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How We Select – The Panel

TEAM YARNINGHAM L-R Venetia, Helen, Sara and Lilith

In our last post about how we select exhibitors for the Yarningham marketplace I’ll talk a bit about the panel. The panel is made up of TEAM YARNINGHAM – myself (Sara Fowles), Helen Winnicott, Venetia Headlam and Lilith Winnicott.

Sara Fowles “I grew up in Birmingham and learnt to knit at school aged around 7. I then promptly gave up knitting and learnt to sew instead, crafting clothes for myself out of pillowcases and my mothers cast offs. I didn’t take up my needles again until a friend gave me a birthday gift of 2 balls of chunky Rowan yarn. Less than a year later I had started Stitches and Hos, a monthly knit night held in a pub. Over the last couple of years I have expanded my making repertoire to include machine knitting after buying a machine in a charity shop.”

Venetia Headlam “My mom taught me to knit when I was about 7 or 8 years old, I forgot it all then she re-taught me when I was 11, ill and needed something to do. She also taught me the basics of crochet when I was 14, and I have surpassed her in my skills, she will now call on me if she needs “help” with something (ie wants me to do it for her!). Over the past few years I have expanded my skills and added knitting machines and an electric spinning wheel to my arsenal of yarn crafting instruments. The spinning wheel doesn’t get as much action as the needles/hooks/machines but I am determined to make yarn that actually looks decent, and not like spun carpet fluff.”

Lilith Winnicott “I began knitting as a child and promptly forgot how to do it. I re-learnt when I was about 18 and chose the most complicated pattern to knit, on dpns! I also sew, bake and build things. My life seems to revolve around one craft or another but I love it all”

Helen Winnicott “My mom taught me to knit when I was 6 or 7, but I don’t remember making anything until I was a bit older. My cousin and his wife had a baby girl when I was 12 and I knitted bootees and a cardigan for her. I began knitting again in 1989 when I was pregnant with my first child and have never stopped since then. I knitted things for all my children when they were small and now for my grandchildren. Thanks to the internet, I found lots of indie dyers and gorgeous yarns and love to knit socks and shawls for myself. I have tried to crochet but am not very good at it and can only manage a chain.”

How We Select – Images

Enamel badge of Yarningham mascots Boris and Donald

In this blog post about how we select exhibitors I want to talk about images.

On our application form we ask you to upload 4 images to support your application. These images should represent what the applicant would bring to Yarningham. We ask that 3 of the images are of products and 1 of their stand at a previous show or festival. If the applicant hasn’t exhibited at a show/festival before we ask them to supply 4 images of representative products.

There are image guidelines for the application form. We specify what format the images should be in and how they should be labelled. We also ask for information about the image including product type, name and price.

We know that not everyone is au fait with technical terms for images or how to change their images so that they meet our guidelines. So we provide an email address on the application form to get in touch if you are having any problems.

If you are selected the images you provide on your application form are used for marketing purposes including on our website, social media accounts and in promotional material.

We are looking for clear concise images where the product featured is centre stage. To achieve this you don’t need to be a professional photographer. I took the image used in this blog post with my phone. Whilst a professional photographer would be able to produce a better photo the image is a good, clear representation of the enamel badge which is what I wanted.

The best recommendation I’ve seen for taking photos of products is to invest in a background. A large piece of plain paper will do and is much easier to use than fabric (saves on ironing too!)

In the next post about how we select I’ll talk about what we are looking for and a little bit about scoring applications.

How We Select – The Application Form

Yarningham Exhibitor application form used in 2017.

Usually at this time of year we would be receiving applications for the next Yarningham. As we all know 2020 has not been a usual year.

We thought we would share some more details about the application process. We have always tried to be as transparent as possible about our application process and we hope this information will help anyone looking to apply to the festival in the future.

So first up is the application form. We think this is the fairest way to assess applications. Exhibitors are selected blindly, based solely on their application form. This helps us to ensure that 50% of our marketplace each year is new to the festival.

The application form is simple. In the old days we uploaded a Word document or PDF to our website for people to download. We’ve since upgraded to an embeddable form that automatically files each application on our shared drive.

We ask applicants for their details (business name, their name, website, social media accounts and a short biography). We then ask them to upload 4 images that represent what they would bring to Yarningham. 3 images should be of products and the 4th an image of their stand at a previous show. If they haven’t exhibited at a show before they should supply 4 images of products.

Once the images are uploaded they then need to submit their application form and that’s it. Yarningham exhibitor application completed.

In the next post I’ll explain a bit more about the images you would need to apply.

Feedback – Part 5

So we’ve reached the final infographic showcasing the feedback Yarningham has received.

This infographic shows the age range of our audience. We attract visitors from a wide range of ages and the majority of our audience are between the ages of 35-54.

What this feedback tells us is that the festival is a reflection of the team. The variety within our team is reflected in our audience. This is one of the things we set out to do with Yarningham and it is fantastic to see that we are achieving our goals and aims.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about Yarningham and what our audience and exhibitors say about the festival. It’s been a valuable exercise and a chance for us to take stock of our achievements and celebrate them.

