Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh To Be In England When The Yarn Is There...

Took a quick dash last week, across to the UK. All this activity with the sock machine and, more recently, nervous essays in the operation of a battered old Brother flatbed machine, meant that MORE CONED YARN was needed. And the one place well known to Celtic Memory as having all kinds of wonderful one-offs and strange finds is Uppingham Yarns, tucked away in Rutland, England's tiniest county. I used to live in Rutland and visited this treasure trove often - in fact it probably provided the baseline for the Celtic Memory stash which now requires an entire basement room of its own and is starting to murmur about really needing an independent yarny house in the grounds with not only a basement but an attic and big windows and - sorry, where was I? Oh yes, Uppingham Yarns.

Rutland, although tiny, is a very old region and thus well placed on the Great North Road, the ancient route from London to Scotland (or Scotland to London if you prefer). Some may refer to it rather prosaically as the A1 but to me it's always the romantic Great North Road. It's quite possible to nip into Stansted airport on the early morning flight from Cork, grab a rental car, and be in Uppingham by eleven in the morning.

Now Uppingham Yarns is not one of your predictable little LYSs. It does have some ball banded yarns, true, but not many. Its huge attraction is in its vast range of coned goodies, stacked high on tall shelving units in numbers of rooms. Aladdin's Cave has nothing on this place!

Heaven bless the Traylen family who opened their business back in 1980 to provide ex-industrial supplies for home knitters, whether hand or machine. That's Nick there, explaining the difference between two gauges of cashmere (be still my beating heart). You might well have met Nick at various Woolfests or Ally Pally knit days, but his stand at those events, delightful though it may be, isn't a patch on the home ground.

This is the Shetland room - all of those lovely shades are the repeatable ones, I think, but round the sides and down at the back, you find smaller cones, discontinued colours, one-offs - you know, the kind that is even more fun to track down than the always-available sort.

Every room has more treasures, aisles to be explored carefully and painstakingly, not a corner left searched. You simply never know what you're going to find.

It's hard not to get carried away in the fancy section, where the most incredible Italian ribbons and glitters and eyelashes are piled in profusion. You get new ideas for designer combinations on every shelf.

This room is devoted to cotton. And silk. And silk tops for spinning. And some hemp. And more. Small wonder that after five minutes in the building I suggested kindly to DH that he might prefer to wander around the picturesque little town and take pictures while I totally lost myself. Being an understanding soul he did - so the images you see here were all taken fairly early on in the visit, and then he left me to get gently hysterical in peace.

Not before we made a couple of nice discoveries though -

I just don't remember these from my last visit, so maybe Nick Traylen has only just put them on display. My mother had just such an old high-standing heavy iron flatbed machine as this. I still have one of the sweaters she made me on it.

And look at this lovely thing! A sock machine with lots of shiny brass, and its own useful iron table with handy inset containers for needles and hooks and things.

But this one I'd never come across before. A circular knitting machine, but a tiny one. It has only about six needle slots. It has to be a cord maker, right? Fascinating. Love it!

Had a most enjoyable couple of hours, going around each room, going back again, starting in the opposite direction, taking turns around shelves from unexpected angles, scouring dark corners - you know how much fun it can be. And got some pretty nice loot to play with over the next while (thank heaven DH had a spacious rucksack with him as well). Always nice to revisit Uppingham Yarns and come away with treasure.

In the meantime of course, DH had been wandering happily around the town of Uppingham, which is gloriously photogenic with that unique character which rural England does so well -

The main street was basking in the warm sunshine (warm sunshine! It was pouring with rain and chilly to boot when we left Cork!) and you could hear the echo of peaceful footsteps as people went about their shopping.

The churchyard of Ss Peter & Paul was looking impossibly picturesque

- and the wallflowers were blooming on old moss-covered roofs and walls. A lovely place. I do like Uppingham and indeed all of Rutland. Multum in Parvo is the county motto, much in little.

Rutland, you may or may not know, lost its independence back in the 1970s, despite public outcry, and was hauled into neighbouring Leicestershire. The local people, however, never accepted this (a bit like Iowa taking over Nebraska maybe, or Massachusetts airily grabbing Maine) and fought constantly to get back their independent status. It is a source of gentle pride to me that I was part of that campaign, and was there in the House of Lords on the night that Rutland regained county status, in the 1990s. Good on you, Rutland! Always remember you with deep affection even though I'm back on my own native soil now.

By the way, this day trip took place during Round Three of Sock Madness, so, although you haven't seen much evidence of them, the socks were very much part of the day's activity, being worked on during the flight, in cafes, in the car when DH was driving, and even back at the airport.

A particularly lovely design this time, created by YarnYenta and called Talia's Wings.

And here's the finished pair (why does it always seem to be late at night when socks are finally done, and one has to try to photograph them under artificial light?) Very entertaining pattern to knit, and it introduced me to the sewn bind-off (they were worked toe-up, forgot to mention), which is an exceptionally useful technique, giving a stretchy attractive top to the cuff. I've already used the method on several other things, to implant it firmly in the Celtic Memory mind.

