Could You Run a Yarn Shop?
Haven’t we all dreamed of having our own yarn shop with shelves crammed with beautiful colours and fibres? We talked to yarn shop owners from each of the countries in the UK to find out more about how they got started
Baa! in Stonehaven, Scotland
Baa! is in the seaside town of Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, home to the stunning Dunnottar Castle and rugged coastlines of the Northeast coast of Scotland.
Since studying at art school, owner Janice Anderson has always been interested in knitting, yarn and craft. “Opening Baa was never on my agenda – it just sort of happened,” she explains. “Way back in 2017, my good friend announced that she would be leaving her office for a much bigger space. I immediately thought, ‘Mmm, that would make a great little yarn shop!’ From then on, everything just fell into place; perhaps it was fate, but I do know that
Baa! has not only brought happiness to many people in our town, but it has created
friendships and provided a safe and calming space for many.”
Perhaps it was fate!
Initially, Baa! stocked only natural fibres, but it now stocks a small number of manmade fibres and blends to meet the needs and pockets of an expanding customer base as more people hear about them.
The pandemic has impacted hugely on the business. It now hosts a very successful virtual knit group with members from the UK, Canada, Dubai and the USA. In February, it launched its first workshops and face-to-face knitting group.
Janice relishes the human contact, making friends, helping, advising and watching confidence grow, “Being witness to the joy yarn can bring in the most difficult of times is very special. I hope our customers return again and again due to the friendly service, advice and help we provide.”
The Wool Nook in Lisburn, Northern Ireland
The Wool Nook is a small family-run business located in the heart of Lisburn city centre just opposite the Lisburn Museum and linen centre, with historic Hillsborough Castle a five-minute drive away.
As a lifelong knitter and crocheter, it had always been Susan McAvoy’s dream to own a yarn shop: “I contacted various suppliers for the brands we wanted to stock, we decided to just go for it and then spent over a year looking for suitable premises,” she explains. “We opened in February 2020 and were starting to build a wonderful customer base of all ages of knitters and crocheters, with crochet classes fully booked until September. Then eight weeks later, the UK went into full lockdown.”
The best part about owning a yarn shop is the customers.
“We checked with local authorities to see if we could offer a delivery service and were told we could.” Susan and her very supportive husband decided to offer a free delivery service within a seven-mile radius, posting out to people further away. “So, if you ordered with us before 3pm, you had your order by 5pm.” It is this level of customer service that has created a good,
loyal customer base for the shop.
Susan has noticed a lot of younger people have taken up crochet during lockdown, with so many tutorials online to guide them: “Our customer base covers all ages, and we even have a few gentlemen regular customers who crochet.”
“The best part about owning a yarn shop is the customers. We have met some wonderful people and made some good friends. We try to make every visit to The Wool Nook special whether you are a first time customer or a regular.”
The Foundry Works in Rotherham, England
The Foundry Works is in an industrial unit in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, very close to a retail park. Although this isn’t your conventional location, it is beautifully laid out and very welcoming.
So how did Claire Nettleship come to run a yarn shop? “I started by dyeing yarn. As much as I enjoyed it, I was looking for another challenge. It was my partner who came up with the idea of an industrial unit. We looked at it in the morning and signed the lease that week. Just before
the pandemic hit!” Opening in a pandemic has been challenging. It has been a case of taking it day by day.
I was looking for another challenge
The unit needed a lot of work, and Claire created a website. “We decided to start work on the unit and see how the pandemic played out.” Building work began to make a custom layout, but then word got out about the new yarn shop, and customers just started turning up. It was a case of ‘build it, and they will come’.
“I think customers come to us because of the space and the range we offer. We are accessible, and we haven’t crammed everything in so customers can come and browse without feeling like they are on top of each other.”
The big challenge for Claire is getting their name out there: “I see where I want to take the shop but don’t have the budget to do it straight away, which can be frustrating at times. I have to keep reminding myself we haven’t been open that long, and these things come over time.”
Ammonite Yarns in Pontyclun, Wales
Ammonite Yarns is on the main road of a small village in South Wales. Pontyclun is on the edge of the Rhondda bordering the Vale of Glamorgan on one side and Cardiff on the other.
Ruth and Jenny started the shop in 2015 after talking about it at their local knitting group. “We spent time researching the market and finding premises and then started on the fun stuff ike stocking the shop and finding a name. Lots of people ask about the name – it refl ects the organic shape of the ammonites that can be found on the beaches in South Wales, and which are reminiscent of the winding yarn in a ball of wool”, explains Jenny.
We have a fabulous community of crafters
“We have noticed that over the past five years or so that there has been a marked increase in crochet enthusiasts, and this is reflected in the demand for classes. We are also seeing a welcome trickle of younger crafters who are bringing new ideas and motivation into knitting and crochet.”
Ammonite Yarns' customers return to them because of the friendly and helpful service: “We are happy to help out with pattern and yarn choices or problem-solving. Our drop-ins are thriving, which means we have a fabulous community of crafters who love to come along and then spread the word about us.”
Thank you to our friends at UK Hand Knitting for their help in writing this article.