Northern Yarn Shop Opening

On Saturday morning, I woke up to a damp and foggy morning in Winwick.  On the second day of September!  It’s too early for autumn weather and I was very thankful, as I drove north towards Lancaster, to see the sun break through the clouds and the fields become bright with late summer light.

Why was I going to Lancaster?  It’s nearly a year ago that I bought my first skeins of Northern Yarn Poll Dorset Lambswool 4ply with the intention of seeing how it knitted up into no-nylon socks.  At the time, I had no idea that the socks I would knit would be my Easy Cable Socks and that I’d love them as much as I do, or that Kate from Northern Yarn and I would stay in touch, that Kate would swap her three-times-weekly market stall for a bricks and mortar shop or that I would find myself driving to Lancaster on a bright September morning for the shop opening.  I like the way that life works out like this, taking us down roads that are away from our planned routes.  Sometimes they turn out to be dead ends, sometimes they’re not pleasant journeys at all, but often they are a wonderful surprise that enriches our lives in a way that we never expected.

And that’s how I found myself spending the day at 74 Penny Street, Lancaster, the new home of Northern Yarn and Penny Street Collectables, a joint collaboration between Kate and her friend Jess.

Here they are.  This photo was taken at the end of the day and look – they’re still smiling – and still standing – after what turned out to be a very busy opening day.

I’ve not been to Lancaster before (apart from picking Lucy up from the station there on our way to Woolfest last year) and Kate recommended parking outside the city centre and walking in.  It was an easy walk down the hill past the cathedral  …

I do love to see a spire against a blue sky! …

and the town hall with it’s grand clock tower and Roman-styled pillars and carvings.  There was a Roman settlement here in Lancaster with a fort on the site where the castle now stands (and a road that linked directly to Warrington and our own Roman settlement, the subject of my Masters degree dissertation).  I’d definitely like to come back another day to explore.

It was just after 10am when I got back to Penny Street, having dropped my box of sock samples and feet off earlier before moving the car, and already the shop was bursting at the seams with people coming to look at Lancaster’s new shop.

Inside, there’s yarn – and plenty of it!  Kate sells British yarns – West Yorkshire Spinners, Crookabeck Herdwicks, Dodgson Wood and New Lanark, as well as hand-dyed yarns by Thorndolly Yarns, Coastal Colours and Angela Gardner – and locally-made project bags.

And of course there’s her very own Northern Yarn too.  This is Kate’s brand new Lonk yarn, spun from local fleece and hand-dyed by Thorndolly Yarns and Coastal Colours, which comes in lace and 4ply weights.

She also has a brand new Yealand Mule yarn – that’s the undyed yarn in this picture – in lace, 4ply and DK weights.  There was a swatch of a lace pattern (you can just see it in the centre of this picture) knitted up in the lace weight and I think it would make a seriously gorgeous shawl.  I was very tempted by it, but really have no time to knit laceweight shawls at the moment – but I know where it is!

On the other side of the shop are Jess’ collectables.  She has Emma Bridgewater, Cath Kidston, Portmeirion and a whole range of other new and pre-loved items for sale; cards, badges, jewellery, pottery and crockery – so many lovely things that you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them.

I don’t think there was a single moment in the day when the shop was empty.  If there weren’t customers in there, there were friends and family; Jess’s husband Phil and Kate’s husband Andy were both there as were their children, other relatives both big and small, school friends, the people who owned the sheep from which Kate’s yarns were made … whilst there may not have been much more than breathing room only at times, it made for a happy, friendly, family atmosphere which I am sure will have been absorbed into the fabric of the shop to make it a lovely place to browse even on quiet days.

Oh, and did I mention the TV film crew?

Kate had been approached by a lady called Molly who makes cakes, and then later by the TV programme Molly is involved with called Extreme Cake Makers who asked if she would like a cake for the shop opening.  Kate said that would be lovely, thank you very much, and that was about as much as she was told – the rest of it was going to be a surprise.  There was lots of filming in and around the shop as the background to the programme was put together – and then the cake arrived.

Oh my life!  I have never seen a cake like this in my life – it was HUGE!  In fact, the only other cakes I’ve seen that are anything like this size have been wedding cakes and I’ve certainly never seen one the size and shape of a real lamb that could easily have gambolled in the fields!

The attention to detail was stunning.  How anyone begins to make a cake like this is beyond me.  “Tell us what you think of the cake!”, Kate was urged by the cameraman, and that’s no easy task when you’ve been rendered speechless by a large knitting sheep with sparkly iced fleece J.

More filming, and then it was time to try out the cake – apparently the proof of the pudding really is in the eating so everybody within a 100 yard radius of the shop got a plate of lemon-sheep-cake which was really rather good.  At the time that this next photo was taken, I was tucked safely away in the back of the shop chatting to designers Susan Crawford and Tess Young (Ravelry link), both of whom I was convinced I knew but couldn’t place at first.  The internet is a funny thing, isn’t it – we see faces that become familiar but when we meet them in the real world they are out of context and it can be hard to recognise them.  They were both a delight to talk to and I was very happy to chat to them whilst the filming was going on.

The programme is going to be shown in the spring of 2018 if you’re interested in seeing how it turned out.

The day absolutely flew by.  It seemed like no time at all until the “closed” sign was turned around and the shop door was shut on the last customers.  I’d spent the day talking socks, squishing yarn, eating cake and generally having a lovely time.  Spoilt or what?!

In fact, talking about spoilt, would you like to see what I brought home with me?

