Sheep And Wool Show Report!

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Late last year, hopeful but only cautiously optimistic, I got in contact with the organizers of the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, one of the largest of its kind in the world and held in Bendigo, Australia once a year. After a few email conversations, I was delighted to find that, not only was the Australian Woolcraft group happy to have us attend the show, but they would actually provide us with some space in the community section of the show to share the KAS story and invite people to knit squares.

The big event finally happened recently, and as you might have guessed from the number of new Australians who joined the forum a few weeks ago, it was a huge success!

For me the whole thing started on the Thursday afternoon, day zero. We had some time to set up our display, and to meet the others in our pavilion. It was freezing cold, but I was excited anyway.

Thursday also brought a fantastic surprise. The organizers of the woolcraft part of the show had not only helped to organize a space for us, but had also arranged a dozen large bin bags full of 100% wool yarn, which had been donated by several shops who had been using them as a window display. The wool was gorgeous shades of orange, red and yellow, and will make some fantastic blankets.

Along with this too, came a very large box of squares ready to go. These beautifully knitted squares came from members of Vision Australia, people who are blind or had reduced vision. These squares have been bundled up with the rest of the show squares to be posted off to South Africa soon.

By the end of Thursday's setup, you can imagine how excited and confident I was feeling!

Friday was a big day. People started to drift by even before the show officially opened at 9am, and by lunch time the flow of visitors to the table was near continuous, with multiple groups often listening in on the same conversation.

Around the rest of the show was a wealth of sheep and wool related wonders. On those moments when I dared leave the table to someone else, I was in heaven! Yarn everywhere, hand spun fibre through to novelty craft yarns, in every shade (or combination of shades) that you could imagine. Beyond that, there were sheep dog trials, sheep judging, wool craft exhibitions and demonstrations, shearing races, live cooking shows and some absolutely delicious lamb for lunch in the food pavilions!

One of the volunteers who was teaching knitting in the same pavilion as us heard about the project, and from that point on anyone who wanted to learn how to knit got to work on a KAS square. There were quite a few squares by the end of the weekend!

By the time 5pm rolled around I was already exhausted, and I still had two whole days to go! It had been a fantastic day though. Every person who came through had been positive and enthusiastic about KAS, and were completely engaged.

Saturday was by far the busiest day for KAS, so much so that by midday, I actually received an email from the company who hosts our website, saying that they had had so much traffic that day that they were concerned that something had gone wrong with the technology!

Nearly every visitor to the table left with one of our glossy printed rulers. On one side we showed the measure of twenty centimeters/eight inches, the size of the KAS square. On the other, we shared information about how to get involved with the project. People were delighted with these rulers, a much more creative and interesting take away than the standard pamphlet or brochure.

Some of our neighbors also got in on the ruler action, taking a few handfuls away with them to slip in with their mail orders. We may see a few new members yet from customers of some of our neighboring stands, as some of these wonderful independent yarn companies post out rulers as part of their deliveries!

Once again, everyone was keen to understand, to get involved, and to hear everything they could about the KAS project. Several people took the time to sit and knit a bit, and even more took away small stacks of rulers to share with friends, family, or crafting groups.

Sunday, the final day of the show, was a bit quieter. That was just as well though, because I was exhausted!

Despite the more relaxed atmosphere though, we still had a continuous flow of people through asking about how to get involved. We also had several kids join us on the last day, including a few who took the chance to learn how to use a knitters loom so they could contribute a square.

By the end of the show, we had almost four full pages of people asking to join the forum and KasSnippets mailing list. Hundreds of visitors went away with enthusiastic plans to knit a square, to join our forum, to download our pattern book or to donate to the project.

Thank you to Dot and the rest of the Woolcraft Australia team who supported us so thoroughly at the show, with space and yarn and squares. Their efforts cannot be underestimated, for however tired I was at the end of the weekend, they must have been double that. Thanks too to Helen and Ross, my assistants both in setting up and manning the table over the four days, and in preparing, ordering and collecting all of the various marketing and display paraphernalia in the weeks leading up to the show.

I'll leave you with a few more photos from the show. Hopefully next year, if you're in the area, you'll come and join us for the next Sheep and Wool Show!