Winchcombe celebrates its heritage of wonderful wool
PUBLISHED: 02:18 22 June 2012 | UPDATED: 10:36 21 February 2013
Winchcombe's prosperity was built on the wool trade so it seems fitting that the town should celebrate all things sheepish. Candia McKormack talks to the woman behind this month's wonderful Wool in Winchcombe events. Find out more here...
Then theres Cressida Pryor of Happenstance Border Morris who is getting a group together calling themselves Shepherds Crook and theyll be performing songs in St PetersChurch during the Big Knit. My mission, she smiles, is to fill the church full of knitters on the Saturday afternoon [April 21]. Im determined that the church will be full of knitters clicking away while Cressida and theothers perform their music.The timing, of course, is perfect. With the resurgence in all things craft based,with TV shows such as Super Scrimpers and Kirsties Home made Home, and guerrilla knitting and yarnstorming hitting our streets, people have a renewed interest in making, mending and creating a fresh.Id been thinking about doing something like this for a while and then I just thought nows the time, says Jane in her infectiously enthusiastic way.
As the economy isnt in a great way, I thought it would be entertaining, and everyone would be able to join in in some way. As soon as I put it out there, people started coming forward the church, the schools and theres one fantastic group run by Margaret Basu who have been going for 32 years. They meet up in each others houses on a regular basis to knit squares for charity and stitch them together to make blankets.
"Theyre completely wonderful!
It matters enormously to Jane that he wool and woollen products that shell have on display in her gallery are British. She knows realistically that the cost implications mean that many people cant afford to buy home-grown wool, but its a great investment in both terms of quality and in supporting our native breeds and industry.
Both Wool Soft and Coln Valley Cushions, who are exhibiting, use British wool for their products, and Felt Special create loom-woven rugs in natural fleece from rare breed sheep,she confirms. And, as with all good ideas, it would seem that the event has really sparked the imagination of the community. Initially I asked if people could just donate their old wool the odd end of roll, that kind of thing and then people started to offer so much more.The Sue Ryder shop next door is getting involved by doing a lovely display in their window of knitted products, and Bob Fryer, whos the husband of the manager and who takes photographs of the Cotswolds, is going to take a picture of a Cotswold Lion sheep, get it blown up and put it in the window.The children at the school are hopefully going to have a go at knitting bunting, and the Coln Valley Cushion ladies are going to be knitting teacosies. So, everybodys taking part in some way.And, as a nod towards the 8,000 sheep that used to be kept by the monks at Winchcombe Abbey, Jane is welcoming a living, breathing Cotswoldsheep into the courtyard at the back of her gallery, courtesy of Robert Boodle of the Rare Breeds Society.
I was thinking of having sheep walking along the street, she laughs, but decided that would probably be abit too disruptive!
Wool in Winchcombe runs from April 14 until May 5.
Wool in Winchcombe highlights:
Wool I Never: Saturday, April 14.Knitting for beginners with Kelly Morss at The Old Tea House on Hailes Street, tel: 01242 604363
Workshop with Chipping Norton based Fibreworks: April 18
The BIG Knit: Saturday, April 21. Join other knitters in St PetersChurch the more the merrier! Margaret Basu and her team of knitters will be there, and there will also be performances of village songs and historical talks on woolby Shepherds Crook
Winds of Change Gallery will be showcasing an interiors exhibition to include British Wool and naturaly arn products by Wool Soft, Coln Valley and Rachel John, together with sculpture, pottery and art, incluuding a life-size sheep sculpture by Caroline Barnett
Extreme knitting demonstration by contemporary textile artist Rachel John. Rachel knits with giant needles type her name into YouTube to see her at work!
Needle-felting demonstration and workshop with Gretel Parker on April 14, followed by a workshop on the 27 where each student will make a sheep using Leicester wool.The winner of the best-made sheep will win a family ticket to Adam Hensons Cotswold Farm Park
Demonstration by Jan McMillanand the Postlip Spinners
Wool in Winchcombe runs from April14 until May 5. Visitwww.windsofchangegallery.co.ukfor more information.
Other 2012 events in Winchcombe:
May 18-20:Winchcombe Walkers Festival, www.winchcombewelcomeswalkers.com
May 29-June 3:Winchcombe Festival of Music and Arts: More than 40 events in 20 venues in and around the town, www.winchcombe.co.uk/festival
No one could accuse Jane Smoczynski of being woolly-minded.
From extreme knitting to a mass 'knit-in at Winchcombe church, she has been working hard for months organising a series of events that will bring together the community and encourage visitors from far a field to be immersed in all things wool.
As one of the Cotswolds wool towns, Winchcombe has a rich heritage in the trade, and merchants would travel from miles around to buy and sell here. The town has the fleece of the Cotswold Lion to thank for her prosperity, so it seems fitting that Jane, of the Winds of Change Gallery on Winchcombes High Street, should celebrate that which made the town great. Meeting over a coffee at Wesley House, Jane gave me an insight into what to expect at the events.There are so many different aspects to this, she says, theres the history side which Jean Bray [Sudeley Castlesarchivist] has been brilliant at helping with. Shes been uncovering some interesting facts, such as information she gleaned from 1677 about the women of Winchcombe knitting while smoking their pipes of tobaccoWinchcombe is a quirky place!