yarn shop visit: The Yarn Dispensary

One of my special skills is finding yarn shops at any travel destination.  No matter where I’m going, I manage to search out some yarny goodness, and it’s my favourite kind of travel planning.

So when The Amazing Molly booked us a weekend in Margate, I set to work.

I’d never been to the Kent Coast, so had no idea about the geography of the area.  However there was one yarn shop in Kent that I’d always wanted to go to, and I wondered if it was in the same general direction.

Checking out some maps gave me the answer I had hoped for:  with only a teeny-tiny detour, we could drive to Margate via Faversham, home of The Yarn Dispensary (previously known as The Old Pharmacy).  Hurrah!

I’d seen photos of The Yarn Dispensary online, and was drawn in by the sense of the history of the shop, and the beautiful apothecary styling.  I was certainly not disappointed.

The Old Pharmacy Faversham

The location is lovely, just in the middle of the town market square.  The owners Gillian and Sam were there when I arrived, and I got the most wonderful greeting!  I was so fortunate that Gillian even gave us a tour of the building and a bit of the history.  Of course my photos don’t do justice.

The Old Pharmacy

The building dates back to the 13th Century, and has a long history as a pharmacy in the town.  Gillian and Sam spent a year renovating the building before opening the shop in 2015, and it has been done beautifully.  The history!  The beams!  The wibbly walls!


It’s also extremely functional as a yarn store, with lots of natural light and a lovely room out the back for hosting workshops.  I bet the knit nights here are fabulous.


There was no way I could leave without a souvenir, and I knew I wanted one of the amazing “knitware” ceramics by Rose Dickinson.  They are all unique and locally handmade, and sell out as soon as they come in stock (I can definitely see why).  I chose this wee vase with a lovely green glaze, which is just perfect for storing loose DPNs on my desk.

new vase

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get to visit again soon, and hopefully I’ll get to explore the local area too.  I can’t imagine a more beautiful, welcoming, historic yarn shop anywhere.

UPDATED UK knitting events 2016

A few months is a short time in the knitting world and almost as soon as I publish my list of the big events for the year, there are changes aplenty.  I was waiting on confirmation of one new event in particular, so this update list is now ready to go!

I’m particularly pleased to announce that there is in fact going to be a major yarn show in central London this year.  After the I Knit Fandango was cancelled, there was a massive gap for a London-based event to take place.  Coming up in November is the shiny new Yarnporium, organised by the Yarn in the City team.  That’s one to look forward to.

Here you go…

17 Jan
19-21 Feb
3-6 March
17-19 March
23-24 April
7 May
13-14 May
20-22 May
4 June
24-25 June
16-17 July
30-31 July
5-6 Aug
20 Aug
2-4 Sept
24-25 Sept
24-25 Sept
24 Sep-4 Oct
26 Sept-2 Oct
5-9 Oct
22-23 Oct
29-30 Oct
5-6 Nov
12 Nov
Waltham Abbey Wool Show Waltham Abbey, Essex
Unravel Farnham Maltings, Farnham, Surrey
Spring Knitting and Stitching Show  Olympia, London
Edinburgh Yarn Festival Edinburgh, Scotland
Wonderwool Wales Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys, Wales
Wharfe Wool Fair Otley Courthouse, West Yorkshire
I Knit Fandango Lindley Hall, London (cancelled)
Gwlana Powys, Wales (cancelled)
Leeds Wool Festival Armley Mills, Leeds
Woolfest Mitchells Lakeland Livestock Centre, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Yarningham Stirchley Baths, Birmingham (new)
Fibre-East Redborne Community College, Ampthill, Bedfordshire
British Wool Show  York Auction Mart, Yorkshire
Popup Wool Show Port Sunlight, Wirral
Bristol Wool Fair Clifton and Durdham Downs, Bristol (cancelled)
Yarndale Skipton Auction Mart, Skipton, Yorkshire
Masham Sheep Fair  Masham, Yorkshire
Shetland Wool Week Shetland
Loch Ness Knit Festival Inverness, Scotland (new)
Knitting and Stitching Show Alexandra Palace, London
Bakewell Wool Gathering Bakewell Agricultural Centre, Bakewell, Derbyshire
Kendal Wool Gathering Kendal, Cumbria
Yarnporium Kings College, London (new)
Festiwool Hitchin, Hertfordshire


EYF purchases

It’s been great seeing so many posts about all the goodies that people purchased at Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  Obviously I wasn’t there for the purpose of shopping, but I did manage to find time to pick up a couple of things.

lovely purchases

Interestingly, both of the items I purchased were planned in advance, and both were from vendors who were handily placed in the aisle opposite from me.  These goodies were clearly meant to be mine!

