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Yarndale, pt 2: Yarns & Friends & HYGGE

At the moment I am on a self-imposed mini-break, so I am a bit late talking about the things I saw at Yarndale. Still, it means I can look back and write about the things that really made an impact.

Firstly, Yarndale turned out to be one of my favourite yarn shows so far. The venue was decked out with crochet bunting, crochet mandelas and a lot of handmade signage. It felt very cheering and welcoming – in other words, very Yorkshire! The vendors were a good mix of perennial favourites, old friends, and small vendors who rarely do shows. I managed to get lost a few times and I know I missed a couple of vendors I wanted to see, but here are some of the vendors that stood out for me:

I completely missed her at the EYF marketplace, so I was determined to seek out Laura’s Loom – both her hand-woven fabrics and her yarns are gorgeous. Her materials are sourced from the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria – and the colours are both rich and subtle. Blacker Yarns was another must-visit. I loved being able to browse their breed-specific yarns and work out future colour combinations in my head. I had lucky enough to previously receive a pre-release sample of their birthday yarn – the gorgeous Cornish Tin – and I tried to ferret out whether Cornish Tin was to remain limited edition or not. The fabulous Sonja said that when it is gone, it is gone. So get your mitts on it now!

The Island Wool Company and I go way back. They backed and supported me when I did Doggerland and we have another collaboration in the works. However, I had actually never met them in person – just a lot of long phone conversations! – so it was a huge thrill to finally meet one half of the team at Yarndale. Many hugs were exchanged and hopefully you’ll like what we have in store. Other friends with stalls included Sarah Alderson (who launched her book An Elven Reckoning at Yarndale – my personal favourites are the Norui jumper and the Rhien shawl), Ripples Crafts, The Crochet Project, Joeli’s Kitchen, my style crush Jess with her Ginger Twist Studio, Tilly Flop Designs with Julie’s amazing knitting postcards and tea towels (I lost track of where you were!), and the ever lovely Ann Kingstone. I also happened upon my old boss from my years with Rowan Yarns – it was so nice to catch up with Jem and see her designs. We both agreed that the past fourteen months or so have been such a whirlwind!

My purchases were modest. I have a lot of things on my plate over the next few months, so I wasn’t looking to spend a lot. However, I felt inspired by the Knit British single breed swatch-along, so I went looking for yarn that fit the bill. As Louise pointed out afterwards, I was meant to look for undyed wool but I crave COLOUR at the moment.

Yarndale purchases. Carefully plotted over the course of the day. #yarndale2015 #knitlocal #planning #singlebreedyarn

A photo posted by Karie Westermann (@kariebookish) on


I was quite taken with the Exmoor Horn Wool – the colour range was really, really nice and the yardage is good – and I am looking forward to seeing how it works up. According to the lovely people on the stall, the yarn is a recently off-shoot from the Exmoor Horn Breeders’ Society’s work on preserving one of Britain’s native sheep breeds. I am weak in the presence of a good story – especially one which involves heritage and landscape – and so two balls came home with me. I do have plans for them that involves more than just swatching, but I am not giving myself a deadline! I also bought one of the Wovember badges from Laura’s Loom – it matches my winter coat perfectly!

But Yarndale was also the book-end of two very, very stressful months. I spent my last reserves of energy that fabulous Saturday and I have been exhausted as a result. So, I had a very strongly-worded conversation with my boss (i.e. me), and she allowed me to take most of this week off. She should probably allow me to do this more often! However, the final HYGGE pattern will be a few days delayed, emails have remained unanswered, admin has been pushed to one side, and I’ve not done any design work. I am sure the world will not end.

PS. The BBC has a really nice article about the concept of HYGGE today. Thank you to everyone who passed me the link xx

One City, Three Yarn Shops: Achievement Unlocked!

yarn crawl

photo by @socherryknits

Yesterday saw the inaugural Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl in Edinburgh. Hundreds of knitters* visited three of Edinburgh’s finest yarn shops – Kathy’s Knits, Be Inspired Fibres and Ginger Twist Studio – before meeting up for an after-party at Safari Lounge. Several Glasgow friends saw it as a great opportunity to try out new-to-them yarn shops; I needed to meet up with Susan Crawford (who was doing a meet & greet in Ginger Twist Studio); and there was a special birthday celebration too.

* literally, hundreds.

Away we went.

And it was good.

We started out at Kathy’s Knits where I was delighted to meet Lucy Hague, designer of exquisite cables. The book selection was great as per usual, and I nearly succumbed to Blacker Yarns’ St Kilda lace yet again. Instead we went across the road to have lunch – oh, those smoked salmon bagels- before heading out to Be Inspired Fibres.

The yarn crawl was starting to get busy now: the queue for the till was nearly 15 minutes long and I scrambled to find dye lots for knitters (with Mei’s permission). Friends fell in love with Mei’s selection of yarn and came away with quite significant hauls. I was particularly pleased to see the massive love of Nordic yarns and books. A special shout-out to Leona from Fluph (Dundee’s newest LYS) who had left her shop in the capable hands and paws of Mr & Doggy Fluph to go yarn crawling. That is what I call knitterly dedication!

