Sunday, May 1, 2011

The yarn shopping might be different, too.

I didn't attempt to go to a yarn shop when I first arrived in London. There was far too much else to see and do, and very little space in my luggage for yarn.

I did manage a quick visit to I Knit on our final day, a Saturday, only because we were at the nearby Parliament and London Eye. It was good timing, though, because I found the shop crammed full of their local knitting group. Actually, it was also full of lots of scrumptious-looking food. The knitting group members really lay out a good spread.

It is a small shop, rather bohemian. I found it quite interesting and I also found yarn. No complaints. But then, I am telling things backwards. Earlier in the week, we had spent three days in Cambridge.

As soon as I pulled out my knitting on the train to Cambridge, I noticed a lady a few rows back eyeing it and smiling. (Not that I was twisting and peering all about, ultra-touristy-like. My seat was facing backwards, giving me a clear view of the passengers behind.) Shortly, she reached into her bag and pulled out a sock pattern, studying it for a few minutes. I took this as a signal that she might be willing to talk knitting, but was disappointed when I couldn't make eye contact with her thereafter. I was forced to assume that the sight of my knitting reminded her of the sock pattern.

As the train was pulling into the station, I decided I was missing an obvious opportunity. I brazenly and rather loudly accosted her across the intervening seats, asking "Excuse me, do you knit?" She answered with a quiet "Yes" and a nod. I then asked if there was a yarn shop in Cambridge.

When she began to explain that she wasn't from Cambridge, I was amazed to hear the fellow across the table from us speak up to assure me, "There will be a yarn shop in Cambridge." He had us in his beady gaze the entire last hour and an half and hadn't said "boo!" or whatever the appropriate idiom might be. I was surprised that he responded and began to try to puzzle out the meaning of his response. Did he mean that a yarn shop was planned, but it hadn't opened yet? If that was what he meant, I thought it odd that he seemed to think I would be happy to hear his reassurance. While I stared at him, the lady I had asked thankfully wiped the puzzled look off my face by explaining that there is a John Lewis and that they carry yarn. Or rather, as I was quickly corrected in that very same shop a couple of days later, wool.

Following the correction, I was directed to the John Lewis crafts department, where I found a more-than-helpful shop clerk. At first, she seemed very concerned that I had taken a photo, the one in my earlier post. However, once I had answered her question, yes, I am from the U.S., she observed, "Oh, knitting is very big over there, isn't it?"

After I hesitantly agreed, she went on to explain that she thought it just hadn't caught on in the same way in England, at least not yet. Recently, she explained, newer yarn shops have opened that are similar to the ones in the U.S. These newer shops carry modern yarn. However, the older shops do not, and much of their stock is acrylic or acrylic blends. Altogether, after comparing what I know of the yarn shops in the U.S., the number and frequency of classes and the attendance and trade, with her experience in Cambridge, I had to agree with her. Perhaps knitting doesn't draw the same enthusiastic numbers in England that it does here.

Regardless, I was happy to find such a helpful clerk. She was the reason I found the only knitting shop in Cambridge. Since she told me there was one, I searched for it, trekking across the colleges to find it.

I don't know I would have realized it on my own, just looking at the Internet yellow pages, but the sewing shop does sell yarn. Still, I was a bit surprised to find half the building dedicated to it. Lots of sock yarn, a good bit of acrylic, but still, decent yarn. Just in case anyone reading this is planning a visit to Cambridge and wants to shop for yarn--the newer, more trendy yarn shops are in Ely, a little to the north of Cambridge. If I had really wanted to explore British yarn shops, I'd have gone there. As it was, I just wanted a few souvenirs. These are my purchases from both I Knit and The Wool Shop--

That's mostly German sock yarn--Rico Superba Klassik, King Cole Zig Zag and Regia, from The Wool Shop. I also bought Italian Sirdar Escape there--that's the showy yarn up front. It will be used for an Inspira Cowl once I find a coordinating contrasting yarn. In the middle there's some green Duo Comfort by Adriafil (Italian, again), a wool and cotton blend that I hope can withstand machine washing. If so, it will become slippers for my traveling companion. I let her select it, so I know she will like it. On the left, near the back is my sole English yarn. It's Wensleydale Longwool from Sheep Shop, spun in Yorkshire. I'm so tickled with it that I started knitting a swatch already.

As I said earlier, I was knitting while traveling England. I just finished the socks I took on the trip, but first I'll show you the pair that waited at home for me.

I finished these shortly after I came back. They're Wakefield Socks, with such a pretty stitch pattern it shouldn't be buried in shoes. I could say that's why I didn't continue the pattern over the part that goes into my shoes, but it wouldn't be true. I wanted a smoother surface against my foot, for comfort's sake. I couldn't resist carrying the twisted stitches down to the toe, though. They are so dynamic.

Details here.

More little knitted things are blocked and drying. If it will stay sunny, I'll post them soon.

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vlb5757 said...

I love that you got to go to Wool shops. The socks are beautiful and all the more because are green! It sounds like you had a great time in England.

Candice said...

I think all knitters are connected in some cosmic way. I just finished the Inspira Cowl in the Lion Brand Amazing wool (gorgeous colourings, not a very nice hand) and have bought some Noro Silk Garden to try again. Where did you learn about the Inspira?

Eva said...

LOL! I know what you mean. It is most "uncool" to knit in Europe. We are trying to turn the believe that it is grandmas kinda thing only, but I still get bunch of stares when I dare to pull out my knitting in public. However, I live in Germany and it is better here. The yarn shops are full of amazing (and expensive) yarn. Germans are sock knitters mainly though. Asking for sock yarn here is like asking if there is air.

Affiknitty said...

I enjoyed all of your travel posts. It was interesting to read that knitting has taken off more here than in England. I've had my eye on that Inspira cowl too, it looks like you found perfect yarn for it. Oh, and I love those socks you finished!

thesheepshop said...

The gentleman may have been thinking of my shop - no idea who he was or how he knew about it, and it's a good few months after you were here, but is very soon to open. I hope you like it if you visit again.