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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Love Your Yarn Shop?

 Growing up in Norway, local yarn shops were common. Our town always had a great shop. The one I remember best was the one from when I was a teenager. It was a big shop with a great selection of yarn and patterns. And the owner always had a knitting machine going in the background, knitting traditional Norwegian ski sweaters for sale.

I took our local yarn shop for granted. It was always there and it was my first choice when I wanted to cast on for a new project. I never used to stash yarn back then, apart from leftover yarn from old projects. 

When I moved to England I couldn't understand English knitting patterns, although my English was very, very good but knitting patterns are like a different language with all those abbreviations. Neither my mother-in-law nor any of my English friends knitted so I had noone to ask for help. I popped in to our local yarn shop 'The Wool Shop' and they supplied me with a leaflet on knitting which helped me a bit. I did still struggle though and most of the time I bought patterns in Norway when I went home on holiday. Unfortunately at the time they wouldn't sell you a pattern without buying yarn for it too. So every time we went to Norway on holiday I came back with a sweater's worth of yarn.

Eventually baby stuff took over the space in our suitcase and I there was no room for yarn. By this time our local 'Wool Shop' were selling more shoes than yarn which was sad. But I discovered online forums and online yarn shops and they got me into knitting again. I discovered yarn I'd never heard of before. Natural luxury fibres I'd never knitted with. I made friends in the online forums, some I still keep in touch with today. I got support when I was trying to learn to understand English knitting patterns. I even got encouragement when it came to having a go at designing my first pair of socks. 

One of the knitters I got to know in that first online knitting forum I joined went on to open a yarn shop in Devon, which is called Spin A Yarn. When Joyce first opened her shop it was in a tiny little shop. She immediately started running classes and I booked to take the first 'Professional Finishing' class she offered. Most useful class i've ever taken by the way. 

Joyce started a knitting group which I immediately started attending and I still try to get there when I can, although I can't make it as often these days. After a little while Joyce deciced she wanted to run some sock kntiting classes and she knew I knitted a lot of socks so she asked me. The class was successful so after a few top down socks classes we added a toe up socks, then a lace class, then continental knitting and this year I'm teaching more workshops than I've ever done before. 

The thing is, Spin A Yarn is an hours drive from me. That's not quite local. I don't mind driving an hour for a specialist yarn shop. Spin A Yarn is now a thriving and successful yarn shop. A few years ago they moved to a much larger shop, they offer more workshops now, regular fashion shows with companies like Rowan, Debbie Bliss and Louisa Harding.

Spin A Yarn is what a yarn shop should be, in my opinion. It has friendly staff who know about knitting, it has great yarn, it has two great knitting groups and a great schedule of workshops. In the south west we now have several great knitting shops. I now have three wonderful shops within an hours drive from me, Spin A Yarn and Social Fabric in Devon and Coastal Yarns in Bude. 

What's happened to my local wool shop? Well it's still called 'The Wool Shop' and they sell a very small selection of budget yarns, and they have a haberdashery section. But most of their tiny shop is still shoes. They're great shoes and I've purchased several pairs there over the years but I'd love to see it return to a full-service yarn shop, with modern yarns, natural fibres, great knitting accessories. 

Do you have a yarn shop in your town? From listening to many of the knitters I meet when I do shows, there aren't that many great yarn shops like the ones local(ish) to me. 2-3 years ago a yarn shop opened in a neighbouring town. It was a small shop but the owner had a great selection of yarns I liked, lots of books and great knitting tools and accessories. She had a workshop space and I taught a few workshops there but the business never really took off. I don't know if Cornish knitters didn't know about the shop, or thought it was too far to drive. Maybe local knitters though quality yarns were too expensive because they've been used to cheap acrylic. I don't know but I heard last week that the shop is now closing and that's sad!

So do you want a great local yarn shop? Somewhere you can browse a selection of patterns from top yarn companies and independent designers? Somewhere you can touch and feel the best of British and foreign yarns? Somewhere you can book a class to learn a new technique? Somewhere you can meet other knitters and chat and knit together? Somewhere you can ask the staff for help when you're stuck? If you want a yarn shop like that then you have to support it! Yarn shops have a lot of competition from online yarn shops both here and abroad and I'm not saying we shouldn't have online yarn shops. I sell yarn online (although on a small scale) and there are online shops that I love and support but there's nothing quite like being able to go into a shop and touch and feel and smell the yarn. Get help in choosing a pattern. Unless you want to order all your yarn online in the future, we need to support our local yarn shops. If they're successful they'll keep going. 

Let's Knit and some of their sister magazines are launching a campaign to support local yarns shops and on 3rd of May they've declared Local Yarn Shop Day. Yarn shops around the UK are being encouraged to put on events on that day and knitters around the UK are being encouraged to join in. Many designers are being asked to be ambassadors. I'm one of the ambassadors for this campaign. Jane Burns is a fellow Let's Knit designer and also an ambassador for this campaign and you can read her blog post here. Let's Knit's editor, Sarah, has also blogged about the idea behind this campaign. 

So what can you do to support this campaign? 

  • Tell your local yarn shop about it and enourage them to join in.
  • Turn up at your local yarn shop on 3 May. 
Ambassadors are available to run mini-workshops, book signings, knitting clinics at participating yarn shop. Many shops will be putting on special events. Check what your local shop will be doing. Or maybe even help them putting on an event. What about running a 'learn to knit' session? 

Do you have a local yarn shop? Are you a regular there? Please tell me in the comments.

Keep an eye on Let's Knit magazine and their blog for updates on the campaign and participating shops and ambassadors.


Rhian Drinkwater said...

I'm really lucky in Bath – we have Wool in the city centre, plus I live literally a couple of streets away from Great British Yarns. Very bad for the wallet! We've also got Get Knitted not too far away, and Jumble Jelly in Bradford on Avon. I love having places I can just pop to and browse lovely yarns, as well as being able to just pop in and grab something I need quickly.

Judy said...

I run a small "local" yarn shop here in my town (well, about 3 miles out of town). I am in the USA and would love to see this take place over here. I am going to try to get some interest going for my shop. I'll let you know how it goes.
I was one of the originals in your sock knitting forum backa few years ago. I still get those patterns out and knit me up a new pair of socks. :)
Was sorry when you left it. It just was not the same and didn't last long.

HookedOnJersey said...

In Jersey The Harbour Gallery, who is hosting the textile showcase has a wool shop , but even here in the historic home of knitting (Jersey fabric?) we struggle. there are now only 4 other wool shops and the two in THE town St Helier are not even open 6 days a week between them! reduced hours due to reduced demand as every one goes on line.

Come to Jersey and help us support our wool shops!
I will be running open house at the tuesday night knitting/crochet groups at the Harbour gallery, during the Textile showcase - lots of yarns tea/coffee and home baking on 4th and 11th March 7-9pm

Looking forward to meeting you Anniken

Hazel aka Hookedonjersey who helps with the Gallery wool shop see you there!

Off to spend 4 hours helping with our latest community project creating a knitted and crocheted underwater reef for a new exhibit in the Maritime Museum opening in April.

Lisa B said...

Unfortunately it is not just in the UK that this is happening. Here in Australia we have experienced the same. We are lucky that we can order online, but it is very hard to judge correct colours!