Visitors to our little shop often exclaim how beautiful our stock is, and how impressive a range we have in such a small space. They are frequently surprised by the variety and diversity of goods that we have. It's lovely to have such feedback, and it does make us think that we are getting it right, but it certainly doesn't happen by accident.
Let me talk you through how we choose what we stock...
Firstly, this is a small shop, in a Shropshire town, in the heart of Britain. As a small business we recognise the importance of supporting other small businesses, united we stand and all that. So we look for British goods to sell, and we also look for locally made goods. Buying in stock from small scale producers enables us to build closer relationships with our suppliers, which in turn gives us the opportunity to provide a better service ourselves. We have been able to quickly replace faulty goods, provide custom orders and get fast responses to questions from our suppliers, I'm not sure we would get the same from the big guys.
Choosing to stock handmade items, such as our yarn bowls, hand dyed yarns and shawl pins, means we are offering something you may very not find any where else. We have asked some of our artisans to make things especially for us, so we know we are offering something unique to our customers, and at the same time we are helping to boost the local economy. Choosing British, as far as we can, means we are doing our bit to support the economy of the country as a whole.
Next, we are concerned about animal welfare. We know exactly how Teri's sheep are cared for, and when we have collected other local fleeces for our Shropshire Ply yarns, we have found out how those sheep are looked after as well. Whenever we look into buying in a new yarn we talk to the company to find out what they do to ensure the fibre they spin comes from properly looked after animals. This does mean that you will find less merino yarn in our shop than you might elsewhere. The merino we do have comes either from the Falklands, or from South America where animal welfare standards are similar those of the UK. It means that you will find woollen yarns from rare breed sheep, or from farms that are being supported to maintain traditional ways of farming that have been shown to be the best for the local area.
Not everyone wants animal fibre. Not every one can tolerate wool, or even alpaca, and the rising number of vegans in this country means we do have to source non-animal yarns. This gives us another concern, as neither Teri nor I are fans of plastics, and have concerns about plastic waste and non-biodegradable material ending up in our oceans and soil. So you will find very little man-made fibre in our shop. Usually if you cut out animal fibres and man-made fibres you turn to cotton. This too has issues. Cotton is controversial as a result of the pesticides and irrigation that is required to produce a good crop. Cotton fabrics often come to us with a very high chemical load, which we absorb through our skins unless we are assiduous about washing new clothes before wearing them. We would both like to see much more use made of hemp and nettle as natural fibre options (they are considerably less prone to disease and pest attack, need less water and attention), and so we search for yarns made of these, and for chemical free cotton. We have managed to find both, and have contacted the companies directly to ask questions about the farming and harvest of the fibres, the welfare of the farmers (we check for fair trade standards), and the manufacture of the yarns. Then we consider the cost to the customer of that yarn before we stock it. Again these are fairly small companies, so we have been able to form good, and close, working relationships with them. So we are able to stock good quality, animal-free yarns that aren't damaging either the planet or the lives of people producing them.
We both know that being an ethical customer is getting more important these days, and we both know how much work that can be. We want you, our fabulous customers and supporters, to feel assured that you can relax and make free choices in our shop without doing all that homework, because we've done it for you.