I’ve been hearing a lot about A Yarn Story – mostly through Yarn in the City, Allison, as well as seeing Carmen’s photos of her new shop on Instagram. Owned by expat American Carmen Schmidt, A Yarn Story is a beautifully curated shop that sells online, as well as from their bricks and mortar space in Bath’s charming artisan quarter. Looking at the photos it’s hard to believe that the shop isn’t even a year old yet! I’m always excited by a new shop, and asked Carmen to answer some questions for our next shop profile.
It sounds like there might be a story behind the name A Yarn Story! Please tell us about it and your shop.
Coming up with a shop name probably took me longer than anything else when I was in the planning phase and there is a rather long list of rejected names. One of the things that strikes me about knitters is that we all have stories to tell about our knitting, whether it’s how we got started or why we chose a yarn or how it affects our lives and I find this a really important part of the knitting community. The credit for the actual name goes to either my sister or my boyfriend. I can’t remember who said it first but they both came up with a version of “A Yarn Story.” The shop itself is a small boutique-style space. It is filled with yarn, fibre, patterns, needles, notions and other bits from near and far; there are yarns from Japan to Ireland and sterling silver crochet hooks hand carved in Devon.
A Yarn Story carries a lot of deliciously luxurious and posh yarns. How do you decide what to carry?
Each of the yarns in the shop inspired me in some way when I first encountered it. Some yarns I find at wool shows, some I have seen in other stores in other countries, some I have seen on Instagram and then gone on to investigate further and some have just fallen in my lap. Once I have found a yarn brand that I love, I spend days pouring over the yarn bases and colors they offer. I make a lot of spreadsheets!
Many yarn shops seem to have a specialty to stand them apart. What is A Yarn Story’s?
I have a strong focus on hand-dyed yarn and luxury fibres. The colors in hand-dyed yarn are just so vibrant and saturated and I am a very colour-driven person, so I’m really attracted to that. I also love working with small companies, it’s more personal and everyone is working towards the same goal. There are so many interesting and wonderful fibre combinations out there too, I keep discovering new things so I love bringing that into the shop. I was totally blown away by the softness of possum down the first time I encountered it in Zealana’s yarns and I’m fascinated by Shibui’s concept of mixing yarns to create interesting fabrics.
Tell us about knitters in Bath. What do they like to knit? What is the knitting community there like?
Bath has a really vibrant and diverse knitting community. There is a strong textile history in the city with a strong program at the University as well, so the city is full of creative people doing beautiful things with yarn and fabric and other materials. I’d say more than anything else the romance of making something is what drives this community. We are so lucky to have the Fashion Museum and their incredible pattern archives to reference too.
A Yarn Story will celebrate it’s first anniversary in November. Incredible! Is being a yarn shop owner everything you expected or how is it different?
It is 100% the best career decision for me. Not only do I get to work in an a diverse and growing industry and go to work in a space filled with beautiful color everyday but also work with something I love. And as much as I love the yarn and my customers, I also love the spreadsheets and the planning and the strategic side of the business. I feel like I finally get to use all of my skills doing something I’m inspired to do. The one thing that I didn’t really expect is the constant ordering – I thought “buy a bunch of yarn, sell it and then buy more” but it’s much more of a constant process but that has a lot to do with the nature of the brands I carry and the fact that the shop is still so new and finding it’s feet.
Who taught you to knit and how has knitting been part of your own life? Do you do any other crafts?
I’m sure my Mom taught be to knit but I honestly can’t remember exactly when that was, I’m sure I was quite young. I spent a lot of my childhood in my Mom’s sewing room making things. She also had a couple of knitting machines which I loved to play around with. My absolute favorite thing to do though was play with the ball winder, I used to wind and unwind balls of yarn for hours. I used to sew a fair amount but it’s not a very portable craft, so when I moved to Europe the machine didn’t come with me and I haven’t picked up a new one yet.
Have you always been a knitter? How did you decide to transition from whatever you were doing to opening a yarn shop?
While I learned as a young child, I had big breaks between knitting projects. I made a few scarves during university and then nothing for a while again until I was living in Ireland. I had a lot of time on my hands in Ireland as I wasn’t working and we were living in the beautiful Irish countryside so I found a lovely wool shop in Dublin with my Mom while she was visiting and I knit a cowl and I was hooked. I spent the rest of my days in Ireland knitting and learning new techniques and hanging out in my LYS. I had been thinking about starting my own business for a while but the question is always “what?” What am I better at than other people, what idea do I have that others don’t, what am I interested enough in to want to give it a try. When we moved to the U.K. and I was still having trouble finding a “real” job (in strategic HR in case you’re interested) and I was getting more and more into knitting and not finding what I wanted on my doorstep, I thought ‘that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to open a wool shop!’ and so that is what I did. I did the research and put together a business plan and 9 months later A Yarn Story was open for business.
What’s your favourite weight of yarn to work with and why?
I love fingering weight or sock weight yarns. I love how smooth and soft and versatile they are. That being said, I also adore a good chunky or super bulky yarn.
Any exciting news upcoming with A Yarn Story that you’d like to share?
There are a lot of great classes coming up this autumn and I’m already starting to plan for 2016. There will be more custom colourways coming in and more unique-to-AYS items being added to the shop. I’ve got a couple of big things brewing but I can’t share any of that quite yet 😉
Guess we’ll just have to watch this space! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Carmen!