The seeds of Yarndale were sown researching another event for a local arts festival. The project focussed on sustainability generally and the viability, specifically, of sheep farming back in 2010, when the cost to shear a sheep was £1 and the price paid for that fleece was around tuppence.
It was abundantly clear that something needed to shift. That encouraging a greater understanding of the value of wool, of its brilliance and its worth was a good thing to do.
It raised so many questions – why use synthetic fibres when sheep are there growing wool on the fells? And what better way to showcase wool than a show focused on wool? The idea was discussed at the knit and natter group which met regularly in Skipton and those tiny seeds of the idea began to germinate.
The name was conjured – we didn’t want to be too specifically wool, so it became yarn and of course the dales were important to all of us. The auction mart, where livestock are traded, is a brilliantly appropriate venue. And Skipton, fortunately, is situated pretty centrally so although it is still a long old haul from the furthest points of the country, we do attract exhibitors and visitors from all over the country and around the world.
Yarndale had to be held in Skipton, or sheep town since the name translates from the old Norse word for sheep – sceap. Known to many as the gateway to the dales where sheep have been farmed for their wool for centuries, since before the arrival of the Romans. In Medieval times the monks of Fountains Abbey and Bolton Priory grazed their sheep in Craven. Sheep farming could be very prosperous: Fountains Abbey made three times more money from selling wool than anything else it produced. A stark contrast to today with wool mostly considered a by-product of sheep farming.
Skipton and this area has a strong textile heritage, where the finest yarns and threads were spun for the world. Sheep farming still has a huge impact on the life and landscape of this area of the Yorkshire Dales. It also means there’s a local auction mart where during the week, sheep and cattle are sold. The livestock pens are in many ways perfect to be transformed into a pretty good, if fairly rustic, well ventilated venue for our show. With good public transport links, Skipton is a great place to host Yarndale.