Spring Fair evokes images of sunshine, gentle breezes, coconut shies and handicraft stalls.   So when we journeyed to Birmingham’s NEC on a wild, wet and windy February day, it wasn’t quite the idyll we had in mind.  Nevertheless, we were not disappointed by this huge annual exhibition.  We covered but a portion of the show, and patted ourselves on the back for being focused on our task.  We set out to talk to fellow British traders.  We wanted to know about their crafts and get an insight into their creativity and skills; to see and touch for ourselves the end result of their toil. 
All About Wool
We met a lovely lady from Ireland, there with her father, exhibiting the wares of their family owned mill.  She told us about the versatility of wool. She told us how humans have used pure, natural wool for centuries for warmth and comfort, in both hot and cold climates but that in more recent times, with more and more synthetic materials appearing, the benefits of wool have largely and sadly been forgotten.  We chatted (as best we could) to a rather grumpy Scottish chap who was terribly up tight but who had the most sumptuous knits.  He told us all about the Jacob sheep reared local to his mill, and showed us the most delicately hued blankets, the colour gained from the natural fleece of the beast, without need for dye. 
Hopping the Channel
We (metaphorically speaking) hopped across the channel and met with Madame Douchez from a French linen mill.  We poured over her chalky colours and literally pawed her wonderful bedding – the quality of which is sublime.  We fell in love with the craft of felting and started to see how we can weave local, traditional artistry into our products, to add personality and make them unique.  We made real strides in building our business and started to form a picture of Tolly McRae. 

February 12, 2014 — Tolly Tolson