Lost Threads jar

First up, my big purchase:  this gorgeous hand-etched jar.  I love it!  I bought it from Grace of Beyond Measure, and it’s made by Andy of Vinegar & Brown Paper.  I’ve bought a couple of Andy’s pieces in the past, after I met him a few years ago at the Folksy Summer School.  Anyway I’d had my eye on the Lost Threads jar in Grace’s shop for quite a while, and once I discovered that Beyond Measure was going to be at EYF, the decision was made.  (Seriously, every single thing that Grace stocks is gorgeous: beautiful things for folks who make.  She also makes really lovely things and makes me wish I could sew.)

Since then I’ve had a great time rummaging through my house looking for scraps of yarn to store in the jar.  I can assure you, I have no shortage!  I find it really hard to throw away the ends of yarn that I love, so I’m pleased to now be able to put it to good decorative use.


Woollenflower Bag

My other lovely purchase was this pouch from Julie of Woollenflower.   I’d seen this particular bag online in her shop, but it had sold out before I got my hands on it.  I spoke to her about it at Unravel, and finally got one EYF.  Hurrah!  It’s made from a vintage woollen fabric with a great rusty-red check – just my colours.  And even better, the fabric comes via my friend Anna Maltz (aka Sweaterspotter).  How cool is that?

I love how my two purchases keep reminding me of the amazing weekend at EYF and the brilliant people I met there.

a weekend at EYF

And what a weekend it was!  Having a stall at Edinburgh Yarn Fest is one of the most intense ways a yarnie can spend a weekend, but thankfully it’s also one of the most fun.

It’s taken me a while to write this post, largely because I simply needed time to process everything before  I sat down to write about it.  Plus I got back home late on Sunday evening and went straight back to the Day Job on Monday morning, so there wasn’t much time to do anything other than work and sleep.

The weekend began with a rather large group of knitters catching the train up on the Thursday morning, and I do feel for the other commuters (sorry!)  I think we were all slightly delirious with that combination of excitement and exhaustion after all months of preparation.

train treats

We rented a cute Colony House which actually managed to fit us all (that is, Helen, Amelia, Anna, and Jane).  I didn’t even get a photo – clearly I was too busy focusing on EYF itself.

I shared a stall with Helen of The Wool Kitchen, and Amelia of Woollenwords was a star at helping us out.  I heard our stall described as “a riot of colour”, and it certainly was!  There was never a dull moment.

Helen on the stall

It was something of a challenge to plan the layout of the stall using only minimal props, as everything needed to be shipped up from London.  Only two vintage suitcases for me this time!

suitcases o yarn

I loved how international EYF was: I met people from all over the UK and Ireland, people from the USA, people who had made a day trip from Germany (yep!), and the Copenhagen and Oslo yarn stashers were out in force (you can see pictures of their haul on Instagram and Ravelry).  I love the idea of my skeins of yarn travelling around the world even while I’m back in London.

By the end of day two we all started getting a bit silly; the crowds were thinning out and stallholders had a chance to wander about and chat to other stallholders.  Karie Westermann and her partner Dave came round to say goodbye but ended up staying for a while and taking part in some very fun photos.  Karie has a great pic of the four of us over on her blog post.


Being a stallholder doesn’t allow much time to go shopping elsewhere, but I did make a couple of very special purchases.  I’ll show you those when I’ve finished unpacking.

Edinburgh in the sun

After being inside the Corn Exchange for three days, it was nice to see the sun on Edinburgh just as I was leaving.

Thank you so much to Jo and Mica for organising such a brilliant event, and for letting me be a part of it.  Thank you to everyone who came along and said hi and squished some yarn.  I loved making new friendships, and catching up with old online friends too.  There’s something very special that happens when knitters get together.

See you next year!

heading up to EYF

I can’t believe the time has arrived, but bright and early tomorrow morning I’ll be on a train making my way to Edinburgh for the amazing Edin Yarn Fest.

I am typing this in a slight frenzy, with a long list of things to do before I go.  Like last-minute winding, labelling, printing, packing … all the usual stuff.

Labelling Tanami Dabbling Duck

Most of my yarn has been sent up ahead of time, so I’ve just got to sort out the remaining few kilos that I’ll be carrying with me.  Simple, huh?

boxes to EYF

I’m sharing a stall with Helen of The Wool Kitchen, and I couldn’t be more excited!  There’s something really wonderful about being able to work together with another awesome dyer from Walthamstow.  We both have completely different approaches to colour and dyeing, which makes for some really brilliant collaborations.  You’ll have to come by the stall to see what I mean.

wool kitchen

We’re on stall J6, and we’ve got a great corner spot.  Come see the East End Yarnies on tour!

