit Hector. What a star he was keeping his cool in unprecedented heat and how fabulous it was to watch him so at ease with his handler in the exhibition ring.
My first visit to Woolfest surpassed all of my expectations and a return visit is a certainty - even accepting that the Cumbrian weather is normally a little chillier. For anyone who loves wool and has yet to visit, I highly recommend you get onto your calendar for 2020 - I may well see you there!