While I was on holiday (a month ago now – I am horribly slow at getting round to blogging!) I had a day in Edinburgh which I was inspired by Karie Westermann’s blog post and Louise Scollay’s Knit British blog and podcast to spend touring the yarn shops.
Although I’ve been to Glasgow several times and visited the wonderful The Yarn Cake every time, I hadn’t been to Edinburgh since March 2009, shortly after I started this blog, when I met up with Antje who now runs The Yarn Cake and we visited K1 Yarns and she told me about her plans to start a knitting cafe in Glasgow, and I knew from Karie’s blog and Louise’s podcast that not one but three new yarn shops had recently opened in the city. Obviously, I was determined to visit all three.
Our hotel was near Haymarket, so after looking up all of the shops on Google maps I decided that the best place to start was Be Inspired Fibres in Marchmont.
Be Inspired specialises in imported and luxury yarns, what the owner, Mei, described as “Ravelry yarns” when I was chatting to her; the kind of yarns we UK knitters see people talking about online but can’t easily get hold of ourselves, particularly if we want a chance to squish them in person before buying. Her stock includes Habu and Ito yarns from Japan, Malabrigo and Cascade from the US, Holst Garn from Denmark and Sokkusu, originally developed by Alice Yu who used to run the Socktopus shop in London.
She also sells ChiaoGoo needles and a good range of books and notions. Be Inspired is a lovely shop, and although I didn’t buy anything there that was mostly just because I was worried about my budget if I started spending so early in the day, and I was also particularly looking for local yarns.
Leaving Be Inspired, I walked north through the Meadows, which were glorious with spring blossom on what had turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.
I stopped at a bookshop that was also a cafe and served a good range of leaf teas for a fortifying cup of Scottish Breakfast.
I was particularly charmed by the little timer to tell me when the tea was brewed, though I failed to realise that I could lift the infuser basket out and ended up with rather stewed tea by the final cup.
Next, I stopped off at K1 Yarns, but they seem to have a very limited range of yarns these days and I didn’t buy anything or take any pictures. Instead, I carried on up to the Royal Mile and down again to cross the ravine by Waverley Station and head up into the New Town. At this point I decided that I could do with some lunch, and after wandering along for a bit in search of somewhere that wasn’t a chain cafe I came across Eteaket, where I had a pot of Ceylon:
along with a sandwich and a piece of rather fabulous chocolate beetroot cake.
Suitably fortified, I headed for Kathy’s Knits in Broughton Street.
Kathy’s Knits is the biggest of the shops I visited, and has a great range of what I’d consider real “workhorse” yarns, such as Blacker, JC Rennie, New Lanark, Jamieson and Smith; lovely woolly yarns that are hardwearing enough to be perfect for garment projects.
There’s also a comfy-looking sofa for people to sit and knit, surrounded by fabulous sample knits.
Kathy herself was very friendly and approachable and happy to tell me about her range of yarns, and I ended up buying a skein of beautiful teal 4-ply from Yarn Pony, an Edinburgh-based dyer I’d heard a lot about and was definitely curious to try.
Kathy told me that this was a special 150g put-up dyed with Tin Can Knits’ Estuary in mind, and as I’m planning to knit Estuary one of these days that was just perfect.
Sadly, I couldn’t stay very long at Kathy’s Knits because I had arranged to meet Natalie and K at Ginger Twist Studio, so off I went to my last shop of the day.
Ginger Twist is tiny, but absolutely packed with gorgeousness. Jess, the owner, also dyes her own yarn (which is what you can see in the picture above) as well as stocking commercial yarns including Brigantia, Excelana, West Yorkshire Spinners and King Cole.
Despite being so small, there’s room for three or four people to sit and chat on a quiet afternoon, and Jess is very hospitable, so I ended up staying there and chatting for quite some time. I also (inevitably) left with a skein of Jess’s handdyed merino/silk 4-ply:
I think the knitters of Edinburgh are very fortunate to have such fantastic yarn shops, and I particularly love the way that the three new shops complement each other perfectly rather than trying to compete for the same market. The three owners are even working together to organise an Edinburgh yarn crawl later this month, visiting all three shops in a day, and I only wish I was close enough to take part (although I suppose I have already done my own crawl!). Knitting in the UK has been marginalised for such a long time that I’m very happy to see new shops opening and even more pleased that the owners recognise that each of them can have their own unique place in the market and the same customers will happily visit all three depending on what they want at the time. If only that kind of peaceful, constructive co-operation was more obvious across the commercial world!
Of course, I couldn’t be in Scotland without visiting my beloved Yarn Cake, and the next day we headed through to Glasgow, where I got to drink yet more tea and eat delicious cake.
I also bought yet more yarn: a skein of Abstract Cat laceweight:
and some Drops Alpaca to make the lovely Lauren Smith’s beautiful Scottish Primrose top.
And I also had a wonderful evening celebrating my 40th birthday in the fabulous company of some brilliant knitters, with even more tea, Japanese takeaway and the most amazing birthday cake ever, courtesy of Antje!