Thursday, 29 August 2013

Edinburgh yarn stores

We went up to the Edinburgh a few weekends ago in order to see my colleague performing with her comedy group The Dead Secrets at the Edinburgh Fringe (their very entertaining skit show, "Bulletproof Jest", got some excellent reviews). We lived in Glasgow for five years and did not visit the festival once during that whole period, but since moving to Oxford four years ago we have been three times. It is a good opportunity to see friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and also to visit yarn stores.

K1 Yarn

I learned to knit in Glasgow, where my local yarn shop was K1 Yarns. K1 has since closed their Glasgow branch, but they are still open in a central location in Edinburgh's old town. I was first introduced to Habu yarn in this shop, but the selection has changed over the years, and now they focus more on British and especially Scottish yarn. There are always interesting yarns to discover - I'm still knitting through a lovely laceweight British cashmere I bought several years ago, and whenever I visit I try to pick up some sumptuous Orkney Angora - available in both a 100% angora 4ply and the more versatile 50/50 angora/lambswool St Magnus DK.

The number of Edinburgh yarn stores has exploded since my time in Scotland. Besides McAree's yarn department store, there is now Kathy's Knits (specialising in Scottish yarn), Ginger Twist Studio (for vintage lovers) and Be Inspired Fibres. I only managed to visit Be Inspired, but that quite sufficiently met all my yarn needs.

Be Inspired Fibre

I was very excited to learn, when I did my internet research before my trip, that there was a new yarn shop in Edinburgh focussing on Asian yarns. I've been fanatical about Habu for years, and recently discovered Lotus, a Chinese brand that produces affordable rare and luxury fibre yarns. So Be Inspired Fibre was at the top of my list of yarn stores to visit in Edinburgh.

30 Marchmont Road

Be Inspired is located a little off the beaten tourist path, on the south side of town near the universities. It was a relief to head away from the festival throngs through the Meadows, a large park in which we actually we spotted people playing cricket (an unusual, though not unheard of sight in Scotland).

There were so many yarn goodies I had a very difficult time choosing. I learned about a new Habu-like (in fact Habu exact copy) yarn called Ito. They use the same yarn supplier as Habu, so essentially offer the same product. I bought two cones of Urugami, a wool/paper blend. I can never resist paper yarn - the idea of knitting with paper is just so fun, but it also lends great structure.

And then I discovered the mink.

Rifling through the mink corner

I bought some Lotus Miya (mink/merino/silk) a year ago at the Knitting and Stitching show in London, but I didn't realise they had a 100% mink yarn. What luxury! The proprietor had knit up a sample garment (displayed on the dress form in the photo) and the fabric was irresistible - lighter and fluffier than cashmere, but not as fuzzy as angora. I bought three skeins to make a similar sleeveless cowl neck sweater - it's about time I knit something without a pattern. The yarn only cost £15 per skein - an absolute bargain, considering that regular hand dyed sock yarn often costs about the same or more. Truly affordable luxury.

Lotus mink

I found out that Lotus produces the base yarn for a number of hand dyers, including the Fibre Company - so if you want luxury yarn but don't want to pay the extra cost for fancy colours, Lotus is for you. The mink is not available from the online shop though, so if you are interested I suggest you consider Edinburgh for your next holiday destination. It is well worth a visit, and not just for the yarn stores.

Be Inspired also carries fine yarns like Fyberspates and Malabrigo and workaday yarns like Cascade and Lopi. But for my final purchase, since I had come all the way to Scotland I picked a Scottish yarn - a couple of skeins of Scottish Shilasdair hand dyed luxury 4ply in bracken green. Because natural dyed angora/merino/camel/cashmere. And green. The one thing other than affordable luxury that I cannot resist is green.

Shilasdair 4ply in bracken