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a weekend at Joeli’s Retreat

Last weekend I made my first-ever trip to Manchester, and had an amazing three days.  Despite spending the whole weekend there, I barely saw anything of the city as I was there to focus on nothing but knitting.  I was one of the forty-odd knitters descended on Manchester for the first-ever Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat.

first class

Manchester station

I’ve been to a few knitting retreats before, and for me the best part is the sense of community that is created when a bunch of knitters are kept in a confined space that allows complete immersion in all things woolly.  Joeli’s retreat fit the bill perfectly.

I took a day off work so that I could head up early on the Friday, and after dropping off my bags at the hotel I made a beeline for the woolliest place in all of Manchester:  the studio of Countess Ablaze.

You'd never imagine all the colour inside!

You’d never imagine all the colour inside!

For those who aren’t familiar, Countess Ablaze is a fellow yarn dyer who also has a penchant for saturated colourways (so we had a good chat about that!)  Her premises are a working dye studio that becomes an open shop on Fridays and Saturdays (once all the surfaces have been duly scrubbed and bleached of course).  The Countess was incredibly welcoming, and she keeps a good supply of tea and treats for people who come by (and there is a regular knitting group for locals).  I was only planning on stopping by for a quick visit (there was the whole of Manchester to see!) but I actually spent the best part of the afternoon enjoying myself, surrounded by yarn, knitting away with  Jo, Allison, and Lori.

The retreat was held over Saturday and Sunday, with one class on each day.  After seeing Karie Westermann at so many different events over the years, I finally managed to take a class of hers:  Introduction to Two-Handed Colourwork.  I’ve made one pair of stranded mitts before so this was a good little refresher, and Karie was very patient while I got my head around the Old Norwegian cast-on.  It is now firmly imprinted in my brain!

Karie's samples

Karie’s growing collection of colourwork designs

On the Sunday I had the pleasure of taking a class with Julia Billings, who I first met a few weeks ago at Unravel.  She’s a great teacher, all-round fab person, and it was a rare treat to dust off my best Australian accent.  The class was Finishing Your Knits, so I’ll spare you a photo of my swatches and seams.

The weekend finished off with a mini-marketplace where a number of folks got the chance to set up a table of wares – myself included.  It was a slightly surreal experience to sell yarn to so many new friends I’d made over the weekend, but it’s always nice to know that my yarn is going to a good home (including the skeins that Lori is taking back to Colorado.  Woo hoo!

travelknitter at the retreat

Sunshine! Who says it always rains in Manchester?

I believe that there may be another retreat in the future, under the new name of Joeli Creates.  If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Many of the people I met at the retreat are also heading up to Edinburgh Yarn Fest, so I’m looking forward to a mini-reunion very soon.


a very quick visit to Unravel

This weekend I had probably the world’s quickest visit to a yarn show.

Unravel postcard

I set off on Friday for my first ever trip to Unravel.  I had plans of spending the afternoon pootling around, looking at all the woolly gorgeousness, chatting to designers and yarnies, taking lots of photos, and just having a lovely time.  Well, I did most of those things, but just at a super-quick pace.

For those not familiar with Unravel, it’s in Farnham, Surrey.  It’s on the opposite side of London to where I live, so with a few train changes, it should be no more than two hours door to door.  However on Friday there was a horrendous accident on the train line out of London, so it ended up taking me a whole four hours to get there.  I could just about get to Scotland in that time!  After being stranded on various train platforms, I was this close to going home, but hey, I’d already bought my ticket and I knew I wouldn’t get another chance this weekend.

Unravel starts on the Friday afternoon, so with the unexpected travel delays, it was rather late by the time I arrived, and so I eked out every last minute until closing time.

My first priority of course was to head over to the Yarn in the City stall to snaffle my copy of the London Craft Guide.

London Craft Guide

One copy very happily purchased.


Socks! And yarn!

Look! My yarn! Now socks!

I then did a speedy lap around the venue.  There are a number of different rooms, of which I’m pretty sure I missed one.

(Helpful tip #1:  be sure to pick up a venue map and make sure you get to see it all).

Everyone I did meet was really lovely, and I managed a quick chat with several vendors I’d been dying to meet.

(Helpful tip #2: yarn shows are always quietest in the last hour.  It’s the best time to speak to vendors once the crowds have dispersed).

I’m afraid I have very little else to report on, but I’ll leave you with this image of these two chaps hanging out on the stairwell.  They made me smile.

Knitted pigeons