I decided to travel by train - it's a long way from Winwick to Thornbury and whilst not impossible to drive, there's no opportunity to knit on the journey! I settled myself into my seat with my cup of tea and my bacon butty and got on with small daughter's socks (yes, yes, I know that I still have other WIPs to finish but socks are easy train knitting!).
Thornbury is a picturesque little place, with a long High Street full of interesting shops and already decorated for Christmas.
This is where I was headed ...
this shop here with the attractive bow window which was dressed to take part in the Thornbury Christmas shop window competition. The tiny panes made it difficult to take a picture to show you, but it was full of knitted Christmas decorations and snowflakes - very pretty and it definitely got my vote!
Would you like to have a look around? It's a bit like the TARDIS, the preferred mode of transport of a TV character called Dr Who, in that it seems bigger on the inside than the outside. First impressions are that it is indeed a small shop, but when you start to look at the shelves crammed with all kinds of yarns, you realise just what a huge stock there is.
Naturally, I made a beeline to check out the sock yarns and I wasn't disappointed. There's a large selection in different brands ...
and in different sizes!
There's even tiny sock bunting made by Jennifer's Mum, Linda. Jennifer is the shop owner and I'm going to introduce you to her a little later. In the meantime, let's continue our tour!
It's difficult to see in one go just how much there is in the shop, and yet it doesn't feel cluttered at all. Even spending the day there, I kept spotting something else that I hadn't noticed.
Plenty of yarn in all kinds of weights and brands, from economical acrylic blends to more well-known brands such as Stylecraft, Sirdar, James C Brett, Regia, Wendy, Nora, Rowan - too many to list here - and then even more yarns such as silk yarns, sparkly yarns, softest alpaca yarns ...
pattern books and sheets galore (over 2,000 apparently!) ...
and all kinds of accessories and notions for almost every possible occasion.
In fact, in every available space there is something that catches your eye. It's just how you want a local yarn shop to be.
Yes, of course I hoped that I would sign and sell a few books, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone who came in to see me - thank you very much! - but after having "met" Jennifer through the Sockalong Facebook group and hearing about how she was buying a yarn shop (she only took over in September this year), I also wanted to help her out if I could by being around to talk to some of her sock-knitting customers.
I passionately believe that we should support our local shops whenever we can; I'm not disputing at all the place that the internet has - after all, where would I be without the internet, or those people who don't have a local yarn shop, or a social group to visit with like-minded friends? - but I am always impressed with people who have a dream and follow it.
We set up my books and socks on the counter and tried not to eat all the biscuits.
The day flew by, as time always does when you're enjoying yourself. I loved watching the customers come and go, and chatting to them about what they were making (even if it wasn't socks!). I was impressed with the time and care that Jennifer took to make sure that all of her customers got just the information and yarn that they needed. That definitely is one advantage of a bricks and mortar shop over internet shopping - emails just can't take the place of a friendly and knowledgeable shop owner.
The Wool Stop is a proper family business in that although it's Jennifer's shop, she has lots of support from her Mum and Dad (her Dad was even kind enough to taxi me to and from the station!) and you know that with that kind of support and with the obvious love and dedication that Jennifer has for her business, it is going to be a huge success. I certainly hope so!
Back on the train, it was time for the journey back to Winwick. I expect you're wondering which of the yarns that I brought with me - it's this one! Cuddlebums merino sock yarn in shade Melted Crayons - how nice does that sound? I'm looking forward to seeing how it knits up.
Another lovely day out - it's been a great week and it's made me very happy to be able to have so much "yarn time". Remember that list of things to be grateful for that I said I'd been writing? It's getting longer!