Holidays often mean getting away from it all, but for a avid yarn fan you might find more time to indulge your hobby. This year, we have been fortunate to have lots of short holidays with masses of variation. I have made an effort to visit local yarn stores; to enjoy the cultural differences, to be nosy and pick up the odd woolly souvenir.
Mallorca – Fils i pedacos – Pollenca
We have been to the north of Mallorca so many times. Whenever we visit, it is a ‘must’ for us to shop in the gorgeous market town of Pollenca. However in all our years of visiting we have never stumbled upon a yarn shop. This year, needs must. I had run out of yarn for a project and a quick Internet search happily found us Fils i pedacos in the center of the old town.
Away from the bustling heat, the interior was cool and quiet. I was unprepared for the size of this shop. There were many tall book cases filled with yarn and at the back of the shop was a sizeable project table, ideal for a stitching group or sewing class.
Brits are very used to browsing in a yarn shop. Unless pushed for time, we will go in, spend happy minutes cruising up and down the shelves looking and wool and cotton, then latterly flicking through the pattern book to look for inspiration. At this stage we might marry a project to our yarn choice and look for help from an assistant. Further research told me that in Spain the tradition has been for yarn shops to have a counter system, very much like the old grocery story. You will arrive and immediately ask for the help of an assistant to find the yarn and the pattern you want to purchase.
When I arrived in the shop in Pollenca, it was obvious that the shop assistant was happy for me to browse. I quickly found the balls of DMC cotton needed for my project. The dominant yarn provider in Spain appears to be Katia, which is not so popular in Britain but some online companies like LoveKnitting hold their yarn and English translations of their patterns.
Key to my visit to the Pollenca shop was finding a 5mm hook, which I had forgotten to pack. I also picked up a lit crochet hook, which is both my most hysterical and practical holiday souvenir of the summer. Great for nighttime crochet alfresco, with none of the blinding distraction of a head-torch. The shop was such a beautiful and cool haven to visit and it was fantastic to see what patterns were popular with local knitters. I will certainly visit again.
Barcelona – Ifil
Our weekend trip to Barcelona was short and sharp, but by this time I had a taste for yarn tourism. I read an excellent article on Spanish yarn shops here and discovered that after our visit to Parc Guell, it would be an easy walking adventure to find Ifil. Here we were very much off the beaten track and deep within normal life of a local.
What a stylish shop this was – modern, bright and spacious. The boys graciously bowed out and found a handy coffee shop to rest their weary feet. Inside the shop I marveled at the layout and patterns. It seems that Ifil not only sell well known brands but also have their own design range. The designs are stylishly displayed on postcards or hung on the walls. Instead of stacking the yarn vertically on bookshelves, the wool is found horizontally in a series of open ‘bins’. It reminded me very much of old record shops.
I have never been more frustrated and ashamed that I cannot speak Spanish. There were so many questions I wanted to ask the assistant and I was very inspired by the ‘in-house’ designs. At one point I was sorely tempted to even buy some fabric to make a dress they had displayed, but gave myself a sensible talking to, secure in the knowledge that I would never get round to starting the project.
One of the advantages of visiting a yarn shop abroad is seeing the colour choices and the preferences of style. Ifil specifically stocks patterns which will appeal to a beginner and intermediate knitter. I was very attracted to their colour combinations of brick and aqua, gray and citrus.
London – Loop
Ok I know London is not abroad, but it is not local to me and when visiting our capital many Brits can also feel like a tourist at home. In June we popped down to London to visit the fabulous London Zoo and more specifically the penguins.
We had a little bit of time at the end of the day and decided to have supper in Islington. I am not sure if it was co-incidence or deliberate choice on my part – but our chosen restaurant was very near the iconic wool shop, Loop.
Compared to my Spanish discoveries, Loop is small and packed to rafters. As you enter, you know you will be some time and that at each step there will be something interesting to see. On a Saturday, the shop was busy, international visitors were seeking the advice of the many shop assistants on hand to help. I was content to scan the shelves; looking and the colours, squeezing the hanks of yarn, perusing the patterns. Here the yarn enthusiast can sate their desires. If you are a lover of the complex and the intricate, you can find a pattern and the finest yarn to create your dream.
I managed to resist buying yarn but was far too tempted by the notions. I bought unusual buttons, a pretty project bag and some kilt pins to keep my shawls in place. This is very much a yarn destination where knitters and crocheters make a pilgrimage and come away a smidgen lighter in the pocket but with a delightful souvenir of our happy capital.
If you have a favourite yarn shop which like to visit abroad, please tell me and leave a comment; it might start a whole new way of making travel plans!