It’s always a good day when a new yarn shop opens but I have to say that I was positively twitching with excitement over when I received a press release about the opening of the UK’s latest online yarn shop, BritYarn. While many shops in the UK (both online and bricks and mortar) carry British wool options for their customers, BritYarn owner Isla Davison has made ‘provenance, principles, and pro-British’ the complete focus of her new shop.
If the buzz on social media is anything to go by, the response has been tremendous! I asked Isla if I could profile her shop on the blog. Our conversation is below – read on and enjoy!
BritYarn is brand new! Tell us all about your shop…
BritYarn is an unique online yarn shop specialising in wool that is 100% grown in Britain and the British Overseas Territories. We aim to provide as much information as we can about the provenance of the yarn we stock so you can see the journey it has made.
BritYarn is guided by our “Woolly Principles”. These not only outline the criteria for the yarn we stock but also stress the importance of supporting British business including patterns from British based designers such as yourself.
Opening a yarn shop isn’t for the faint of heart but it’s the dream of many a knitter! Did you have a particular inspiration that set you on this path? How did you decide to open your shop?
It was a combination of factors over a period of time which resulted in opening BritYarn. When I first started knitting I bought a lot of wool without really thinking about the fibre. But after my first trip to a yarn festival (where I purchased my first Inspiration Knits pattern Knit Night), discovering Ravelry, knitting blogs and podcasts (including Knit British) I began to see that there was more to knitting and yarn then I had previously thought. My passion for wool was ignited! Over time my knowledge and awareness increased until I decided that I would try wherever possible to buy wool grown in Britain. Last year I had the idea for BritYarn and the rest as they say is history!
It must be AMAZING choosing all the yarns to carry in your shop. What was that process like and do you have any favourites?
The first part was really enjoyable – drawing up a list of yarns that I loved and contacting the different people to ensure they met BritYarn’s strict Woolly Principles. I wanted to ensure that a good variety of British sheep breeds were represented and not just the more familiar Bluefaced Leicester (as squishy and gorgeous as it is). We have sourced yarns from breeds such as Jacob, North Ronaldsay, Castlemilk and Shetland to name a few.
Deciding what shades BritYarn would stock for our mill dyed and hand dyed yarns was so hard and I spent a lot of time creating lists only to cross things out and start again!
As for a favourite…that is a tough one! I do have a personal weakness for hand dyed yarns. I adore the range BritYarn has from Eden Cottage Yarns, The Knitting Goddess and our own exclusive colourways from Yarns on the Plain. Just looking at them makes me very happy.
It’s early days yet, but any yarns showing themselves as knitter favourites right away?
The Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop has been very popular. We also sold out on day one of some of our exclusive colourways which was brilliant! Lighter yarns like Blacker’s Bluefaced Leicester Laceweight have also seen a lot of love!
What is your favourite yarn to knit with, and what do you like to knit the most (or what do you find yourself knitting most often)?
Socks! I tend to have several WIPs on the go at the same time – something easy, something a bit more challenging but I always have socks on the needles. I currently have on the needles my second Knit Night as part of the Spring KAL. I thought the colours in the BritYarn colourway were fresh and spring like. It is the perfect project when I just want to knit without having to think.
I have made several pairs of socks in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply. It’s one of those ‘workhorse’ yarns with endless possible uses. It is definitely my go to mill dyed sock yarn! There is a great selection of solid colours, plus the Birds range, which all work well together. I would love to make a two coloured shawl in the future with it.
What do you love most about being a yarn shop owner?
I love seeing the different combinations that people put together – it might be a selection of colours in the same yarn or a selection of different yarns. As I wrap orders I start to think about what will might turn into. It has also been great hearing from everyone as their orders have arrived, seeing their photos on Twitter and Instagram and to hear about what they plan to make with their yarn. It puts a huge smile on my face!
Who taught you how to knit? Do you do any other fibre crafts? (spinning, weaving, etc)
I am pretty much self taught. I decided in 2012 that I wanted to learn to knit and joined a local group where I was shown the basics. However, after my first scarf I was desperate to be more adventurous so I turned to the internet and knitting books to help me. My best friend taught me the basics of crochet last summer and I started a blanket but my heart lies with knitting. Spinning you ask? I would love to learn but that is something for the future.
How has knitting shaped you as a person?
I hadn’t really considered this before. I certainly didn’t see myself running my own business when I first learnt to knit, so my passion for knitting and yarn has certainly shaped the direction my life took. Knitting has also given me a focus; I have never had a hobby that has absorbed me in quite the way knitting has.
Tell us about the knitting scene where you are in the UK. What’s that like?
I live in a large village surrounded by arable fields. The knitting scene is centred around the local knitting groups. At my local group we have a brilliant mix of talented people who knit, crochet and spin. In the bigger towns and cities there is a bit more happening including spinning groups and there was recently a Yarn Festival in Leeds. This probably explains why I have always been so active on Twitter and Ravelry and I can be frequently found at a yarn festival or three throughout the year!
Any exciting things happening with your shop in 2015 or upcoming plans that you’d like to share?
There are plans to keep to keep increasing our range of British yarns as time goes on and I am researching other knitting / crochet related tools which fit in with our Woolly Principles.
Also as many of your readers might of heard, BritYarn is jointly hosting the Scollay-along KAL with Louise from Knit British. This starts on the 17th July which I am really looking forward to! Apart from that there are a few things planned for later in the year so watch this space!
With many thanks to Isla and very best wishes for every success with BritYarn! And should you feel like having a British designer’s patterns to go with your British yarns, you can also find Inspiration Knits patterns at BritYarn! Isla will be more than happy to help you kit them up for your next project!