Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The future of wool shops + a fat grey feline

I suspect you, Holder Of Camera, of wanting to stroke my furry grey underbelly. I suspect you strongly
My mother once got stuck with a woman at a party who spent half an hour showing her photographs of her cat. Sometimes the cat was on the sofa, sometimes it was on the sideboard, sometimes my mother was casting about desperately to see where her next sweet sherry was coming from. I think this was the same party where I got stuck in the toilet with 4 long-haired collies, anyway I digress. My point is that I am even sadder than that woman because at least it was her cat, whereas I take photographs of random cats. I am like the Catorialist but without the glamorous locations.
Dad, displaying the origin of my Cat Attracting Gene (TM)
This was in Bury St Edmunds. There are a lot of wool shops in Bury St Edmunds, indeed I would say it has reached saturation point. You turn a corner and bam, there you are, another display of Sirdar arranged in a pyramid and a lot of patterns with pictures of thoughtful women wearing jumpers with their arms extended. And there is also Wibbling Wools.
The Wibbling Wools van. They're a design icon now, you know
It struck me in Bury that there are now, on our High Streets all over the country, two rival kinds of wool shop. One is like Wibbling Wools, (which was very nice, by the way, in case you are ever in the area), which is of the New School. I could tell it was of the New School even before I went in, because it had an edgy knitted lamppost covering outside.
But what if it rains, I thought, because I am too practical to be winsome. Although I think it might be detachable
The New School of Wool Shops are not like the Old School. The Old School are essentially masonic lodges with wool: you would not expect to go in and find beginner knitting materials or inspiration, because if you are shopping there, knitting will have been passed down the female line of your family for 12 generations, like big feet or a propensity for sarcasm. The Old School are big on Sirdar. They are big on acrylic mixes. If you go in and see either of the following, you know the wool shop you are in is Old School, and you can act accordingly: a/ pattern for a non-ironic tea cosy b/ one of those enormous 500g balls of acrylic aran. On the other hand, if you see either of the following you know you are in one of the New School, and someone is imminently going to try to lure you into joining their knitting circle or impress you by believing that circular needles exist: a/ Noro of any description b/ hand-dyed sock yarn.
Close up of woolly pole. If I could manage intarsia convincingly I would not put it on a pole. I would put it in the Cambridge Evening News
Well, for me, I am glad to see wool in a shop wherever I find it, but I do sometimes wonder: how long will the two breeds live side by side peacefully? Will they come to blows one day with one of the New School owners crying, ‘sod you and your novelty acrylic, thinking a bit of pom pom yarn makes you up to date. It doesn’t!’ and whopping one of the Old School over the head with a skein of Malabrigo? And if that happens, will there be swift retaliation with a pair of Inox needles? This I'm sure of, unfortunately: as I write, even the New School are inevitably beginning the long journey out of fashion, as someone somewhere is making knitting with newspaper or spaghetti fashionable. We will all be spending our old age sitting on uncomfortable stools in high-tech aluminium wool shops, sipping our absinthe and Sunny D cocktails, looking at shelves full of Fun Fur which has been reclaimed ironically and muttering to each other, I used to like Noro, I don’t know what happened to it.

It did have quite a few knots, though.


Susie Jefferson said...

I think I'd be stoned by the Old School ladies - one pair of giant needles from the pound shop (plastic!) and 5 huge balls of hairy/fuzzy acrylic wool from Wilkinsons = 1 giant scarf (think Tom Baker as Dr Who) which took me 8 months!

This, from the daughter of a knitter who only used pure wools, did fairisle that was virtually reversible and preferred 3 ply and size 12s & 13s. The granddaughter of knitters & crocheters - one grandmother did filet crochet. I hang my head in shame. 'Nuff said....

West/CJ said...

I'm jealous. I am not surrounded by wool shops. I have to drive 20 minutes to get to one (thankfully it's a good one). I clearly need to live where you live.

And I love that you take pictures of random kitties (I would myself, but I have three that actually belong to me, and demand their own camera time).

Anonymous said...

OK, Absinthe and Sunny D actually sounds pretty darn good! And the closest yarn shop to me is at least 40 minutes away and isn't all that great. So I'm jealous. I would LOVE to see a showdown between old school and new school!

Susie said...

I think I'll probably actually serve absinthe and Sunny D this Christmas. Although I don't know if I can source it locally ;-).

I think we're actually unusually well provided for with wool shops. I can think of a good 5 within a 10 mile radius. And people say the Eastern Region doesn't have much going for it! Ha!

(Susie, that sounds a rather fine scarf. I'd love to see it!).

Annie said...

I love this article - I was having much the same discussion with my son at Christmas. There are two woolshops in Grantham, one Old School and one New School - but both worryingly on the same road. I told my son that if he was going to buy me a Christmas gift, then something from the Wool Shop would be good. But the *right* Wool Shop... I think he can spot a pyramid of Sirdar a mile off now - I scared him!

Marushka C. said...

I would read your blog just for the photo captions!

Silver said...

Oh, dear. Now someone needs to write a knitting pattern for a design called Absinthe and Sunny D. YES, DO IT! (Or does the responsibility fall to me because I yelled about it, with credit given for the name to the Ever-Hilarious Susie?)

Silver said...

I forgot to say that I love the expression on that cat's face. I can't put my finger on why it makes me laugh, but there it is.