Leg 8: Let Loose in London

Okay okay I’m finally going to tell you about London. I’m sure all of you have been sitting at your computers for three days, gnawing on your fingernails because you’d ran out of twizzlers, cursing me because I was taking so long and all you wanted in the whole wide world was to hear about my husband and I wantonly spending money on English yarn. [/sarcasm] Okay, here you go!

We arrived in London at some blisteringly early time, and praise God! The hotel let us into our room around 8. After a little recharging with coffee and scones, we struck out on the Yarn Crawl Of Ages.

Our first stop was Stash Yarns, a delightful little place south of the Thames. Imagine our surprise when we’d traveled who knows how long to get a taste of authentic British yarn, and the first place we stop is run by a lady from Connecticut who doesn’t sell a lick of British yarn aside from the ubiquitous Debbie Bliss. But Michelle is a peach, and we had a great time talking about knitters in England from the perspective of someone who didn’t find what she expected when she moved there. We learned from Michelle that if we really wanted an “authentic” English yarn-shopping experience, we should go to a department store and get some Rowan.

(Now I was breast-fed as a knitter on Red Heart, and I have a soft spot for Lion Brand, but doesn’t it seem unfair that England’s ubiquitous-yarn is freaking ROWAN?! Oh well. It’s still just as expensive there.)

I couldn’t bring myself to buy yarn I could theoretically get in North America, but I liked Stash so much I couldn’t walk out empty handed. I settled on a big ol’ skein of silk-merino Italian lace, enough for a decent-sized shawl. Keeping with the theme, we ate lunch at an Italian place right next to the tube stop before moving on a few miles away to our next stop:

Socktopus. (Am I the only person who thinks that name sounds a little dirty?) Imagine a clever picture of a neat little shop full of sock yarn here. I was so generally enchanted by the immense variety that comes from specializing in just one weight that I totally forgot visual documentation. The store was being run at the moment by a neat young lady whose name I’ve forgotten; she’s from New Zealand, getting some experience so she and her mum can open a store back in her homeland, where good LYS’s are sadly in short supply.

We were a few blocks away (and already getting tired) by the time I realized I’d forgotten a photo, but I stopped in my tracks and got a shot of the haul:

The green one is Jared’s (How did this new knitter instantly acquire better taste than me?) and the other two are mine all mine. Yellow is BFL 2-ply in the most lovely variations of pale yellow, while the other is handpainted part-cashmere stuff in reds and browns that I can only describe as “visceral.”

Michelle’s directions successfully brought us to our next stop:

A department store named liberty. Now of course, in London, department store does not mean Macy’s in the mall, but some insanely old, high-end establishment where you could go into debt buying lotions. We rode a teeny elevator (sorry, lift) to the third (sorry, second) floor, and walked through the gauntlets of the body care section, the paper section, and the lingere section before we found the yarn room.

crappy picture of the yarn but you can get a feel for the neat architecture.

They had SO much Rowan, and they also had a rather gigantic supply of good-quality, very soft cotton on sale. Cotton nice enough that I might actually like it. I really wanted to get a bag or two, just to say I did, but I came to the conclusion that that’s a really dumb reason to spend money. as a result,

you have this picture, of Jared buying yarn and me NOT BUYING YARN. Definitely worth documenting.

By the time we slogged into our last stop, we were very tired, and it was starting to rain a little bit. Really all we wanted to do was sit and knit for a while, and we had no idea what to anticipate at this last place. But we knew it was a yarn shop, so we were slightly confused when we walked through the door and were confronted with shelves upon shelves of… completed… sweaters.

They all matched and were all very clever, but frankly I didn’t care. Other people are supposed to be paying ME indecent amounts of money to indulge in my hobby, not the other way around. Thankfully, the yarn (and one chair, and a clean floor) were just around the corner.

Jared is so much happier to be there than he looks in this picture.

Now the name of the store, I should tell you, is Patricia Roberts. To be perfectly honest, the name meant nothing to me, and it seemed a bit of a departure from the traditional LYS naming convention of really bad puns. But the proprietor quickly and cheerfully pointed out to us that this store was a bit different in other ways: the sweaters on the front walls were all hand-made from their own designs, and the yarn in the back was all their own brand. And that she herself was, in fact, Ms. Patricia Roberts. Way cool, ya?

It was enormously convenient. a wall or two of yarn sorted by colors, that all coordinated perfectly with each other, and by fiber, and all very simply priced. It’s like the difference between going to a candy store with every variety in it, and going to a store that only sells Jelly Bellys. Logically, it took just as much time for us to pick something.

While we were digging around, pulling out different balls and comparing color combinations, Jared found a little cranny with a bunch of booklets in it. They were all pattern books with Ms. Roberts name on the front. I flipped one open and discovered that she’s been designing sweaters for knit rags like Vogue Knitting for decades, and is considered one of the best knitwear designers in Britain. I sat there and gawked for a minute. This woman is Who I Want To Be When I Grow Up. Needless to say, when she came over to see how we were doing and made a few suggestions, I ruddy took them.

I only gushed a little bit when we checked out. I resisted asking for an autograph (I’m not a complete dweeb) but I did ask for a picture, which felt dweeby enough, especially when she then made me promise to not post it on the internet. It’s all right though, because she has that sort of cheerful kindness I see in lots of people who are completely lovely, but whom my apprentice-level photography skills can’t capture to any justice. You should just fly out there and meet her yourself.

This brings our International Yarny saga to an end. If you’ve got more interest in the actual purpose of the trip (mission) than the yarn that trailed it like so many cans after a honeymoon getaway car, please visit St. Timothy’s Church’s Uganda page. It STILL isn’t updated (you’ll be able to see ALL the pictures on that site very soon), but the links for giving are there. Anything we do seems like just a drop in the bucket, but the relationships and the love that come out of it are worth more than any monetary investment we could make. Thanks so much to all of you who supported us and prayed for us; we had an incredible time and grew as individuals and as a couple through the entire experience. I don’t know what more to tell you about the trip here, but anyone who has questions feel free to leave comments, and if there are enough I’ll make a post about them. Not sure what else to say except you haven’t heard the last about this!

One thought on “Leg 8: Let Loose in London

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