Adventures in yarn and public transport: the Great London Yarn Crawl

Earlier this year I was at Fibre East (more on that another time but short version is that it was ace) and, in amongst the various flyers and doodads I picked up, one was an ad for the Great London Yarn Crawl. I didn’t think too much on it at the time, but something nagged at me in the weeks afterwards. It was a London yarn crawl you see. I live in London. This sounded like a day of yarn-based fun. Shouldn’t I at least check it out? Despite London being a hub for all manner of things (and I am totally aware of how annoying that is to the rest of the country), there’s a bit of a dearth of yarn-related activities. Or so I’d thought.

When I actually looked it up and discovered that all profits were going to charity, the deal was done. I picked a Crawl which started relatively close to me, and which mostly featured shops I’d not visited before (admittedly there wasn’t much choice as I’d left it pretty late, but it all worked out nicely). For the uninitiated (like myself, a month again), the GLYC consists of a dozen or so groups of knitting/crochet/weaving/yarn enthusiasts walking around London on different routes, each of which takes in three or four of London’s many yarn shops (and it turns out London has many many more yarn shops than I’d realised, which is all to the good). The shops and routes are all set up in advance (and all the shops are clearly on board with the proceedings, as evidenced by the various snacks and drinks and DISCOUNTS we were provided with all day, god bless them all) and each group has one or two guides allocated to help the unwary navigate the fun of the London public transport system.

SO, after working out all of the above, I plumped for Team Thrums (go Team Thrums!), and on the relevant Saturday morning took myself to meet the group in Herne Hill for our first shopping experience.

(Side note: the only thing I previously really knew about Herne Hill is that, many moons ago, my brother lived there for a few months. He lived in a house above a hat shop on Half Moon Lane. Please don’t steal that line, as it’s the basis for my yet-to-be-written best-selling series of children’s books.)

Ooh, I must mention my excellent team members before I get too far. I don’t want to be too gushy, but everyone was genuinely lovely. I guess there’s always a decent chance of that, because I’ve not yet met a knitter who I couldn’t strike up some kind of conversation with, but it was still a relief. There’s always the possibility that there’ll be that one who, y’know, makes it just… a bit less fun than it could be. (Oh god, maybe I was the one! Yikes.) But Team Thrums was, without exception, a marvellous collection of knitters and I had at least one extremely pleasant conversation with everyone there. Here they all are in the pub afterwards.

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My Team Thrums peeps

Our guide was Melissa, who won my heart by a) toting about a helium pink balloon all day so that we all knew who she was when we met up, and b) suggesting Wahaca for lunch. And in general for seamlessly squiring us around London despite train cancellations and other typical public transport glitches.

Back to Herne Hill, and our first stop of the day: Sharp Works. Until the GLYC I hadn’t even realised there was a yarn shop in Herne Hill, but it didn’t disappoint. Small and perfectly formed, and with extremely friendly and helpful staff. Sharp Works is only open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but if you’re in the vicinity on the right day it’s well worth a visit.

Yarn on display at Sharp Works in Herne Hill, on felinityknits
I do love a well-organised yarn display

I feel this is the point at which I need to confess something: I… I didn’t actually buy any yarn on the Great London Yarn Crawl. I know, I really do know. In my defence, I have been adding to my stash an awful lot in the last year and am trying to pace myself a tiny bit. Never fear though, because I did buy something from every stop on the Crawl. At Sharp Works it was this very pleasing project bag. I am always on the look out for project bags, and am rarely satisfied with what I find, but this one ticks all of my boxes both aesthetically and functionally. (And it was pressed into service immediately I got home that day, to house the workings of my Driftwood.)

Twilleys project bag from Sharp Works, on felinity knits

Eventually we dragged ourselves away from Sharp Works and hied ourselves up across town to Angel to visit stop number two: Loop. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Loop is probably the most famous London Yarn shop these days (at least after the haberdashery sections in Liberty and John Lewis). It’s certainly well-known in indie knitting circles and was the first UK shop I knew about which stocked items which were, then, American yarns which I’d only read about and never seen to touch. And it is still full to bursting with an incredible range.

Misti Alpaca yarn at Loop, on felinity knits
I spent a long time admiring the muppety colours of this Misti Alpaca

At Loop, despite a long long time admiring the yarn, I eventually plumped for buying the shop’s own recently published book of patterns. My fellow Yarn Crawlers though, you’ll be relieved to hear, were coming out (as they did from Sharp Works) with armfuls of goodies.

At this point the heavens opened fairly cataclysmically and we decamped to Wahaca for lunch (where Mel and me and my new friend Sarah discovered the immense pleasure to be had from using the Wahaca app to pay exactly your portion of the bill plus exactly your portion of the tip. lovely lovely technology!). Post-lunch we got a bus up to Seven Sisters for our final shop of the day: The Handweavers Studio and Gallery.

At Handweavers, I fell in love. I’ll let this picture tell the story for me.

Aisle at Handweavers Studio on felinityknits
Be still my order-loving heart

Handweavers is utterly beautiful. And it’s so unexpected – it’s in the middle of Seven Sisters Road which, without being unkind, is a loud, rumbly, urban kinda road. It’s not pretty. But then you turn off the gritty grey road into this unassuming shop and you are suddenly in a haven of serene gorgeousness. The name should be a giveaway that this is a place for weavers (and spinners) more than knitters, although some yarns can be bought for knitting too. But the biggest achievement of this shop for me was that it convinced me to try spinning for the first time (or, at least, to buy the very early tools for a proto-spinner). Dawn the owner gave us a little demonstration and I was hooked (with a little bit of encouragement from the others). Here’s my haul – you’ll note I haven’t actually dared to spin these samples on my own yet, but knowing that they’re there along with the drop spindle gives me a little glow of anticipation when I think about them.

Fibres and drop spindle from Handweavers Studio, on felinity knits

Handweavers was our last shop, but we were very much in need of a little break by this point so found a cute little tea shop round the corner where we installed ourselves for refreshments and knitting for an hour or so. (I instagrammed a tea picture on the day, and at work the following week a friend said she’d seen my pic and, coincidentally, been in herself the next day. Apparently the owners definitely remembered the group of women who came in and were all knitting away when the teas arrived. Good to hear that we are quietly memorable.)

And then, the day nearly but not yet over, we travelled back into town to the Telegraph pub in Monument (via a street closed to the rest of the public due to filming of a super-secret car chase for a movie that they wouldn’t divulge to us, despite the long-recognised discretion of knitters everywhere, tsk) where the hundred or so Crawlers were congregating for a final drink, prize draws, general chinwag and an interview with Kettle Yarn Co. (The prizes were excellent although, alas, none of Team Thrums was a winner.) I eventually made it home that night footsore but pleased with life all round. I imagine the nice ladies at Yarn in the City will be running the Yarn Crawl again next year and I thoroughly recommend it should you have the opportunity to go.

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