My life would be a lot less rich without a fabulous LYS close by. Sarah opened the doors of The Sheep Shop four and a half years ago and I always look forward to a visit. Not just a place to buy yarn (although obviously that is important) a good yarn shop is so much more than that.
1. Community: Sarah has created a buzzing, vibrant community in her little corner of Cambridge. A weekly knitting group and a monthly knit night ensure that she reaches a broad section of her local knitters and the Friday morning sessions are often so popular that people arrive early to be sure of getting a seat. Events like the LYS day are invaluable for bringing new customers in but also to give existing customers a chance to show their support and celebrate their shared love of all things woolly.
2. Choice: It's a relatively small store but Sarah knows her market well and offers a range of yarns to suit everyone. Supporting other indie businesses is important and Sarah stocks yarns from local dyers such as the incomparable Sparkleduck, and fibre batts from Cambridge-based Louise of Spin City UK. There is a great range of sock yarn, which isn't always the case for an LYS and there is a great range of DK/aran yarn to suit all budgets. She also stocks a great range of patterns including contemporary ones such as those from Tin Can Knits and books such as those from Clare Devine and Joanne Scrace of The Crochet Project. Online shopping has the edge in sheer breadth of choice but nothing beats getting your hands on the actual thing before parting with your hard earned cash.
3. Classes: I have to admit to being a little biased, as I do teach here but there is a wonderful range of classes available and when I'm planning new class dates it can be a challenge to squeeze myself in among all the other exciting things going on. The full list of tutors is best accessed via the shop's website but you can take your pick from crochet, colourwork, sock knitting and needle felting, amongst others. The classes lend a really vibrant feel to the shop and I know that when customers come in and a class is on they can't help but comment on the atmosphere of fun and excitement around our little table. Whether you are a teacher or a student, there's something special about coming together as a group for 3 hours on a Saturday morning to share your love of a particular craft.
4. Cameraderie: I have been lucky enough to be able to explore a few other LYSs and have made some fabulous friends in the process. Wild and Woolly in London isn't quite local to me but a short train ride gets me to this brilliantly well stocked and colourful corner of London, E5. Like Sarah, Anna has done a great job of bringing a real sense of community to her shop and her warm and vibrant personality really shows through. Sitting around her little table with friends and sharing coffee and cake (and squishing yarn) is one of my favourite ways to spend a cheeky day off from my normal routine.
5. Colour: Beckside Yarns In Clapham, Yorkshire isn't remotely local to me but every time we head up the M6 to the Lake District we make sure to take a detour to this fabulous yarny haven. Junction 31 - in case you wanted to programme it into your SatNav for future reference. The overwhelming word here is Colour! Walls and walls of it. I have been there a lot now so I think I'm slightly immune but on my last visit I couldn't help but smile at the look on a fellow shoppers face when she saw Sandra's Wall of Noro. Sandra is incredibly knowledgable about her yarns and offers a wonderfully warm welcome - even when I'm slightly frazzled from sharing a car with 2 over-heated children for the past four hours. She tells me that she is one of the largest Noro stockists in the UK and I can certainly attest to the fact that I don't think I've ever seen quite such a range of it in one place. As well as Noro she stocks a great range of Debbie Bliss, Artesano, Rowan as well as smaller producers such as Solstice Yarns and Juniper Moon.
Next time you are on the M6 - do think about stopping in. Plonk your travelling companions in the tea shop next door and spend a happy hour browsing.