After a much needed breath of fresh air, the end was in sight and we made our way to Ginger Twist Studio.  At which point this happened:

Photo by @oldmaidenaunt

Photo by @oldmaidenaunt

GTS is like the Kylie Minogue of yarn shops: small, but perfectly formed. Because of its petite nature, we had to wait our turn to go inside. Thankfully Thinking Chocolate was next door and I spent a happy fifteen minutes talking flavour concepts and chocolate-making with TC’s Nadia. You should try her amazing haggis-inspired truffles: chocolate truffles flavoured with black pepper, mace, nutmeg and salt.

Back to GTS and then it looked like this:

GTS

Practically the only photo I took all day!

It felt like being back at the scrum of the Edinburgh yarn festival. Eventually I made it through the crowd, gave Susan some much needed (artisan) chocolate, and I ended up with a lot of Susan’s new yarn, Fenella. It’s a 3-ply mix of Exmoor Blueface and Bluefaced Leicester – and it is lovely.

I could not choose a colour so I chose all of them.

The after-party at the Safari Lounge looked amazing – there is no party like a knitter’s party – but unfortunately most of us had to leave before the party really kicked off. I did get a chance to admire yarn crawl hauls and talk a tiny bit of Swedish with a woman who had come over from Stockholm for yarn crawl reasons (amazing). I was also getting really tired after all the sunshine, all the yarn, and all the people.

Then, thankfully, it was time to kick back with a bit of Pimm’s, a very cute dog and a chillin’ BBQ with copious yarn talk (no photos because all logical thoughts fly out my head when I’m tickling a dog’s tummy).

It was nearly midnight before I finally arrived home. The sky was still light. I was tired but happy. What a lovely way to spend Midsummer.

(pssst. yes, work was involved but you will find out more this autumn and early next year)

(psssssst. thank you to Elaine for getting me use her twitter pun as my blog post title)

Trip to Glasgow’s Newest LYS: The Queen of Purls

Glasgow is a relatively big city, but we have a decided lack of yarn shops compared to many other places. I was delighted when I learned that a new yarn shop was about to pop its doors open in the city centre. I went along to meet Zoe and her shop, The Queen of Purls.

Zoe

Zoe has a background in art and textiles which is evident as soon as you enter her shop. The chair cushions are embroidered; the open/closed sign is needle-felted; and there is a real eye for textured detail in the nooks and crannies of the shop. As always, I was pleased by the attention to colour in the set-up and while Zoe has only just opened (and is still getting supplies in), there is a strong hint of personality to Queen of Purls. That is always a good sign!

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I had a nosy around the yarn – of course I did. A friend works for Garnstudio and had emailed me that very morning to tell me about Queen of Purls being a Drops stockist – and Zoe does stock a lot of the popular Drops qualities: Alpaca, Kidsilk, Lima, Nepal, Lace and the workhorse yarn of all workhorse yarns, Karisma among others. Personally I was really thrilled to see a big selected of Garthenor yarns (you may remember I have used one of their yarns for my Ronaes shawl) – I am such a big fan of their rustic, crisp yarns and it is great to see them represented in a local yarn shop. Zoe had also ensured a touch of luxury with Malabrigo and Manos (and another luxury yarn starting with M is due to arrive any day) as well as a beautiful selection of Jamieson & Smith yarns. I was pleased to see the perennial Ravelry favourite, Fishermen’s Wool, a cracking 100% wool from Lion Brand on the shelves too – it is incredibly versatile and beautiful.

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The Queen of Purls also stocks a variety of sock yarn, books, accessories, and knitting needles/crochet hooks. It’s one of the few places I’ve seen to stock a huge variety of needle-felting accessories including a really staggering amount of fibre (and, trust me, Zoe knows her fibre!). As it has only been open a fortnight, stock is still arriving and Zoe advises that you check in on a regular basis. She is also happy to handle stock enquiries and some special orders. There are plans afoot for knit nights and workshops, so keep an eye on her website, Facebook feed, and Twitter for more information. I really enjoyed the hours(!) I spent in there and, yes, I did buy some yarn.

The Queen of Purls is located in city centre (easy access for all you city centre workers and people in Glasgow for a day). The address is 91 Saltmarket which is just around the corner from Glasgow Green and a ten minute walk from the Central Station. My own knitting group meets regularly at Tron Theatre which is about three minutes away from QoP (and, yes, damage has already been done). It’s a great little neighbourhood with galleries around the Tron area, vegan food at the amazing Mono cafe/bar/record shop, and delicious cakes at Once Upon A Tart.

I’m looking forward to seeing QoP grow over the next few years and I’m very excited by the latest addition to the Glasgow knitting landscape. Yay!

