Wool, do you hear me? Wool.

In Others
September 17, 2009

Now, see, I *have* been to some new places lately. But I haven’t written about them, so maybe they don’t count. And I’ve given a couple of talks, one at the Interesting conference and one at a colloquium on ‘The Glory of Failure’ which I really have to write up and honestly intend to do here but… haven’t done it yet. And it’s Rosh Hashanah tomorrow, so can’t promise to write anything then either, oh the disgrace of it.

But today I did go somewhere new. It was a wool shop. Knitting and crochet – skills my grandmother taught me – have become rather super-trendy of late. And thus they have super-trendy shops to go with them, shops like iKnit and Loop (neither of which I’ve been to, but I’m sure I’ll love them when I do go). They seem unlike the wool shops of my youth. They are in trendy parts of London. They appear to have sofas and chairs. Apparently you can drink wine or coffee there and ‘hang out’ as these young folks say. It’s all very chic and I’m looking forward to exploring them sometime.

But these are not wool shops as I remember them. My mother used to take me to the Colindale Wool Shop, on the Edgware Road, next to the bag shop that smelled richly, almost overpoweringly of leather. I loved that wool shop. I think it might have been the first shop I remember, certainly the first one I asked to go back to. It was small, dark, staffed by an extremely kind and knowledgeable lady who occasionally, if I was very good, gave me one of the cartoon-character buttons from her button tubes. (Possibly my mother paid for the buttons, it just occurs to me. But at the time I thought they were a gift, and maybe they really were.)

Those wool shops of old were not trendy. There was no coffee. And today I was delighted to discover that although the Colindale Wool Shop is now sadly gone, replaced by the Colindale Cash Converters, such shops are not entirely replaced by the chi-chi. For here is the Borehamwood Wool Shop:

I love this shop. I love the window display that clearly *hasn’t* been designed to appeal to 30-something yummy mummies but instead to grandmas. I love the eclecticism of the contents inside, discount wools and feathers and sequins, stands of zips, a corner of rubber stamps and, best of all, hundreds of button tubes. I would have adored this shop when I was a little girl, and I wouldn’t have had to worry about knocking over someone’s coffee. The shopkeeper was incredibly knowledgeable, giving me loads of help converting an American pattern to UK wool and needles.

Best of all, the shop is called a *wool shop*. Americans, you see, call the chunky thread-like stuff you use to knit into fabric ‘yarn’. Stitch and Bitch, in fact, is quite insistent that it is *entirely wrong* to call it ‘wool’, because wool is the stuff that comes from sheep whereas yarn is the generic term for all such thread. To which I say: phooey. In the UK, we call it all wool. It is both the description of a particular kind and the generic term. As in “I’ll do the hoovering with my hoover that is made by Hoover.” If you want to specify that the particular wool you’re using comes from sheep, you say “pure wool”.

Anyway, having got that off my chest, here is a picture of the cushion cover I finished off today. With toggles (they were Esther’s idea) from the button tubes. I love those button tubes so much.

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