The number of times I’m disappointed by the colour of yarn that arrives in the post would make you wonder why I never buy my yarn from a yarn shop, and I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. In the city where my parents live, there are two yarn shops. One sells cross-stitch kits, baby clothes, mounds of neon acrylic DK and eyelash yarn, and cuts keys. The other is a gift shop, with Turkish slippers, Moroccan leather handbags, handmade soap and mosaic-framed mirrors at the front, and a corner stuffed with skeins of Colinette and shelves of Debbie Bliss yarn, never with more than five balls of any colour, at the back. In London, there are yarn concessions in three major department stores (Liberty, John Lewis and Peter Jones), and a few yarn boutiques. As far as I know, there was only Patricia Roberts until last year, when Loop opened, followed by Stash Yarns a few months ago. And it is why I’ve never made it to either of these that I’ve been asking myself recently. My excuse, of course, has been time, and while I had exams looming it was probably a good thing I didn’t spend hours traipsing across London in search of wool.
Now, of course, things are different, and this morning I realised there was nothing between me and a bus journey to Oxford than a trip to Stash Yarns. I didn’t imagine it was on my way, but I vaguely thought of it as local. After all, it is south of the river, and since it opened I’ve felt much greater loyalty to it than to Loop, all the way up in Islington. It was time I voted with my feet (and my Oyster card). So I set off on the yarn trail (carrying as always the kitchen sink, i.e. my usual handbag stuffed with knitting, book and water bottle, plus my laptop and a bag packed for a weekend away).
My journey there comprised a twenty minute walk to the Walworth Road, and then two buses, one to and one from Clapham Junction. Stash Yarns is indeed right next to the bus stop for the Number 37. It has a very crisp, clean shop front, painted white with the name in a lovely curly bright blue, so you can’t miss it – which is a good thing since I’d been slowly sautéing by the window, peering out and gradually losing all concept of time. The TfL website told me it would take twenty-seven minutes on the Number 37, ignoring the fact that Upper Richmond Road is also the South Circular, and therefore a car park divided by stretches of traffic jam.
Stash Yarns is nice. I always make the mistake of thinking that somewhere that sells yarn will be my spiritual home, that the people who work there will practically offer me a cup of tea, smile and laugh and be interested in why I’m buying their yarn. I ought to erase this dream from my mind, to stop myself from being disappointed every time. Stash Yarns is a boutique. You have to ring the bell to be buzzed in. It has two little white tables with a pair of neat little chairs apiece, but the luxurious Clapotis draped over the back of each assures you that these aren’t really for sitting. Or at least, assures me. People in boutiques usually wonder politely what on earth I’m doing there. A bell is usually a good indication of polite wonderment. At Stash, this might have been because I was wearing shocking pink plimsolls and carrying my house on my back, or maybe because I look about sixteen. (I get asked for ID almost every time I buy alcohol, which means that most people think I’m at least six years younger than I actually am). I have since remembered Kathy's preparations when going to buy yarn, which I now realise were very sensible, necessary precautions.
Stash have some lovely yarn. As well as the obligatory Debbie Bliss and Rooster they stock Lorna’s Laces and Artyarns, and they’re the only UK stockists of Koigu, Brown Sheep and Fleece Artist, I think, all in beautiful bright girly colours. I was looking for some good solid masculine shades and didn’t come up with much, but apparently they’re ordering some good ‘guy colours’ soon.
None of this deterred me from buying yarn, you’ll be pleased to know. I spent ages perched on a kick-stool prodding the Koigu and sighing at its in-the-fibre loveliness. I liberated enough for two pairs of socks:
Plus some Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted in foresty shades of slate, sandstone and moss:
My onward journey included a very long walk to the train station, because I overshot by miles in the broiling sun and my jeans and had to retrace almost all of my steps (Stash Yarns is very conveniently situated near to the overland train station), followed by two trains to Victoria, changing of course at Clapham Junction.
Loop doesn’t seem quite so far away now. Next time I go yarn shopping, I’ll take a friend with me, or failing that, wear high heels and foundation. And before I go, I'd better knit something very impressive that I can wear.
A Backyard Leaves scarf seems like a better and better idea.