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A Yarn-Shop Jaunt to Edinburgh: Kathy’s Knits, Ginger Twist Studio & Be Inspired Fibres.

In early 2009 I was in the process of setting up my own yarn shop in Glasgow. I had done the research, I had sourced my suppliers, I had the business USP worked out, and I had even found the premises. Unfortunately I had also found a shady landlord and I ended up having to pull the plug on the shop before it hadn’t even opened. It was a hard time, but today I am thankful that it did not work out. I have taken a very different path in my knitting life and it is one I find incredibly fulfilling.

But it is always interesting to visit yarn shops and see how the people who did make the leap have done so. I look at the yarns the shops stock, how the yarns are displayed, the type of signage they use – heck, I even look at the fonts they use and how the window displays are merchandised. I get paid to notice these things when I am working, so it makes sense that I notice all these things even if I am not officially on the job.

Kathy's Knits - EdinburghIn mid-July I went on a merry jaunt to Edinburgh to have lunch with Susan Crawford (who is quickly becoming a dear friend). It was a sunny day and we decided to combine our lunch with a trip to a few local yarn shops. Edinburgh is lucky to host several quality yarn shops but we were only able to visit three on the day. All three turned out to be fantastic but they were also very different. As someone who had a very strong idea about the shop she was going to open, I just love how shops carve out their own niches and identities. A yarn shop isn’t just a place that sells yarn.

Kathy’s Knits was our first stop.

Cathy specialises in British yarns and is really passionate about stocking local products. We had a good look at the fabled St Kilda laceweight yarn and I ended up buying some 4-ply yarn for a specific fair-isle project. I also love how Cathy really cares about the local knitting community. I first met her when she was volunteering for us at the Kaffe Fassett event last year, she backed The Edinburgh Yarn Fest, and she is very vocal in supporting the other local yarn shops in Edinburgh.

Susan and I bumped into Emily of Tin Can Knits at Cathy’s – it does feel like a hub for talent.

Jess of Ginger Twist Studio, EdinburghCathy stocks predominantly British yarns like JC Rennie, Blacker yarns, and Jamieson & Smith as well as some great hand-dyed yarns from the likes of Eden Cottage Yarns and YarnPony. You can follow Cathy & Kathy’s Knits on Twitter.

Ginger Twist Studio is one of the newest LYSs in town and a nice walking distance from Kathy’s.

Its owner Jess is a bundle of energy and warmth – she’s as tiny  as her shop which bears her cheerful, vintage-inspired trademark. I just felt instantly at ease in her company and her shop. She has a strong focus on what I’d call the typical Ravelry knitter: young students who love colour, affordable natural fibres, and offbeat design. It was such a fun visit and I wanted to sit down next to her and knit away whilst gossiping about yarns and patterns. And I think that is a strong indicator that Jess is making things happen.

Jess & Susan had a great discussion about their shared love for vintage designs – it was hugely inspiring.

Jess stocks New Lanark, various yarns from Cascade,  and King Cole among others and also hosts “yarn of the month” and “designer of the month” ensuring an ever fresh selection. Ginger Twist Studio is on Twitter, of course. You can also find Jess working stalls at various vintage craft fairs throughout Edinburgh.

Be Inspired Fibres - EdinburghBe Inspired Fibres was our last yarn shop visit of the day.

Situated in an upmarket area, Be Inspired has a definite ’boutique’ feel to it with plenty of space and natural light. The shop takes a step back to let its customers browse and inspiration from its many different products. Mei has worked in the yarn business for many years in various roles and is very passionate about luxury yarns. Her shop is a beautiful, very calm space and Mei has a strong selection of very unusual yarns and designs. Like the other two shops, Be Inspired reflects its owner – Mei is very conscious of design, clean lines and wanting to offer her customer an exquisite experience.

We had a very long conversation about Scandinavia – Mei draws a lot of inspiration from Japanese and Scandinavian design – and we were shown glimpses of what Mei plans to stock in the future. I will be teaching a couple of workshops at Be Inspired in the autumn – all with a focus on clean lines, Scandinavian heritage and modern knitting design. Keep an eye on Mei’s workshop schedule for more information.

Mei stocks Ito yarns, ChaioGoo needles, Malabrigo, Fyberspates, Lotus Yarns, Habu yarns and BomBella Kits as well as a cracking selection of international design magazines ( I am very excited about her future plans too – and you should be too). Be Inspired Fibres also have a twitter feed.

After having walked miles in stunning sunshine, Susan & I finished up with refreshments at Peter’s Yard – a Swedish bakery. Cardamon buns, oh yes. What a lovely, lovely day – and what lovely company!  Three so very different shops: I love their shared passion and their individual visions.

I need to make my way to Edinburgh more often.

Gift-Buying Guide For Knitters

So, you want to buy a great gift for the knitter in your life? And you haven’t a clue where to start? I have written this gift-buying guide for people just like you.