The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with more than 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
With 3,800 shows playing this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, there is more than enough theatre to fill a day. But Edinburgh has much to offer beyond the theatre and performing arts scene.
If you're in a crafter, you need to know that Edinburgh is a crafter's paradise. From wool crafts (like knitting, crocheting, and weaving) to sewing, quilting, and needlepoint—crafting seems to be less a side hobby than a way of life around here. It's everywhere.
As an avid crafter myself (check out these theatrical crafts I designed for Playbill a few years ago), I set aside some time while in Edinburgh to check out the crafting scene. And I'm glad I did. Here's what I found.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a country known for its sheep and tweed, Edinburgh is burst at the seams with wool. What shocked me the most is that while there are some proper yarn stores, you're also liable to find yarn in any store selling tweeds and other bespoke woolens (and there's a lot of those stores). Two particular favorites I came across are Ragamuffin on High Street and Scottish Textiles Showcase on St. Mary's.
Ragamuffin specializes in wool clothing and accessories, from sweaters and skull caps to socks. They've also got a nice supply of yarn. Most of it is Rowan brand, which you can get in the States. But if you're got a hankering to get something on the needles or your crochet hook (which they also sell), it's a great place to check out.
Scottish Textiles Showcase is a slightly more upscale shop also with some knitwear (but also home items like soaps and such). They also carry yarn from The Berlinn Yarn Company, sourced from sheep in Scotland's Outer Hebrides—a helpful map in the shop will show you exactly where that is. With un-dyed and dyed options available, this wool felt truly special. And, of course, when you're visiting Scotland, how can you not leave without picking up some authentically Scottish yarn made from authentically Scottish sheep?
As for more traditional yarn stores, Edinburgh has lots of those too. Check out Ginger Twist Studio on London Road, Be Inspired Fibres on Marchmont, Kathy's Knits on Broughton, and Pins & Needles on Lochrin Buildings. Edinburgh does not mess around when it comes to wool.
If you're a sewer and/or quilter, Edinburgh also has you covered. Unfortunately, unlike the tweed situation, you'll see tartan stores everywhere but they tend to only sell finished products. If you want some fabric to make your own heirlooms, head to Edinburgh Fabrics in St. Patrick Square. This large and fully stocked shop specializes in British fabrics, so you'll find lots of tartans and other goodies.
They also have a nice selection of fabrics from Liberty of London, known for elegant and extravagant prints. Liberty fabrics can be difficult to find outside of their flagship London store, but Edinburgh Fabrics has a pretty full supply.
There's also a quilting shop called myBearpaw on Lochrin Buildings, just down the street from the aforementioned Pins & Needles. Catriona Brown's shop is small but delightful, with an array of quilting cotton that I surprisingly hadn't seen in U.S. shops. It turns out, Edinburgh is a great place to be if you're looking for Liberty fabric—myBearpaw carries a small but lovely selection of Liberty's quilting cottons as well. Most notable about this shop for me was its ample supply of fat quarters, a surprisingly large and diverse offering for a shop that small.
Beyond craft supplies to make things yourself, Edinburgh also has lots of bespoke crafted goods for sale. I found a particularly nice marketplace in Tron Kirk Market. Located inside a former principal parish church built in the 17th century, it's as fun to be inside this space as it is to look at what's for sale. Twenty-one local designers and artisans have booths inside, with products ranging from hand-knit scarves and hats, to tartan dog collars and leashes. I also found some really nice needlepointing kits with unique designs, perfect if you're looking for something to keep your hands busy while in queue for your next Fringe show.
You can also visit The West End Fair, a crafting fair running throughout the month of August (to coincide with the Edinburgh Fringe and International festivals). This outdoor spot is kind of like Tron Kirk Market on steroids, with booths from hundreds of artisans selling hand-made wares and artwork. With some truly lovely items available for sale, this is worth strolling through on a walk between venues if you find yourself passing through.
And even the Edinburgh Festival Fringe itself is not immune to getting its crafting on. This year's festival included a Japanese Boro-style Slow Stitching workshop taught by Sue Crawley of Sunshine Designs, one of many not expressly performance-related Fringe events you can attend. Crawley taught five sold-out sessions on this hand-made decorative mending technique, which can be used to make patching up an old pair of pants just as stylish as it is functional.
Crawley told us that crafting workshops are somewhat knew to the Fringe catalogue, but with this year being a total sell-out, she's already planning an expanded offering for next year. Crawley is a fantastic teacher, and the workshop offered a chance to not only learn a new technique, but to also meet and chat with some kindred spirits. Over the nearly two-hour class, we had 10-minute wait in a queue to really get to know each other—and that's where I got some of my best recommendations on what to do and see while I was in Scotland.
Needless to say, for this longtime crafter, I support crafting at Fringe!