Loch Ness Knit Fest aims to be a monster hit

HUNDREDS of knitting enthusiasts from more than 20 countries are to gather in Inverness for the inaugural Loch Ness International Knitting Festival.

Gary Campbell, President of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, with a selection of knitted Nessies submitted from around the world. Picture: Contributed

The new festival taps into a revival of traditional crafts, and is expected to attract hundreds of new visitors to the area.

With nearly 40 workshops, lectures and presentations based at Eden Court in Inverness from Friday, the Loch Ness Knit Fest brings together some of the world’s most well-known knitters and designers.

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Presenters include Christel Seyfarth, Alice Starmore, Vithard Vullumsen, Catherine Sclater, Di Gilpin, Ruth Black, Nancy Marchant, Chrissie Day, Carla Meijsen, and Pernille Cordes.

Part of the festivities celebrating Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, the Festival will include a crafting village with hands-on demonstrations of spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, quilting and more.

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Exhibitors from across the UK and beyond will have one-off and limited edition designs for sale, including hand-spun and hand-dyed wool and knitted garments. Friday evening will feature a “knit-in” at Eden Court, where designers and delegates will spend a relaxing evening knitting together.

The opportunity to meet with and attend workshops and master-classes by the stars of the knitting world, enjoy a “knitting cruise” on Loch Ness, and the camaraderie of other knitters are the top three reasons delegates cited for attending the new festival, according to a survey by organisers.

With “knitting cruises” offered daily by Loch Ness by Jacobite, delegates will get an opportunity to appreciate first-hand the beauty of the Highlands. Non-knitting partners will also be catered for, with whisky tours organised by local tour operator WOW Scotland.

Lecturers from a range of countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland and Norway will highlight historical and cultural perspectives on knitting and design.

A Highland concert on Saturday night produced by Bruce MacGregor of ‘Blazin’ Fiddles’ will serve as a lively introduction to the music and culture of the area for visitors from across the UK, Europe, North America and beyond.

The inaugural Inverness Loch Ness International Knitting Festival is a project of tourism organisation Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

Alan Rawlinson, an official with the organisation, anticipates the festival will have wide appeal.

He said: “We’ve developed a full four-day experience for our visitors. We have delegates coming from North America, Scandinavia, all across Europe, and throughout the UK. People who have heard about the Festival have been in touch to plan their visit to Scotland and the UK around it.

“Some of our attendees have told us they will be here for more than two weeks, as they take the opportunity to tour Scotland before and after our event. We’re delighted at the response, and believe that the Festival will boost visitor numbers this autumn and benefit tourism and other local businesses.

“We are hoping the Knit Fest will become an annual event, continuing to raise the profile of Inverness-Loch Ness,” he added.

It is anticipated that the Loch Ness Knit Festival will generate an additional £1million in direct and indirect spending by visitors to the area.

Paul Bush OBE, director of events at VisitScotland, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the inaugural Inverness Loch Ness International Knitting Festival, taking place during the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

“Scotland is the Perfect Stage for cultural events, and the festival’s inspiring programme – showcasing the talents of both renowned international and local knit designers – will help to raise the profile of Inverness and the surrounding area in a new and engaging way, and attract hundreds of visitors to the Highlands and Scotland.”

Supported by Highland Council, EventScotland and the Inverness Common Good Fund, the Inverness Loch Ness International Knitting Festival runs from Thursday to 2 October.

A recent survey of delegates ahead of the Loch Ness Knit Fest revealed some interesting findings.

The Festival appears to have been successful in attracting new visitors to the area, as 40% of respondents reported their visit will be their first-ever trip to Inverness and the Highlands. Fifty per cent of respondents will be travelling to the Festival by air, and 22% by rail.

Nearly 44% of attendees will be staying in a hotel, and 30% will be staying in local B&Bs or guesthouses. A hardy 5% plan to camp during their stay, while the remaining registrants either live locally or are staying with friends.