Royal Melbourne Show 2015

September 20, 2015

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that the Royal Melbourne Show is primarily an agricultural show amid the showbags, fairy floss, giant rides and booming music. These certainly make it a giant spectacle and if you get one of those amazing blue sky, spring days, it looks marvellous. But inside the pavilions, there is a different pace, a respite from the noise and the urgency and a glimpse into other aspects of the Show.

IMG_1463Inside the Craft Pavilion, you can see an extraordinary array of domestic crafts from baking to preserving to knitting to basketry displayed and judged. This is no art and design fair but a competition for serious amateurs pushing their skills to their utmost for best bread loaf, best fruit cake, best sweater, best sock.

As a young adult, I remember being scornful that the entries looked so ordinary. I didn’t place any value on the skills displayed. The everyday crafts celebrated here offended my aesthetic as I thought being fashionable, avant garde or artistic was the mark of …well, everything. And now, somewhat wiser I hope, I marvel at the breadth of the craftwork. I am awed by way it seems to undercut what corporatised fashions or lifestyle subcultures think is cool or saleable. It celebrates instead what actual people make and value: the everyday made with skill, the useful made with experience, and the decorative made with joy.

IMG_1511Fully humbled over best biscuits and junior cupcakes, I went next to the livestock pavilion to fill my lungs with smell of hay, lanolin and manure. Heritage Sheep Australia had a great display of rare sheep breeds in Australia.

I saw Tintern School showing their rare breed Romney’s for which they win lots of prizes. Secondary school girls raise these sheep, breed them and show them as part of their studies. If you want to buy a Romney fleece from the school, you can make contact with the Farm Manager on 9845 7777.

Granite Haven had a great display of fibres and yarns in the Livestock Pavilion with Wool2Yarn. If you remember, I got rather excited about Suzette Sayer’s Paddock to Ply fibre mill project? Well, the things really do seem to be changing in Australia, as Wool2Yarn is a new micro-mill based in Mornington, Victoria. They specialise in small quantities (really small) and can take greasy fleeces! They will scour and process into roving or semi-worsted yarn. They are also creating some of their own yarn lines that can be purchased at a bricks and mortar shop in Mornington.

Cheryl Crosbie from Granite Haven has had some of her Gotland fleeces processed into these amazing rovings ready spin into art yarns. Her fibre range has really expanded and she has some lovely naturally coloured yarns in a shawl kit ready to knit.

IMG_1501I also saw a display of natural coloured sportsweight yarns from Kan-B-Colours. These new-to-me yarns are from prize winning Comeback sheep raised by Helen Wright at Glenlofty, Victoria. I haven’t found a website but the yarn can be purchased through an email kanangra1@activ8.net.au. It looks beautiful and is a fine wool but it was in display case, so no squish test sorry. Have any of you tried these yarns or know about them?

Again, just so we are clear, these are my own opinions, I have not been asked to endorse or promote these sellers in any way and have received no financial gain from doing so.

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  1. I loved what you said about “ordinary” crafts, R. I agree wholeheartedly and appreciated them much more at this stage of life.

  2. This reminds me of what we call State Fairs with all the animals, canning, 4-H sewing and crafts of all kinds. Who has the best looking chicken or the fluffiest bunny or biggest pig? Ride the MerryGoRound and the Ferris Wheel!!
    Eating all the greasy food that gives one severe I digestion!!!
    Thanks, Rebecca, for a trip down memory lane.

  3. Oh, a blue patchwork cow! What fun. I love fairs and enjoyed your writeup and and photos. Also enjoy the links you provide to browse – a educational journey. We have 2 more fiber fairs left this year also. The Mendocino County Fair and California Wool Show in Boonville this weekend and Lambtown in Dixon in October, if you want to google them and see what they are about. Thanks for sharing the Royal Melbourne Show.

  4. Rebecca, I was inspired by your lace shawl, to enter our local state fair, and guess what? Three entries and three ribbons! My Circle of Friends sweater, that was so much technical work, won third prize in the sweater section. I entered a blackwork embroidery (2nd place) and a cowl that got an Honorable Mention. So proud of myself. There were some amazing projects and I am already planning for next year. It is so much fun, and being an entrant adds a level of fun that you don’t get just visiting.

  5. I met Helen at the Bendigo Wool Show and her yarns are beautiful. I can also vouch that she treats her sheep well, stunning to watch as she shows them. The yarns are all 5 ply and in natural colours. The address I have for her is Glenlofty in Vic near Elmhurst. Pity the Melbourne show isn’t closer to the Bendigo show, I could get a double dose while I was down next year. I love Granite Haven rovings, I’m spinning the mix of Gotland and rust coloured Llama, at the moment, for an order, beautiful.

  6. I’ve always loved those pavilions at the show. At the Queensland show there are huge displays of tropical fruits and vegetables that are arranged in giant geometric or themed patterns.
    Lovely pics. xo

  7. Now that’s what I call a perfect Sunday morning read. Lots of good stuff, plenty of lovely sheep and strong words about the wonderfulness of practical everyday treasures. This post gave pleasant thoughts for many hours. Thank you, Rebecca.

  8. Oh, I have always loved the craft buildings at our fair! And then suddenly they stopped the shows! I’m not sure whether it was a lack of interest or what? We live in Canada and this year we not to the Minnesota State Fair where they have a vast array of everything from garden produce to canning to hand crafts! I think it’s time to contact our exhibition board and see if we can get the crafts back!

  9. I really enjoyed your visit to The Show and braving the crowds too! Very interesting to hear about the wonderful sheep and fibres and I am going to follow up some of your links. Over Here we have The Royal Show in a couple of weeks – I haven’t been for years but now I might give it a go again… you never know I may find a sheep or two to admire…. I will let you know how I get on.

  10. “It celebrates instead what actual people make and value: the everyday made with skill, the useful made with experience, and the decorative made with joy.”

    That has to be the best description I’ve read yet of all that is good about a proper, old fashioned, show of work.

    It looks like a grand day out!

  11. Morning Rebecca,
    Brings back memories of my Grandmother who won grand champion in the ‘women’s work’ category several years in a row before she was married. She used to have to arrange a display case several feet across and several feet tall with one of everything, from jams to bobbin lace work. An amazing feat of work ‘woman’ ship.

  12. This is a wonderful description of the hand made goodness of the Royal Melbourne Show Rebecca. i haven’t made it there for many years. I think that next year i will go to see the sheep and crafts. I am so excited to hear about the Romney Sheep being raised by the students at Tintern. What a great education! Why didn’t i go to a school like that?
    And “Wool 2 Yarn ” as well as ‘ply to Paddock’. The tide is turning. Its wonderful!!!!!! You are such a gatherer and sharer of fantastic woolly news. Thanks!!!!

  13. In my day job I work with a number of younger tech folks who sniff at my “craftsy” tendencies. They snort over projects on Etsy and roll their eyes at talk about the knitting retreat I went to. Thank heavens that in the end some people are as curious as cats and can be wooed with a hand knit baby blanket.

    Now there you are in a room full of hand-crafted projects at the annual fair. Like commenters before me, I am glad to be along on that visit. Meeting your teenage self? Priceless! Craftsy tendencies are ahead for that girl.

  14. It sounds like you had a wonderful day at the show. Being interested in a craft really helps appreciation of the displays. Shame about the squish test of the wool in the last photo, it looks extra fine and soft, I love its ethereal colouring.

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