As you might expect, Eoin and I have spent some considerable time since we moved to Penarth tracking down the good yarn and craft possibilities in Cardiff. Admittedly, it was more my idea than his, but he never turns down the opportunity to flirt with the shop owners, or to stop for a cup of tea after the yarn has been located. We easily found the standard chain shops like John Lewis and Hobbycraft, and, of course, Shaws the Drapers. This last is a Cardiff chain which is a useful source of cheap haberdashery, but otherwise mainly sells those terrifying brobdingnagian balls of acrylic in 70s colours (you know the kind I mean). However, what we were really looking for were independent places where the yarn was regular-sized, and where you could find something a bit more unusual than Rowan, Rowan and more Rowan.*
I should explain that, when we started our trek, I didn’t have my proper camera with me, so all the photos of the shop fronts were taken on my phone. To complicate this further, the majority of the shops were in places which made them hard to photograph: one was behind a narrow path and a wall on the other side of a river, another was surrounded by temporary bollards and bits of dug-up road. It was pretty much impossible to stand back and get a decent view. I decide to embrace fact that these images were likely to turn out to be slightly ropey, and to go with the flow. I used some silly filters on the phone’s camera, and, appropriately enough for shops containing a lot of yarn, my approach to composition was based on Kinnearing, a photographic technique pioneered by the Yarn Harlot.** Anyway, you’re here for the wool, right, not the photographic skill? Remember that you can always click to embiggen.
Our first port of call was La Mercerie in Cowbridge. You are probably already well aware of my fondness for Cowbridge, so it should come as no surprise that such a generally cheering place has its own independent yarn shop. As you can see, this was the place on the wrong side of the river (well, alright, it’s a small stream with a few ducks on it, but it still makes it tricky to take a good picture). I hope the yarn isn’t stored in a cellar, or anywhere that might be liable to flooding: disaster (and some truly epic felting) could easily result.
In addition to the usual standbys, such as Debbie Bliss and Sirdar, you can find Noro, Manos del Uruguay and huge amounts of Bergère de France. I haven’t yet knitted with the latter, but it looks like an awfully tempting prospect: I was particularly taken with the Lima, a sport-weight wool/alpaca blend which should make a great substitute for those hard-to-find sport yarns from the US. I’m wondering if it might work well for a Cria… La Mercerie also stocks a huge amount of hand-dyed yarn (and hand-dyed embroidery thread, which I haven’t seen before) from The Old Piggery. Some of the sock yarn might have found its way home with us. Ahem.
Heading into Cardiff, we paid a visit to Big Knitters, on the corner of Albany Road and Wellfield Road. This is just down the road from the fabric Mecca of City Road, so it would be possible to combine a yarn binge with a sewing frenzy, followed up by a coffee in one of Roath’s many independent cafés. Big Knitters sells all the usual suspects, but also has a healthy cache of Knit-Pro needles and needle tips, together with hand-dyes from Jelliebean and King Becky. For me, though, the most exciting thing was the small stash of handspun yarn, made by Midnight Sheep. I couldn’t resist this, and a skein of pure silk somehow found its way into the bottom of Eoin’s pushchair.
Just look at those gorgeous colours! I only wish my spinning was this good. If anyone out there has any suggestions for what to do with about 375m of handspun silk in what seems to be about a 4-ply weight, I’d love to hear them. I was contemplating a Traveling Woman, but I’m sure there are wiser heads than mine out there.
Moving back towards Cowbridge Road, we stopped for a quick cup of coffee (and a baby-friendly biscuit) in Chapter, and then made a beeline for Calon Yarns. I should apologise to them up-front, as this is probably my favourite of all the Cardiff yarn shops, and yet it is being represented by what is possibly the worst photo ever taken (it’s a tiny bit better if you enlarge it, but not much). I can’t say anything in my defence: I was taking it out of the car window, because I didn’t want to look like a creepy yarn-stalker.
Calon run a raft of classes and groups, covering knitting, crochet, spinning and quilting: I wish I could comment on these, but, mysteriously, my husband has always managed to have something on during these sessions, so I’ve never yet managed to shirk my Eoin-minding duties to escape for an evening of yarny decadence. What I can tell you, though, is that they stock masses of Knit-Pro goodies, together with Manos del Uruguay, Millamia and kilner jars full of roving. Eoin had such a good time that he consented to be photographed with the yarn. It has to be a good advert for any yarn shop if it can make a small person smile like that!
The final local yarn shop is very local indeed: Yarn ‘n Yarns is just around the corner from my house in Penarth, and is literally packed with yarn of all sorts, to the extent that it’s actually slightly tricky to get inside with Eoin plus pushchair in tow. They have slightly erratic opening hours, but they do have an immense stash of yarn about half a mile from my front door. In addition to the usual suspects, they do carry some curiosities: a shelf full of yarn spun from sari silk sticks in my mind, for example. Worryingly, our new house is two roads closer to this shop, so my stash might be about to grow to truly terrifying proportions.
I can only apologise again to the yarn merchants of Cardiff and the surrounding area: you deserved much better photographs than I was able to take. Thank you all for providing me with such a lot of wooly gorgeousness. To any knitters out there, all I can say is that you could do a lot worse than come for a yarny holiday in South Wales. It’s only a few weeks until Wonderwool, you know…
*Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with Rowan: I just finished knitting a cardigan in Big Wool, and very cosy it is too. It’s more that a knitter needs some variety in her life.
**That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway: I think we all know they’re just slightly dodgy pictures. I do try, honest.