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If you’re from Florida or any other place where knitting the heat and humidity are essentially your second layer of clothing, then there’s nothing like London’s cold and rainy climate to inspire you to knit up something warm and cozy. Planet Purl visited London in July, 2008. During our visit, the “heat” reached up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the locals were certain the world would end, while we felt absolutely Christmas-y. Perfect weather for some yarn shopping, no?|
One of the best Christmas-in-July gifts we received was a trip to “Loop”, which may be one of the best yarn shops we’ve seen yet. Set in the charming Angel/Islington area that’s brimming with all the authentic English pubs you could want, this stylish shop had the widest selection of yarn brands imaginable. Besides the requisite Rowan (we are in England, after all), they carry Handmaiden, GGH, Colinette, Rooster, Pear Tree, Be Sweet, Alchemy, Hummingbird, and Peria among others-- many of which are difficult to find anywhere but on-line. And they’re all there for you to touch. The ones that stood out most were beautiful ribbons by Tilli Thomas, an incredibly soft “Mericash” by Punta del Este, and original hand-dyed yarns by the Knitting Goddess.
On our visit the shop was bustling, but Stefan, who was manning the store alone, managed to talk to everyone, even taking the time to recommend a knitting shop in Tokyo, you know, since it’s right around the corner. There was definitely a welcoming feel, and they even host a twice-monthly knitting help session that comes complete with tea and cakes. What could be more British than that?
Loop is a Planet Purl Featured Shop and you can read all about the shop, get a map and phone number, and check their opening hours here.
| || ||John Lewis - Oxford Street|
When you mention knitting to a British person, John Lewis will probably be the first shop they mention. Of course it’ll also probably be the first place they mention if you’re looking for a microwave, but that’s no matter. The John Lewis department store on Oxford Street, just past Oxford Circus, is smack in the middle of the most dense shopping district in London, along with other classic British department stores like Debenham’s and House of Fraser-- not to mention gobs of t-shirt and athletic shoe stores.
Even though you’re not likely to get a real LYS experience at John Lewis, they do have materials for a wide range of crafts, with plenty of fabrics, needlepoint and latch hook supplies, in case you’re more of a craft dabbler. The yarn selection is dominated by Rowan and Debbie Bliss, with a little Noro and Kaffe Fasset sock yarn thrown on top for a garnish. All of the crafts can be found on the 4th Floor “Haberdashery”, but if you get lost or can’t find your way just look for any of the troop of local beauties wearing long sashes emblazoned with “Information”, and they’ll point the way.
John Lewis - Oxford Street, London
020 7629 7711
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri: 9:30-8:00; Thu 9:30-9:00; Sat 9:30-7:00; Sun 12:00-6:00
Tube: Oxford Circus or Bond Street
| ||Liberty of London|
Less than five minutes away from John Lewis you can find Liberty department store, just behind Regent Street. They have a touch more of the Ye Olde English Style than John Lewis, with a nice lobby decorated in dark wood, and a basement that serves champagne and oysters (and where we stopped for afternoon tea). The shop has a full floor of gorgeous designer fabrics and a knitting section that carries every Rowan yarn in every color. Unlike the hustle and bustleo f John lewis, Liberty has almost a hushed, library-quiet feel. Considering the bedlam outside in London’s busiest shopping area, Liberty feels like an oasis of calm. Honestly, I could have sat in the yarn section, and just breathed in the Rowan yarn like a meditation. So if you’re on a Rowan binge (I’m not judging you, sister – I’ve been there) and you’d like to shop in a little haven of peace and quiet, head to Liberty.
Liberty of London - Great Marlborough Street, London
0207 734 1234
Mon-Sat 10-9; Saun 12-6
Tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus
| || ||All the Fun of the Fair|
If you walk south toward the West End, not far from the department stores of Oxford Street, you’ll come to Carnaby Street -- a very hip shopping district. Those old enough to remember the 60’s probably remember Carnaby Street as the center of hip fashion (think Twiggy when she was a model, not a reality show judge). Younger folk may recognize it from the first Austin Powers movie with Austin running down the street being chased by groupies in the 60’s, before he lost his mojo. In the Kingly Court just off Carnaby, you can find one of London’s more unique knitting shops, All the Fun of the Fair.
They have a few of the usual suspects, but they’re focus is on less typical products, like Rowan’s milk cotton, and some really fun chunky colors from Adriafil. They also carry Mirasol, Debbie Bliss, Wash ‘n Filz felting yarn, and they are the exclusive London retailers of a line of Recycled Sari Silk-- direct from India.
It’s a small but cute shop, a feeling reinforced by the adorable knit gifts scattered around, such as knit bumblebees, cakes, fruits and vegetables. They have a few buttons on sale, but the good news is that if you want embellishments, there’s a full-service shop called Buffy’s Beads directly across the walk.
All the Fun of the Fair -Unit 2.8 Kingly Court, London
02 0728 72303
Mon - Sat 11:00 - 7:00; Sun 12:00 - 5:00
Tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus
| || ||Patricia Roberts|
On the other end of the city, and what might as well be a different world, you can find the Chelsea shop of Patricia Roberts. We didn’t get to spend too much time here because the shopkeeper had tickets to Mamma Mia!, but the shop and the neighborhood were impressive. Beautiful townhouses here are surrounded by London’s poshest stores-- Bulgari, Armani, and anything else where you would find a hulking guard outside.
At this shop you can find one kind of yarn. It’s called... Patricia Roberts. One room of the shop is dedicated to her yarns; mostly soft and friendly colors that come in cotton, cashmere, wool, and angora. The other side has a wide selection of knit sweaters made from Patricia’s yarn so the non-knitting friend you bring along doesn’t feel left out. Whether it leaves you feeling genuinely upper-crusty or like one of the riffraff, this store is worth a visit for the area alone.
Patricia Roberts - 60 Kinnerton Street, London
020 7235 4742
Tube: Knightsbridge or Hyde Park Corner
| ||IKnit London|
We love outdoor markets, and we love France, so we knew we were in for something good when we had to walk through an outdoor French market, creperie included, to find IKnit. Just a five-minute walk from one of London’s main transport hubs, Waterloo Station, if you can’t make it here then you probably aren’t looking for yarn in London. A large part of their stock is either exclusive-- Easy Knits Blue-Faced Leicester-- or something we didn’t see in any other London shop-- 100% Organic Cornish Wool, Garthenor Organic, Wensleydale Longwool, Jelly Yarns by Yummy, and many others.
Of course they have a big range of knitting needles and books, but they have a huge selection of instructional knitting DVD’s, just in case you’re no longer satisfied watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model (no judgment here, dear) while you create your next masterpiece. You’ll need plenty of time to sift through IKnit’s treasures, but when you’re “knackered” from shopping you can crash on one of their big comfy couches with a beer or glass of wine, since they also have a liquor license. Now if they just had a chocolate counter, it’s be perfect!
IKnit - 106 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, SE1 7AB
Phone: 020 7261 1338.
Tube/train stop: Waterloo Station