Visit to Woolaballoo, Durham
Saturday morning, 6.49am, and I was at Newton-le-Willows station, just a few minutes’ drive from Winwick. It was raining (for a change) and you may be wondering what I was doing here at this unearthly hour. I must confess that I did ask myself the same question when the alarm went off at 5.30am, but once I was up the excitement kicked in and I was glad to be there.
I was on my way to Langley Park, near Durham in the North East of England, to visit Woolaballoo yarn shop and – hopefully – lots of sock knitters! Lucy, who owns the shop, had asked if I’d be able to make a trip up to the North East as she runs regular learn-to-knit-socks classesat her shop and knew there were more than a few knitters in the local area who would be glad to meet up and talk socks. It’s not always easy to fit yarn shop visits in around everything else that I do but knowing that I’m going to spend the day in good yarny company always makes them worthwhile!
It takes about 3 hours on the train to get from Newton to Durham, so there was plenty of time to knit, listen to podcasts and watch the landscape change from the industrial North West to Yorkshire towns with steep streets and mills to the flat fields of Wearside. I don’t think you can beat a train journey for the constantly changing view!
Once in Durham, Lucy picked me up from the station and we drove the short distance to Langley Park. It’s only about 4 miles from the city centre which makes it ideal for people who don’t want to go into the city and also for Lucy as it means that the money she makes in the shop funds more stock rather than high city rents. It’s not easy being a shop owner these days, so anything that can help is very welcome! I was very excited that we were going to Langley Park as it is mentioned in the album name of one of my favourite teenage bands, Prefab Sprout – I love going to places that are mentioned in songs!
Woolaballoo is situated in a small courtyard of shops named, appropriately …
Once through the huge wrought iron gates, you turn the corner and there it is!
|Can you tell it was a windy day? 🙂|
It truly feels as if you’ve discovered something secret, “a hidden gem” more than a few people called it during the day. And it really is! Once inside the doorway, you realise that there’s more to this shop than you’d think on first impressions; it’s much bigger on the inside than you’d expect. High vaulted ceilings add to the sense of space and light …
It’s not so over-crowded with stock that you can’t see what you’re looking for, but there’s plenty of choice – and lots and lots of sock yarn! (And Herdy things – did you notice that I’d spotted them? 🙂 )
There’s a lovely big workshop area too – this photo was taken earlier in the day when you could still see the table, but as the day went on the seats around it filled up and the table was piled high with yarns, projects bags and cake – but more about that later!
Here’s Lucy. She’s super-friendly and chatty, just the kind of person you want to meet in a yarn shop. She’s also passionate about her yarns and selling the products that her customers want to buy, and also about providing ways for them to learn new skills or improve existing ones. It’s what you want from a yarn shop and what sets it apart from an online store – definitely something to be treasured in our current economic climate with so many yarn shops closing down.
The day was planned as a “sock clinic” plus book signing (I really must practice my handwriting, I’m sure it gets worse the more I do, not better!) and it fabulous to meet so many people and their socks! I even saw some crocheted socks which were very pretty and didn’t look bulky as many of them can do (the pattern was in Simply Crochet issue 67 for anyone who’d like to know) and I absolutely loved spending the day indulging my sock obsession – and possibly encouraging a few more people to start their own 🙂
It’s always hard to take photos when you’re in the thick of a busy day, but at one point it was pretty much standing room only which just goes to show what a sociable lot we knitters are; the shop was filled with the chatting of not one but two knit n natter groups, first-time visitors, people meeting each other from the Winwick Mum Facebook groups and shop regulars. It was fab!
Do you want to see something else that was fab? As well as me taking along my Sockalong badges, Lucy had made some especially for my visit. Well, how posh did that make me feel?! I was very proud to wear both of my badges (and a couple more that she had made too!) and they’ll be going onto my project bag so that I can remember the day. Lucy makes her own badges and you’re definitely spoilt for choice!
There were more than a few clues that sock knitters were visiting for the day – sock yarns a-plenty, needles, and these …
and if you look closely, you’ll notice that there are a lot of West Yorkshire Spinners yarns included in the sock display – Janice, the regional sales rep from WYS was also there and it was great to be able to chat to her, and for shop customers to be able to ask someone really in the know about the yarns and the mill.
Oh, and you must see this! Remember that I mentioned cake? Look at this! Woolly icing (cake pop) sheep and tiny icing flowers …
and more sheep … and socks!
Isn’t that a fabulous cake?! It was made especially for my visit by the very talented Jane of the Sponge and Sugar Cake Company and underneath all that icing was a lemon poppyseed cake – oh, I love lemon cake! So, it appeared, did everyone else because by the time I was ready to go home, there really wasn’t very much of it left at all!
Badges, cake, lots of people to say hello too … I was very spoilt, and my thanks go out to Lucy (and Nichola and Victoria) for looking after me and also to everyone who made the long journey worthwhile by coming to say hello.
I’m going to leave you with a video made by Mara which is a great overview of the day we had (and you can see just how much cake was left!) and which might encourage you to pop along to Woolaballoo if you’re in the area!
Oh, and this picture too … I love this 🙂
Woolaballoo, The Dartmoor Suite, The Courtyard, Front Street, Langley Park, Durham, DH7 9XE, www.woolaballoo.com