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.
In 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.
Cathy 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 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.