On self-improvement and plastic...

We love our little shop, deeply and truly, and we want it to be the best it can possibly be, and naturally we want everyone else to love it as well. With that in mind it was absolutely fantastic to travel up to the Big City last week and collect our Highly Commended Award for Best Independent Yarn Shop in the Midlands, in the Let's Knit British Knitting and Crochet Awards in Alexandra Palace. The most important part of this award is that it is by public vote, and that means there are people out there loving what we do. We did let the award go to our heads a bit, briefly, and then we came back to earth and have since been thinking about how to make the shop even more wonderful.

For us beauty is definitely not just skin deep, we want to be beautiful on the inside as well. To us that means stocking yarns and notions that don't cause an issue somewhere else. As you may know we don't stock merino yarns if there is any chance that the sheep have been muleised. We research the production of our stock to establish if manufacturing processes, staff conditions and animal welfare meet our standards. We try to stock as many British yarns as we can to support other small companies in this country,  and to cut down on yarn miles. Thinking about yarn miles brings to mind the daddy of all pollutants, plastic. 

Those of you who have ordered from the shop know that we use paper packaging, and that we reuse the plastic bags that we receive the yarn in. You may have noticed we moved over to paper packing tape earlier this year, and that our tissue paper is unbleached (it's also recycled, but that would be difficult for you to spot). We no longer attach stickers to any of our orders as these come on a plastic coated sheet. After an incident with the pricing gun (ask Teri about that) we have made a change to the way we price things. After a valiant attempt to fix the pricing gun, it was decided that it had to go in the bin. It was plastic, and the price labels came on the same sort of plastic coated paper as the stickers, so we have made the decision not buy a new one. Prices will be displayed on the shelves, and notions will have hand written prices until we run out of the price labels, and then we will reconsider how we price things. We would like to think that we are approachable and that our lovely customers will feel happy to ask prices if they are not clearly apparent. We are not making a move towards a "if-you-need-to-ask-the-price-you-can't-afford-it" type of shop.

Visitors to the shop will know that most of our yarns are 100% natural fibres. We are now going to take this a step further. Recent documentaries have shown us how pervasive plastic is, and the damage caused by any amount of it getting into the food chain, the oceans, the atmosphere. We now can't avoid knowing that tiny fibres are shed every time a garment is washed or worn. If the garment is totally natural, then no problem, it's totally biodegradable. However, any amount of man-made fibre shed will inevitably end up in the soil or in the oceans. We don't want to add to that. We have therefore taken the decision to change the yarn base that we use for our hand painted sock yarns for one that is 100% wool, and we've been in touch with our favourite wool broker to find something that will match our exacting demands.

We did think hard about this decision. After all, why did nylon get added to sock yarn in the first place? Sock knitters all want their hard work to last well, few people really enjoy darning (there'll be more of you if I have my way though!), and nylon helps yarn to last longer and wash better. Except that when we've asked people how they care for their socks it seems that few are taking full advantage of the machine washability of the average 75% wool 25% nylon sock blend. Most handknitted socks seem to be washed by hand, and we have heard some sorry tales about socks knitted from superwash treated yarn being felted when washed as instructed. Armed with this, albeit anecdotal, information we are researching a long staple wool blend that will wear and wash well. We will do all our homework as usual, so you will be able to buy our next generation of sock yarns knowing exactly what to expect of them, and that you can buy them with a clear conscience. As ever you expect them to have the best names that KnitClub can come up with ;)

Happy wool fiddling,


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