Final Report: Wool, The Fabric of Life Tour of England & Scotland

Lisa Carrow, instructor at the Aurora Waldorf School, my sister-in law and daughter of the founder of Eucalan was fortunate enough to go on the Eucalan-sponsored Wool, The Fabric of Life Tour of England and Scotland.  She's shared her experiences below for those of you who are interested in reading about this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  Enjoy!

-Jennifer Edgar, Managing Director of Eucalan Delicate Wash.

Being a well-seasoned and independent traveler, bus tours aren’t usually my thing. I even surprised myself when I agreed to participate in the Eucalan-sponsored trip.  What a good decision! We had a wonderful time and I for one knit to my heart's content, found inspiration for my personal projects and teaching work, and have now made new connections with a group of talented, enthusiastic women who share my interests in fiber craft.

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I realized on the first day that this was going to be a successful trip. When the whole group has a main focus, even though their backgrounds, job experiences and current life situations are vastly varied, the common thread knits the group together. We were all knitters at the core with an interesting array of other skills such as tatting, weaving, spinning, drawing and painting. Everyone took a genuine interest in each other.  Comments such as “Did you knit that,” “Can I have that pattern,” and “How did you do that – could you show me how?” could be heard on a daily basis.

The bus drive from our hotel to the daily point of interest became a sanctuary where we could quietly knit by ourselves, view the spectacular scenery, listen to the highlights or historical points about the daily destination (never missing a beat or dropping a stitch!) and helping one another with a problem in their project. One day I overheard “I will not be defeated by yarn” as a project was being corrected! Everyone shared talents and expertise freely and joyfully, often in the lounge before or after dinner.  On two occasions, in Peebles and Harrogate, a group of local knitters joined us for an entertaining evening of “knit and natter.” IMG_5417

 At Yarrowford, we had the rare opportunity of meeting and talking with a leading dog runner who is headed for the World Champion Sheepdog Trials this year.  It was amazing to to see his skill and patience with his Border Collie dogs who eagerly awaited his instruction to demonstrate their ability to herd the sheep and follow his directions. We also met a local herdsman who showed us hand-shearing methods and answered our many questions.  Some of us asked for hot soapy water so we could experience the clean wool right away.

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The local Women's Institute provided a wonderful hot soup lunch and delicious “tablet” – a sweet Scottish confection. I felt so happy to meet and support this community.   There was a cheer from the group when it was announced we would be able to attend the British Wool Weekend at Harrogate. This was so much fun and a great way to see such variety in one location: Wool coffins, spinning off a live angora rabbit, and knitting for breast cancer with 6 foot needles in the middle of the event.  There was traditional Guernsey knitting, yarn, yarn, and more yarn, and so much inspiration! Did you know that the British Wool Group is making a wool pillow (from British wool, of course) for every room at the Olympics, hosted there next year? I’m thrilled and inspired by this enthusiasm and to have been able to support Great Britain in my own small way by participating in the tour.  We covered a lot of territory in 12 days! 

There was a nice variety of historical locations such as Sir Walter's Scotts home, Abbottsford, Hadrian’s Wall, and the cities of Edinburgh, York, and London.  Educational and inspiring Beckside Yarnsworkshops included drop spinning and yarn dying at Heriot-Watt University, where we talked them into giving us a tour of the
classrooms and facility there – I’ve never seen so many looms or sewing machines in one room!  

One of my favorites was the felting workshop at the restored Farfield Mill with Chrissy and Lizzie.  The Intarsia knitting workshop at the one and only Rowan Yarns was a highlight for many and what an honor to meet the head designer Marie Wallin, who talked with us for an hour, sharing her work details of creating the Rowan magazines.  Knitting shops were sought out everywhere we stopped. The best ones we found tucked away in tiny communities such as Clapham, where owner Sandra opened her Beckside Yarns shop early for us and we all enjoyed yarn retail therapy.  I found it surprising that larger towns had much smaller yarn shops with quite limited variety.  At the Toft Alpaca Farm near Rugby we were treated to a delicious cream tea, informative talk, and the opportunity to buy hand-spun alpaca for knitting.  

Toft Alpaca Farm

Our bus driver, Mike, handled the large, comfortable coach with great ease through cities and around tiny country lanes, his previous experience was driving bus in London.  And Janet, our tour guide, kept us entertained with her interesting commentary as we travelled from the Border County of Scotland to London, England.  Thank you, Eucalan and DeNure Tours – where are we going next?

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There are many more photos from this trip!  Click here to view the rest of Lisa's photos from the tour.  Enjoy!

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