I Knit in Waterloo is set in a busy little Street just around the corner from the station. It’s packed with beautiful and rare yarns, many from these isles and others from further afield. They cater for serious, knowledgeable knitters, truly a knitters’ paradise, and I stayed for rather a long time. They stock lots and lots of independent UK dyers like Natural Dye Studio to Habu, Manos del Uruguay, Malabrigo and other more exotic names. Shop samples abound (beautiful!) and the feeling of the place is busy but not cluttered, lots of natural light and masses of inspiration. The assistants were helpful and very friendly, dealing twice whilst I was there with people wanting sewing related items and directing them further along the road, without a hint of ‘here we go again’ irritation. They obviously knew both their stock and the kind of things that independent knitters look for, not at all phased by odd questions about drape or wpi. They were also happy to suggest yarn substitutions from their vast stock which might seem overwhelming to a new knitter. I bought some very green Malabrigo lace yarn and left on a blissful cloud of yarny high.
Out in Bethnal Green (10 minutes walk max from the tube station) is Prick Your Finger. I have to say I was really disappointed here.
The display was made up of crocheted and knitted lizzards, too clunky for much detail, and very grubby, i.e. plain dirty. In one corner was a toilet either covered with once white/cream, and now filfthy, knitted … well… covers… or the whole thing was a knitted stuffed toilet. Complete with toilet roll cover. I didn’t investigate further. Very few yarns on a few shallow shelves. So shallow that the one yarn I picked up – the only one on its own shelf – wouldn’t go back on the shelf and I had to reshape the skein substantially to get it to stay on.
They claim to stock UK independent dyers and spinners but had amazingly little stock: no Natural Dye Studio, no Old Maiden Aunt, none of the more obvious UK small producers. And Yarn Yard? HipKnits? Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop? Nude Ewe? Nope. A few balls of BFL and Wensleydale, some Jamieson’s, no sign of enough yarn to make a larger project, although that may have been stored out in the back where they had more of a selection of coned carpet yarns. It wasn’t clear if these were for sale or not. One had to ask for some of the yarn prices as they were not necessarily marked. There were a few skeins of very thick yarn, hand-dyed, very little fingering weight. In fact, the woman in there said I was the FIRST person ever to have asked for 4ply or fingering weight in the shop… What?????
There was some intriguing nettle yarn, 2 balls, and I asked about that (wanting a yarn trophy from my visit, of course!) Then came the weirdest thing… the shops assistant said she didn’t know the yardage – what??????? and couldn’t ever know the yardage of any of the other yarns because these were spun by small, independent spinners who didn’t have metres on their equipment. Huh????? I explained that it’s really useful to know yardage when one is designing, rather a crucial bit of information, in fact. She got defensive and said she’d been designing for years and always designed by weight not yardage. Wha…????? Oh, never mind. I left after a very short time – there was very little to keep me there, and try as I might, there were no trophies either. Soooooo sad!
On my last day of yarn hunting I went to Loop in Islington, in Camden Passage off Upper Street. I’ve been there before and left them ’til last, as my experience with them has always been fantastic. The premises are light and airy, and CLEAN!!! After my experience with the previous very grubby shop, the cleanliness of Loop and I Knit are particularly welcome. Their stock is wonderful and eclectic and they will wind from skeins for you while you wait. The chap who was working there is an amazing sock knitter and spinner and very friendly. He’s a mine of information about knitting and spinning and totally enthusiastic. I spent a l-0-n-g time there again, coming away equally inspired and content with some more beautiful Malabrigo lace weight and other little bits and pieces. Loop now stock Quince yarns and Wollmeise – only for purchase in person, not online. Their online shop is good too, and keeps me well stocked with all the yarn I can’t possibly need 🙂
It’ll be Loop or I Knit when I next have yarn hunting days in London.
Books to inspire shopping in London: