The Royal Highland Show’s handcrafts competition had standards that were at an all-all-time high – however, entry numbers were sadly down on expected levels.

Taking the overall championship, the BRCS Perpetual Silver Challenge Quaich for best overall exhibit, was Lou Washington, of Coldstream SWI, with her stunning woodland scene in needle felting. An intricately detailed scene featuring a selection of animals and flora and fauna, which took her a couple of weeks to complete.

Lou, who lives in Coldstream, said: “I’m blown away really, this is my first time entering the Highland Show, I just thought I’m going to give this a go. I’ve been a member of Coldstream SWI for four years now and I was working on another craft project and wanted to have a realistic-looking tree, so I looked up YouTube and taught myself needle felting and I quite enjoyed it and it expanded from there.”

Lou crafts as a hobby, she used to sell her felt work, but it detracted from the joy of doing it in her spare time when it was on-demand, so she crafts purely for pleasure these days.

She continued: “During lockdown, I didn’t really do any crafting and we had a federation show, which had been cancelled three times, coming up and we never really do very well, so we decided to put a few things in.

"I also entered one of my own pieces as a separate thing and to my shock and horror, I got best in show there too. It was the first thing I’ve ever won. It was a needle felt badger on a big cotton reel.

“I thought right, I’m going to try for the Highland Show and as I had enjoyed doing the badger, I did another one and it just kept expanding. The badger was joined by a squirrel, then I added a crested tit which was joined by a pine martin and it just got bigger as time went on. It grew very organically, I didn’t sketch anything out, there was no plan.

“It’s quite a quick process really, building the structure takes most of the time because it has to be as solid as possible, but when you have that in place you can start embellishing it and that’s the fun part. All the wool I used is Scottish, which is really important to me.

“I used to be a sheep farmer in New Zealand and I’m really passionate about the use of wool. Felting is just another way of using wool as it is just so versatile. It’s an amazing product and it’s not just needle felting that you can do, you can do wet felting and make hats and shoes, the possibilities are endless.

“If I can win this competition, anyone can. For instance, there are a lot of girls at our Coldstream SWI that I consider to be far better crafters than me, and I hope this inspires them to enter too. I encourage everyone to try their hand at crafting and competitions and just see what happens.”

Lou picked up red tickets in three other classes with her feltwork and she took home a £500 voucher to spend on a masterclass or course in a different specialism as part of the overall prize.

In reserve spot was Kathleen Anderson, with her fine cobweb hand-knitted shawl. Kathleen is no stranger to winning the title at the Highland with her cobweb shawls, picking up several titles in the past. Kathleen from Shetland would be impressed to know that the judges had a magnifying glass out checking over her work and they couldn’t find fault with her exquisite shawl.

The usual healthy entries for the crooks and sticks competition saw just a couple of dozen sticks entered in total from just six entrants. Ian Smith, of Knaresborough, lifted the Mrs Allister Campbell Memorial Trophy and rosette for the four best sticks in the show, and one of those, his plain horn walking stick was selected as the overall best stick in the show.

Ian said: “It’s an honour to have this title, The Highland is a prestigious competition to win. The horn walking stick that won the overall was made from a coloured horn which is very difficult to find. I knew I only had one chance to get it right and it was a fairly difficult process deciding which would be the right shank, the varnishing, and making sure the joints were perfect – and it took a lot of time. It’s not something you can do in a few weeks.

“I’ve been making sticks for around six years now and this title is for Trevor, my late friend who passed on all his stick-making knowledge to me before he passed away. I won my first competition at the Yorkshire Show just a couple of weeks after Trevor passed.

"I’ve had a lot of encouragement over the years to continue, and I make sticks purely for my own enjoyment. My aim is to enter as many competitions as possible this year and the Highland Show points tally really helps.

“The entry process was perfect timing for me as I had a few sticks about ready. I was sorry to see that many of the usual competitors didn’t enter and hope the Highland Show committee will consider making the entry process simpler next year.

“I also want to thank the SWI president, Anne, and all the ladies who steward the handcrafts section for making me most welcome and for all their help with getting the sticks safely into the competition they are a credit to the show.”

Alongside the entries there was a range of daily demonstrations of craft skills and another class winner, Penny Skett, was showing a group of youngsters how to spin their own yarn using a spinning wheel, which as you can see from the image had the kids enjoying a hands-on experience.

The Handcrafts Pavilion was moved this year, which certainly surprised this reporter when arriving to find the First Aid Centre instead, and with no signage to say otherwise. But, it was a great location – if you know where to look.

Speaking to the current SWI president, Anne Kerr, she said: “We are always delighted with the standards that the Royal Highland Show handcrafts competition attracts, however, our numbers were down this year and a number of people commented that they had difficulty entering the competition for a few reasons.

"The entry procedure has moved online and many of our exhibitors are not comfortable online, and also the entry window was very short, which meant a few people missed the deadline. However, we still attract entries from all over the UK and I would like to remind everyone who would like to enter that you don’t have to be a member of the Scottish Women’s Institute to enter.”

LEADING awards:

Sculptured bug made out of cutlery – 1, J Farquharson; 2, C Tuck.

