5 reasons why I love my LYS

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.

The Sheep Shop: image kindly provided by Sarah Clarke

The Sheep Shop: image kindly provided by Sarah Clarke

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.

Teaching: always a pleasure to enable a new generation of knitters

Teaching: always a pleasure to enable a new generation of knitters

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.







As I write this Edinburgh yarn Festival 2016 is receding into the past and Easter is breathing down my neck with a degree of urgency. I truly have no idea where the month has gone but I am acutely aware that in 2 days time I am required to have my whole family transported 250 miles north, with a full complement of all-weather gear (Easter in the Lake District can require either snow shovels or sunscreen - my bet is on the former this year). Not only that but we need to have sufficient supplies for an Easter egg hunt - the snow shovels may come in handy for this - and the makings of an Easter family dinner.

This post was intended to be a leisurely round-up of my Edinburgh shenanigans but to be honest, you are probably more than tired of hearing about it if you weren't there. And if you were there, you will still be wafting along on the same yarn fume high that I am.

So I will content myself with flinging some of my purchases before your eyes - metaphorically, obviously - I'm not letting these goodies out of my clutches any time soon.

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016


From top left we have 3 fabulous skeins of Tamar 4ply from Blacker Yarns, a skein of Ground Control 4ply from The Wool Kitchen, a skein of yarn from La Bien Aimee that loudly declared itself to be a Hitchhiker in the making; a skein of the fabulous new 4ply yarn from The Knitting Goddess; and in the centre 2 skeins of the wondrous new yarn from Rachel Atkinson aka Daughter of a Shepherd, whose Hebridean yarn debuted in Edinburgh.

There were other purchases too - a lovely project bag from The Little Grey Girl and fibre from Porpoise Fur but you will see more of these another day.

For now, I will take this opportunity to wish you a happy Easter. May it be filled with knitting and chocolate.





Airing my stash

The new year has seen a bit of domestic upheaval and decluttering and as a result I have been thrilled to have acquired a nice big wooden chest of drawers in our spare room. Of course, I immediately did what any self respecting knitter would do and filled it full of yarn.

All the boxes under the bed and on top of the wardrobe were piled gaily into the drawers and I gazed happily on its woolly contents.

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

After the dust has settled though I find myself surveying it with a somewhat more critical eye. I did a major round of decluttering last year so I am pleased to report that there is no lurking fun fur/eyelash yarn in there, and a lot of my pre-ravelry acquisitions have already been sent to the local charity shop.

On surveying what is left I realised I have some beautiful yarn and it needs to be allowed to see the light of day. I also have some non-so-beautiful yarn which leaves me wondering why I bought it in the first place. Looking at the yarn in the latter camp I realised that most of it was purchased at yarn shops as impulse buys, and mostly when exploring new towns and new-to-me yarn shops.

I'm sure you know the feeling. On a trip to a new town you come across a yarn shop, or your DH finds one and, pleased as punch, insists that you go in and he will treat you. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth you enter the shop, ready to be sent dizzy with yarn fumes and instead find yourself surveying a huge wall of baby acrylic yarn.

There really is a place for pastel baby acrylic yarns, of course there is, but I have a strictly limited need for it. Of my precious yarn storage space I would much prefer that I give homes to beautiful hand-dyed yarns, items of wonder and beauty and just enough good quality dk weight wool to make a few sweaters. Add in some great sock yarn and some fun self stripes and that really would be my ideal stash.

Anyway, that aside. The reality is that when I find myself in such a yarn shop, with my DH looking expectantly at me I usually panic and pick something that I know, in reality I will never knit with but it looks pretty. The yarn then comes home with me and goes promptly into the stash, never to re-emerge.

Now, I know myself too well to ever utter the words 'cold sheep' ever again. I love yarn too much and specifically I love buying and holding new yarn too much for that. What I do want to do though is to better curate my stash and make sure that I do justice to some of the lovely yarn I currently own.

I'm not quite sure what shape that will take but I am busy doing lots of planning for the current year and realistically assessing how much knitting time I have both for new designs and for personal knitting. With that in mind - and the recent Episode from Jo of Shinybees fame on Knitting Goals - I will be back shortly with my realistic, achievable and downright cunning Knitting Goals for 2016.

Loving my stash

This year I have been deliberately low key about my goals and intentions for 2016. I know I have a tendency to try to commit to lots of different things at once and often end up not achieving many, or indeed any of them.

This year I decided to take a little time and not feel the pressure to commit to any particular goals, just because January 1st has rolled around again.

One of my major goals for last year was to get the website up and running, and now that it is I feel as though I want to relax here a little. To take stock and take a little time to grow into this new space of mine.