Now before Round Four of Sock Madness starts, some dyeing up has got to be done here in West Cork. No use waiting for fine weather, they'll have to hang in the greenhouse to dry. Sock yarns of course, in lovely shades of apple blossom and bluebell and all the other flowers coming out at this time of year, but also some laceweights, since so many have been asking for them. No time to lose!


Lindy in Brisbane said...

Wow Jo, what a fabulous stash-anhancing day trip! Lovely scenery and beautiful photos as usual. Love your posts.

Shari said...

Hmmmm, I see you touched despite the sign:)

Please let us know when you put the yarn up for sale. Your yarn is some of my favourite! The green you donated to sock madness is gorgeous!

kstearns04 said...

Perfect timing for your post as I was just looking for some yarn for Brage and live near Rutland. I had no idea this treasure trove was there--maybe because I'm usually going through on a motorcycle with a bunch of guys. Friday I will venture there on my own in my car (not enough room on the bike for purchases I'm betting!). Thanks for the wonderful write up. Any progress on your Brage?

lilymarlene said...

I'd have had to touch it too! He eally means "Don't play with this!"

Jean said...

I love the yarn store, if I ever make it across the pond I will make this a destination. By the way no only do you have fine tastes in yarn, but also in husbands, so much patience! I enjoy reading about your adventures in life, thank you for sharing. (Oh by the way, nice socks too).

Anonymous said...

Oh-ho, so THAT's a wall flower! I only knew it as a shy teenager who doesn't get asked to dance.

I learn a lot every time I read about your adventures. Of course, there's the yarn! :-)

Ruth said...

I am JEALOUS!!!! I wanna go to that shop. Unfortunately the cost of nipping in would be a bit prohibitive. I'd have to combine it with a vacation. Hmmm. that's an interesting idea.

pacalaga said...

Shetland ROOM? Still reeling over that idea. Lovely.
Wallflowers are actual flowers growing on walls? Wow, what will they think of next? You people who live in rainy places think of the craziest things. :-D
I do wish you'd post more, Jo dear; your posts are little holidays for me and always lift the spirits. (Oh and also, brilliant work on those Sock Madness prizes - I saw them and thought, those look like Jo's work, and sure enough!)

Knitski (Nancy) said...

Wonderful as always! Great photos and I just love the shop! What a treat!

Linda from Montana said...

Thanks again Jo for sharing your adventures! I enjoy the sights and history of the area as much as the information about the yarn shops.

CraftyGryphon said...

"The Shetland Room"... just the phrase made me swoon!

Thanks for sharing yet another place I must visit in the next three decades or so!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo, It is time for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. May 2-3. Remember when your hubby let you jet across the pond to Texas, I think it was. Both of you come. You won't regret it. It is one of the best in the United States. Say yes!

Anonymous said...

Actually, Jo, Maine used to be part of Massachusetts.

Mary Burke said...

So glad to see your posts - a mini vacation, always! I swooned at the silk room as well as the Shetland one. Must check out Rutland for the visit next year!boyedn

Roggey said...

What fun! And what a great pair of socks =)

Sallie said...

Uppingham Yarns definitely looks like a place to swoon in. Thank you for letting us know about this place and sharing your adventures.

Charity said...

Wonderful day! :o)

Deborah (aka Mt. Mom) said...

Thanks for sharing another lovely day, Jo.

Melissa said...

As always love the pictures. And I'm jealous of your yarny adventure :)

I'm a *huge* fan of the sewn bind off. I use it on just about everything now.

Jocelyn said...

What a lovely trip! Thanks for taking us all along. The amount of coned yarn boggles the mind. Reminds me of our own Webs (US), but I haven't been there either. Adding this to my list of places to see once I cross that rather large pond.

cindyl said...

Would you stop it with the photos of the little sock machines? I am now in a deep stage of lust for one, thanks to your portrayals and accounts, and geez, have you seen the price of the things on e-bay? I dream of finding one in a dusty little east texas antique mall, where the owner says, "I think that thing is some sort of farm equipment, but I really don't know. Make me an offer."
Your description of the coned yarns and shop make me want to leave immeditely. Can't wait to see the new dye jobs.

Angeluna said...

Glad to see you aren't sitting home twiddling your thumbs. Now, can we go back to the Shetland Room please, pretty please? I'm suddenly in a Shetland phase but there doesn't seem to be any of it where I live.

Lucy Neatby class this afternoon, says she happily as she stash dives to try to find the proper yarns to take. Wish you were here.

tmjackson said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous!

I also laughed at your finger defiantly on the machine right above the Do Not Touch sign, but I'm sure anybody could have seen your reverence.

Thanks for sharing!

Linda B said...

You manage to succeed in making us all feel envy without resentment. Maybe because you're so skilled at making it a vicarious experience for us. Now I have another destination to add to my wish list!