Firstly, these balls of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply in shade Rum Paradise.

You may well be very familiar with this yarn already, and I already have a pair of Rum Paradise socks which I really love.  These balls are going to become a pair of socks for big daughter’s boyfriend.  He told me on holiday that he has never had a pair of socks that have fitted him properly because he has size 14 feet, so in a possibly rather rash and Sangria-fuelled moment of generosity, I said I would knit him a pair that fitted his feet.  I may come to regret this as it starts to feel that I will never reach the end of them, but I don’t think it’s right to go through life without a pair of socks that are at least somewhere near your size.  Anyway, I thought they might make perfect Yarndale knitting as I like to have a pair of socks on the go over the Yarndale weekend – and telling you about it means I’m much more likely to produce said pair of size 14 socks before the end of this millennium 🙂

I also brought home some real treats – and very generous gifts from Kate – some of her brand new Lonk yarn.  I do feel a bit sorry for the sheep as I don’t think the name “Lonk” sounds particularly flattering!  This is what they look like.  They all have that funny white stripe on their noses – I think they look like tusks!

Source: Google images

Their fleece is similar to that of the Poll Dorset so naturally I am interested to know how it knits up as socks.  I was told that they are particularly stubborn sheep too, so I was immediately sold – socks from yarn made from stubborn sheep, how fantastic does that sound?!

This is the skein that I have earmarked for socks; beautiful shades of deep pink and crimson that I think will be just perfect for socks …

and this one will probably end up as a shawl at some point.  There’s something about the colours that reminds me of something that I can’t quite remember; shades of pink, yellow, grey and purple.  It might be flowers against stone walls, or stormy sunset skies – it’ll come to me.

Kate and Andy directed me home a different way from the road I had taken into Lancaster, taking in views of the Lake District …

rolling hills and plenty of sheep, some of which are the very same Poll Dorsets whose fleece became the yarn for my Easy Cable socks.  The scenery is very like Yorkshire, but at the same time it’s slightly different although I couldn’t tell you why.

I loved spending the day in Lancaster and being absorbed in the madness of the shop opening day, and I am grateful that Kate let me be part of it.  I am sure that Northern Yarn/Penny Street Collectables is going to be a huge success, and I wish the little shop with the huge friendly atmosphere all the best for the future.

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23 Responses

  1. My Creative Life says:

    Lovely photos of everything, the yarn and the scenery. Wow the sheep cake is amazing, such talent. Glad you enjoyed your day. All the best to the owners for the new shop, I'm sure with the combination of stock it'll be very popular. Cathy x

  2. Lenore says:

    What a wonderful way to spend your day Christine. I have just added Jess and Kate's shop onto Nola's and my agenda next year. The yarn is beautiful. X

    • Winwick Mum says:

      You're going to need months in the UK! Lancaster isn't too far from Skipton, though, so it's a do-able trip when you're over for Yarndale xx

  3. Miss Marple says:

    The cake is fantastic.

  4. Susan Rayner says:

    What a wonderful article! As an online customer of Kate's I wish her and her friend all the very best for success in what sounds like a wonderful shop! What a cake!!! Hopefully Lancaster will be somewhere we can visit sometime! Lovely photos Christine!!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      If you're coming back up north again then Lancaster isn't too far a journey from where you stayed last time, so might be worth building into a visit. I am sure that you would love Kate if you met her in real life! xx

  5. selina says:

    wow what a lovely shop!
    those are beautiful yarns too; love the sheep, i thought they were more to braveheart with those stripes or maybe indians? anyway very cute
    thanx for sharing

  6. Wendy Peterson says:

    What a great write-up! I was sad that I couldn't get there, but this is the next best thing 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    What a fantastic cake. Love to visit the shop, it looks so interesting. Thanks for all the photos of the countryside. Lovely.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh, size 14… I knitted two pairs in the last two years in size 15 as gift to a good friend of my husband. The first pair was a simple sock, with a ripped leg, but last year I decided to do a cable pattern because there is much space. Each pair of sock needs around 150g Sockwool. But it is a wonderfull, unique gift.
    Kind regards Kathie Jo

    • Winwick Mum says:

      150g? I should have enough yarn then, phew! At least it isn't 150g per sock! 🙂 I can see why you'd want to break up all the plain knitting with cable, but I'm hoping to get a bit done at Yarndale so it needs to be easy knitting! xx

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a lot of easy, mindless knitting in round with this sizes, but you´re right, nobody should go through his life without a pair of handknitted, well fitting socks. I knit them mostly toe up with a gusset, a heel turn and a heel flap because the fitting is better than with a short row heel. And at least it is very good excuse to buy more sockyarn 🙂 Kind regards Kathie Jo

  9. Unknown says:

    Oh now I wish i lived in Lancaster! However, I think that shop would be dangerous for my bank balance! Looks gorgeous x

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Yes, it's a good job that I don't live closer as well for that very reason! Worth a visit if you're ever up this way, though! xx

  10. Julie says:

    Good luck to your friends with the new shop, it does look very inviting and what a cake!
    We visited Lancaster whilst on hols last year, lots of history to take in.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It looked like an interesting city to wander about in, and I liked the way that it was easy enough to walk in from outside the centre too. I'm definitely going to visit again! xx

  11. TheAwakenedSoul says:

    Wonderful post. I love that cake! The yarns you chose are lovely. What a charming shop.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Thank you! Yes, it's a lovely shop, one that I think you could spend a long time in because it feels very comfortable to be there 🙂 xx

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