Feedback – Part 4

A large part of Yarningham is our marketplace. It’s THE place to find the best independent producers, dyers, designers, online retailers and bricks and mortar shops.

From the beginning we set a rule that at least 50% of the marketplace each year must be new to Yarningham. This helps to ensure that the marketplace never feels like its gone stale or we’ve just repeated last year’s festival. It can lead to some very difficult decisions when going through applications but this rule is crucial for Yarningham.

This exercise of looking back through our feedback and compiling statistics has been really eye opening. We’ve never properly analysed our feedback and usually take a much more practical approach to using it. What needs to change? What can we improve? But there’s nothing like a cold hard figure staring back at you unexpectedly from the calculator to surprise you with what you’ve achieved.

And so it was with this figure. Out of 107 exhibitors over the four editions of Yarningham, 71 are unique. Meaning that over the 4 years of the festival 65% of our marketplace has been new to Yarningham. I always knew that we had achieved our target each year but never imagined that we had such a high number of unique exhibitors.

This success is really about TEAM YARNINGHAM. Without Lil, V and Helen as part of the team I think this figure would have been difficult to achieve.

There’ll be one more feedback post after this one. If you’ve missed the other three you can find them here (Part 1), here (Part 2) and here (Part 3).

Feedback – Part 3

Yarningham looks sees and does a yarn festival differently. One of our core aims is to bring you the best independent producers, dyers, designers, online retailers and bricks and mortar shops to our marketplace.

We are committed to seeking out new talent and unearthing existing hidden gems. This means we are constantly looking for and researching potential companies and individuals to invite to apply for our marketplace.

From 2016 – 2019 we have had 107 exhibitors in our marketplace. That’s 107 exhibitors packs that have been created with all the information that an exhibitor needs to exhibit at Yarningham, 214 invoices sent (deposit and balance) and 107 badges made for the website.

That’s quite an achievement and something to be proud of.

Feedback – Part 2

Following on from my last post Feedback – Part 1 here’s the second of our infographics. This one is about our exhibitors. We ask every exhibitor to complete a short feedback questionnaire once the festival is over. 95% of them said that they would exhibit again at Yarningham. This figure is a mean average taken over the 4 years of the festival.

We are really proud of our exhibitor approval rating. The feedback we receive from them is invaluable as they have a very specific view of the festival that we just don’t get as organisers.

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Feedback – Part 1

We have always collected feedback from both our audience and exhibitors who attend Yarningham. It’s a way for us to continually improve the festival and find out what does and doesn’t work.

We use the information collected from the feedback forms to inform the next festival. The feedback we receive is a valuable resource and really does make a difference.

What we haven’t done previously is share some of the information and feedback we receive. So over our summer break I asked our designer, illustrator extraordinaire Ben Javens to create some infographics to showcase some of the festivals successes.

The first infographic contains one of our greatest achievements. 96% of the Yarningham audience said that they would attend the festival again. This figure is a mean average taken over the four years of the festival.

I didn’t realise that these figures and statistics were in any way exceptional until I talked to a close friend who works for the National Trust. She said that they would pay good money for these kind of approval ratings especially from audiences.

I’ll share all of the infographics over the next few weeks here on the blog and over on the Yarningham Instagram account.

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The Yarningham Story – Part 1

This is the tale about how I met Helen, V and Lil and we started a yarn festival.

I met Helen Winnicott through Stitches and Hos, a monthly knit night I set up in 2007.  Helen came along by accident with a friend. I clearly remember watching Helen knitting socks on DPN’s on one of her first visits.   She made it look effortless. We hit if off and I asked Helen to help me with a commission I had for Bullring Birmingham.  Helen brought her daughter, Lilith (Lil), who had also been attending knit nights, for moral support. Lil had just finished her degree in Costume Design and helped with the production and installation of the final commission. 

Helen and I sewing up my commission for Bullring Birmingham, Woolly Bully 2011

Helen, Lil and I then met Venetia (V) whilst working on K2TOG, a participatory knit graffiti project I created as part of the Cultural Olympiad for London 2012.  I had secured a pop up shop in a shopping centre in Birmingham that acted as a central hub for the project. Venetia came to visit, as she knew someone who was working on the project from when she worked at Stitch Perfect, a now defunct independent yarn store.  With these kinds of credentials I asked V if she would like to work with us on future projects.  Luckily the answer was yes!

Myself, V, Lauren, Lil and Helen in the window of our installation A Knitted Harvest, 2013

Stitches and Hos now had a core group that worked on several projects together including a window display competition (We came second). We talked endlessly about wanting to open an independent yarn shop.  We had seen a couple of independent yarn shops open in Birmingham and then unfortunately close.  Our shop would be full of all our favourite dyers, our own space that we could host knit nights, workshops and trunk shows and create fantastic window displays.  We talked about it so much that eventually it seemed like a good idea to try and get it off the ground. 

The story continues in Part 2 coming soon…

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