One thing I have started to do however is to look at my stash with a more critical eye. Specifically the yarn I collected before I discovered luxury and hand-dyed sockweight yarn, and that which I collected after this point. My stash definitely falls into two camps - Noro Silk garden, I'm looking at you!

My aim for this year is continue enjoying fabulous hand dyed yarn from some amazing indie dyers and I have no intention of cold sheeping in the slightest. What I would like to do is to go through some of my older stash and give away that which I know I'll never use. Then, with what's left my aim is to always have a simple project on the go that is using up some of my older stashed yarn. Baby hats, blankets and little sweaters are always perfect for the gift box and use up those odd half skeins of sock yarn. I recently discovered the joys of holding sock weight yarn doubled to make an approximate worsted weight yarn and the resulting super-squishy fabric is perfect for using up some of that stash.

2016 is going to be my year of stash appreciation - here's to the well curated stash!

Making friends - the Knitters way

A series of random late night tweets one night and I found myself gatecrashing a yarn crawl in London - visiting new-to-me yarn shops and making great yarny friends into the bargain.
A wall of wool, at Prick Your Finger

The route was carefully planned to include Prick Your Finger, Loop, Knit with Attitude and Wild and Woolly, ending in a pub - of course - and a knitting quiz.

The perils of childcare meant that I could only stay for the first 2 shops but the carefully planned itinerary meant that I was able to duck out after Loop and catch a bus back to Liverpool St.

Prick Your Finger was a shop I had heard much about but hadn't yet visited and so I was really pleased that we went there first. The owner, Rachel was really welcoming and we spent a happy time browsing her beautiful collections of yarn. She has a passion for supporting British and local producers and that really shone through in her choice of yarns. John Arbon, Excelana, Blakcer Yarns and others were all wonderfully displayed. She also stocks, buttons, jewellery, drop spindles and much more and we could have spent much longer there.
My carefully curated haul - much joy

Mini skeins kindly gifted by Amelia

Specially made stitch markers by OfBlitheSpirit

Next on the list was Loop in Islington. A true 'destination' yarn shop I had been to Loop once or twice before but I never pass up the opportunity to go and this time I was on a mission. I want to make the Laneway tunic by Veera Valimaki in grey and I knew that Loop stocks an impressive collection of The Uncommon Thread's sockweight yarn. No one does grey quite like Ce Ce and I was indeed spoilt for choice. Indeed I fear I embarrased myself somewhat by laying out all the different shades on the floor to better examine them.

Anyway, after much deliberating I made my selection and spent the rest of the visit with them clutched protectively to my chest. It was lovely to chat to the staff there and to put names to faces. The yarn crawl continued without me after that but I know that they had a great time - check out the hashtag #4plyyarncrawl on Twitter and Instagram to see what we got up to.
The midway point: Our collective haul

Huge thank you to Rae, Amelia and Alitzah for making the day such fun - we will have to do it again soon.

Fibre East 2015

I was really pleased to be able to go to Fibre East this weekend. I have been planning to go for several years now but the fates had always intervened. This year though, I was determined even though it meant going en famille after a busy preceding day at Whipsnade Zoo.

Sunday was unfortunately the wetter of the two days but we were undeterred (we holiday in the Lake District so rain doesn’t faze us) and we managed to see most of the vendors there. The lovely volunteers and organisers did a great job of directing us to make sure we didn't miss anyone out and I was pleased to be able to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones.
Fibre East 2015: Purchases

My first stop was with Rachel of Porpoise Fur as my fluff stash has been seriously depleted and I am keen to keep up with my spinning practice. I was also intrigued to notice that Rachel has an upcoming fibre club starting in September. With a celebration of women in science it seems tailor made for me and so I'll be saving my pennies from my birthday money for that one.

The Knitting Swede Stride sock yarn: Robin Red Breast
 I finally managed to buy some much coveted self striping yarn from the Knitting Swede after a protracted and heated debate with my sons, both of whom were very keen to join in with the stripy sock love. I wanted the yarny yumminess all to myself but they had very definite ideas. However, with some judicious use of grey yarn from stash for heels/cuffs I reckon I can eke out the yarn to provide socks for both me and one boy from 1 skein of yarn - we will see.
Yarns from the Plain Chelford sock yarn: Peaches & Apricot

It was a delight to meet up with Nic and see her relatively newly launched range of hand dyed yarns - Yarns from the Plain. I had seen some of her work online but in person it was a beautiful display with some very tempting bases and colours. I was very drawn to the blue/green shades of her Netherley Alderley base in the colourway Sassenach - no surprises there then and I also picked up a lovely skein of Chelford superwash sock yarn in the Peaches & Apricot colourway for a gift I am planning.

All in all it was a great day and now I just need to find more time in the day to knit All The Things.