Sewn rucksack – 1, K Shepherd; 2, S Paice; 3, S McGhie.

Butterfly in beadwork – 1, J Lawrie; 2, J Christie.

A hat in wet felting – 1, J Alexander; 2, L Graham; 3, A Maitland.

Woodland scene in needle felting – 1, L Washington; 2, A Maitland; 3, S Urie.

Bread basket, any technique – 1, S Patrick; 2, T Schyma; 3, B and E Reynard.

Bug hotel in woodwork – 1, K Huggett.

Painting of a pond, any medium – 1, P Tweedie; 2, L Wallace Smith; 3, Y Drabsch.

Painting of a meadow in watercolour – 1, J Alexander; 2, A Baxter.

Mounted photograph – 1, A Clark; 2, C Biddle; 3, R Stuart-Menteth.

Wildlife in miniature photograph – 1, A Clark; 2, J Alexander; 3, R Stuart-Menteth.

A book folded beastie – 1, Ms S Plummer; 2, L Stewart.

A recycling item relating to woodland theme – 1, K Huggett; 2, C Tuck; A Clark.

A toy in fur fabric – 1, J Duncan; J Plumb; 3, L Stewart.

Trio of birds, three crafts – 1, I De Luca; 2, M Finlay; 3, k Shepherd.

Novine exhibitor headband – 1, S Plummer; 2, J Farquharson.

Crochet child’s poncho – 1, C Easton; 2, K Shepherd; 3, A Torbet.

Embellished wreath – 1, K Shepherd; 2, A Torbet; 3, L Graham.

Adult’s gansey jumper – 1, M Finlay; 2, S Paice; 3, S Eddington.

Knitted tea cosy – 1, S Paice; 2, E Parkin; 3, L Stewart.

Knitted adult socks – 1, E MacGregor; 2, J Duncan; 3, C Bothwell.

Knitted woodland creature – 1, L Wallace-Smith; 2, C Tuck; 3, S Urie.

Shawl in fine lace knitting – 1, K Anderson; 2, J Stickle; 3, S Paice.

Hank of Shetland yarn – 1, F Bleakley; 2, P Skett; 3, H Bladon.

Three hanks of hand spun yarn with different natural fibres and dyes – 1, P Skett; 2, H Bladon; 3, M Beith.

Hank of fancy yarn, birds and bees theme – 1, K Huggett; 2, P Skett.

Article in homespun yarn – knitted, crochet or woven – 1, B Kendall; 2, H Bladon; 3, P Skett.

Hand woven wall hanging – 1, P Skett; 2, D Cameron.

Tote bag in any hand weaving technique – 1, D Cameron; 2, P Skett.

2D or 3D spider’s web inspired piece of lace – 1, K Brander; 2, C Noble, 3, M Finlay.

Piece of jewellery in tatting or any lace making technique – 1, J Christie; 2, J Plumb; 3, C Noble.

Bookmark in bobbin lace – 1, K Brander; 2, J Farquharson.

Cushion cover in freeestyle machine embroidery – 1, H Bladon; 2, C Biddle; 3, C Tuck.

Bookcover in freehand embroidery – 1, H Alexander; 2, J Alexander; 3, A Clark.

Picture using blackwork technique – 1, J Duncan; 2, V Bestwick; 3, M Finlay.

3D article using plastic canvas – 1, D Dingsdale; 2, K Shepherd; 3, H Alexander.

Twiddle quilt – 1, J Christie; 2, H Alexander; 3, L Wallace-Smith.

Applique wall hanging for a child’s room – 1, L Stewart; 2, L Wallace Smith.

Patchwork cot cover – 1, C Bothwell; 2, A Henderson; 3, A Clark.

Children up to four years – Collage – 1, Miss C Hamilton; 2, Ms HV Maciver Pidcock; 3, J Lawrie.

Children 5-8 years, pom-pom – 1, Miss E Hamilton; 2, J Lawrie.

Children any age, model beehive with bees – 1, Miss HV Maciver Pidcock.

Crooks and walking sticks

Plain wood head neck crook – 1, I Smith; 2, I McConchie; 3, A Dent.

Plain horn head neck crook – 1, I Smith; 2, A Dent; 3, D Burns.

Fancy wood head neck crook – 1, A Dent; 2, I McConchie.

Plain wood walking stick – 1, I Smith; 2, I McConchie; 3, A Dent.

Plain horn head walking stick – 1, I Smith; 2, I McConchie; 3, A Dent.

Fancy wood head walking stick – 1, A Dent; 2, I McConchie.

Fancy horn head walking stick – 1, I McConchie; 2, A Dent.

Horn leg cleek – 1, I Smith; 2, A Dent.

Wood leg cleek – 1, I Smith; 2, A Dent.

Horn or wood thumb stick – 1, A Dent; 2, I Smith; 3, I McConchie.

Plain or fancy buffalo horn walking stick – 1, I Smith; 2, I McConchie; 3, A Dent.

Ladies stick – 1, I McConchie; 2, A Dent.

Half head sportsman’s stick – 1, A Dent; 2, C Cook.

Novice walking stick in horn head – 1, I Smith.

Novice walking stick wood or horn – 1, C Cook.