Earlier this month I was delighted to meet Michelle from The Loveliest Yarn Company while I was visiting the Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally. A new online yarn shop located in the Midlands, The Loveliest Yarn Co. has been stocking Knit Play Colour since opening this past summer. I hadn’t realised how many samples Michelle had made with her yarns using patterns from the book! Her yarns are wonderful and a couple of very pretty balls of West Yorkshire Spinners found their way home with me. I am still thinking about the gorgeous Life in the Long Grass though… You know I love to share a good yarn-y find so I knew I had to share this shop with you! Read on for my interview with Michelle.
The Loveliest Yarn Company is a new online shop based in the UK that only opened earlier this year! For readers not yet familiar with you, please would you tell us about you and your journey to opening the shop?
I’m a very ordinary mid-30s woman living with my Simon and four cats, and who happens to be completely obsessed with yarn and knitting! I used to work in financial services but I was a really square peg in a very round hole so when the company I worked for announced a round of redundancies at the end of last year I said ‘It’s now or never, brace yourself’ and that’s how The Loveliest Yarn Company came into being. I’d had a few false starts before, doing a lot of research etc but the timing wasn’t right until this year.
I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to have a physical shop at some point but online was quite natural for me as computers were part of my degree at university and also, I met my husband on match.com back when it was still really odd to meet someone online, so the internet has always been my friend!
Running an online yarn shop can be a lonely business without having a clientele to walk in and interact with. How are you engaging with your customers and building a community around your shop?
I’m really lucky that I have a mini-knitting community in my family with my Mom and my mother-in-law and then some of my customers are local to me so I do a drop off service and get to see them. Of course not having colleagues and customers everyday can feel quite strange which is why I love Instagram, Facebook & Ravelry to stay in touch with everyone. Also, I think I’m going to become completely addicted to yarn shows. I’d really like to get to twelve a year but I might need to do some strength training before I’m ready for that. People are more open to digital-only relationships but you can’t beat getting out and meeting people.
I do have some company that go a little way to making up for having very few visitors. I only have to leave the shop and there are four feline faces looking at me expectantly! I may talk to them just a little bit too much though.
Tell us about some of the speciality products you carry that may not be seen anywhere else or in a regular bricks and mortar shop. Do you have any favourites? How do you decide what to carry and how has that focused the direction of your shop?
You’ll be sorry about this question because I’m a complete nerd about what’s in the shop!!
I’m quite hopelessly besotted by all of the yarns that are in stock and I think it’s the combination of yarn brands / types along with patterns that makes the shop special. There are some stores that focus only on high-end yarns and others that focus on more commonly available but I like to have a mix of both because there is loveliness to be found in both commercial and hand-dyed yarns. My biggest problem is that everything is my favourite, which leads to many samples being started!
My favorite yarn is Life In the Long Grass though, a yarn that I fell in love with before I’d even seen it in person. I am biased but I think it’s one of the finest hand-dyed yarns available. The Loveliest Yarn Company policy is #nomeanies & #nohurtfeelingsforanyone so as I am not an expert at fibres / dyes / yarns, just a knitter that loves yarn, forgive me my views but if Harvest doesn’t make people think of straw glinting in the sun, I’ll eat my skeins of it!
Having to love everything really does set the direction and pace of the shop. I can only buy and test so many yarns. I’m on a mission for the right lace and a second hand-dyed yarn at the moment, both of which I *think* I’ve found so now it’s just a matter of saving for it. It might surprise folk but because many of companies in the yarn world are small, there is no concept of credit (which is only right) so to add a new yarn, the shop needs to save until it can afford a sufficient range of colours and the matching pattern books. The good news is that there should be enough in the kitty to add a new yarn really soon.
Who taught you to knit? How has knitting played an important role in your life?
I learnt at school from my Mammy! I went to a very small rural primary school (there might have been 40 kids across the 8 classes!) so my Mom taught junior, senior, first and second class (5 to 8 year olds) so she not only taught me to knit but also to read and write and just about everything else. I blame her entirely for my knitting addiction and I think she’s pleased about that!
Knitting came back to me slowly after university, during which I only dabbled at weekends if I was at home, but in the last eight years it has evolved into being central to my life. I walked into Loop London and since then it has been a yarn / knitting love affair. I can’t think of anything I’d rather spend my time/life doing!
Do you have a favourite thing to knit, or a favourite knitting ritual that you can share?
Since it’s coming up to Christmas I am knitting many many versions of my favourite pattern – Flight of Colour from your Knit Play Colour book (I am not just saying that). Honestly, I’ve even knit this for people I don’t like as well as others because I love making it so much! Hilariously my Mom snuck one of my versions in as an entry to the local show and I got a Highly Commended for it! The pattern deserves a First Place in my view but it’s very hard to beat off hardcore cable knit sweaters at an agricultural show.
Looking forward, what are your plans for The Loveliest Yarn Company? How would you like to see it grow?
The focus now is on adding new yarns to the store, developing more interesting content that will hopefully be useful to folk and getting a full set of pattern / yarn combinations for shows that will help bring patterns to life for people. I just wish there were two more hours in every day for sample knitting but what knitter doesn’t want that? Also, I think I’ll need another Shop Room but I haven’t told Simon that just yet.
Any plans for the rest of the year and into 2017 that you’d like to share?
I really want to start doing Live Facebook Knitting chats before the end of the year but I’m a bit camera shy! I tested it on my own Facebook account and well, at least my friends had a good laugh! Soon though, really soon! I also need to learn to crochet but that may just be mentioned in blog posts only I’m not sure the world is ready for live videos of me with my tongue out looking for the right place to put the hook!
For 2017 more products & patterns but also, I would really like to get to more shows including the Ally Pally again. I can’t get enough meeting yarn and knitting folk and of course, I love bothering busy designers who are minding their own business and trying to concentrate on buying yarns for their small folk. Sorry about that again Louise! xx
Thank you so much to Michelle for taking the time to answer my questions about The Loveliest Yarn Company! After seeing all of her samples, I’m thinking I need to knit a fingering weight version of Flight of Colour for myself and I know just where to get the yarn!
You can find The Loveliest Yarn Company online and on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/theloveliestyarncompany
Instagram – www.instagram.com/loveliestyarnco
Twitter – www.twitter.com/loveliestyarnco