Ever since I heard about them at the The Bothered Owl Yarn Party last December I’ve had a hankering to visit new yarn shop Nest. The photographs on their website (www.handmadenest.co.uk) show a well-stocked, colourful array of yarns and a demurely decorated comfy-sofa area which invites rest, recuperation and knitting as well as shopping, so in early Jan I enlisted friend Kat for a tour of North London knitting emporiums to see it was too good to be true.
Coming from the tubeless wilds of SE London we had a lengthy journey, encompassing almost all the forms of transport available (as a non-commuter I still relish any travel as an opportunity for some guilt-free knitting). From Crouch End Hill it was easy to locate Weston Park, near the clock-tower, and we soon found Nest in a small array of shops in this otherwise quietly suburban road.
I was immediately struck with how open and bright the space was with a full-frontage window gaily decorated but not over crowded with cones of yarn hung from the lintel. I later learned that all the internal fixtures and decoration had been done by the mum (Rose), daughter (Amy) and son-in-law team that own and run Nest. Between them they have more than sixty years knitting experience but this yarn retail venture is striking new ground. They must then have been taking scrupulous notes on how-to (and not to) do it from other LYS’s because on first inspection they tick all my yarn-shop desires.
Rose was serving a customer when we came in but was quick to engage us with an offer of help and then settling into a pleasant chat which turned from yarn, patterns and the opening of the shop (just two months previous) to BBC Four’s Edwardian Farm and The Secret Life of The Motorway. Whilst I admired the neat stockinette and lace swatches hung from knitting needles poking out of the appropriate yarns cubbyhole, Kat made a bee-line for the sock yarn. In this weight, as in all the others from cobweb to chunky, there was a wide choice to be had, from the economic self-striping DROPS Fabel Sock at £2.40 / 50g to luxurious Alpaca Sock Yarn from www.ukalpaca.com at £8.67/ 100g. This I was pleased to see was a yarn grown and spun in the UK, as is the Organically Farmed Merino DK (£7.14/ 100g) of their sister company at Coldharbour Mill, Fibre Harvest. When I spoke to Amy later she confirmed that she shared a passion with her mum for natural and organic fibres and they wanted to instil as much as possible support for British yarn manufacturers and independent spinners and hand-dyers.
I didn’t get an exhaustive list but I did take note as I finger browsed of Skein Queen‘s Indulgence Cobweb, Fyberspates Scrumptious, Shilasdair‘s Luxury DK and a range from H.W.Hammand & Co (the team behind www.bluefaced.net) amongst the more established names like Malabrigo, Debbie Bliss, Noro, Louisa Harding & Rooster. All were priced very reasonably with the 90% (at a rough count) coming in under £9/ 100g. Of course if you are dying to splurge there is the premium Buffalo Gold (45% bison, 20% cashmere, 20% silk, 15% tencel) at £30.63/ 50g!
Very cleverly they have also procured a range of lambswool direct from the Scottish mill which they sell under the name JC Rennie at Nest and which they offer to wind from the cone any weight above 10g. This included a 4ply (23st x 35R over 4″ on 3.25mm) at £5/ 100g, an aran/ chunky (14st x 21R over 4″ on 5mm or 11stx18mm on 7mm double-stranded) and a silk tweed (58% lambswool 42% silk) at £7/ 100g. The colours for this range seem to come from the Edwardian palette with muted pewter blues, sea and olive greens, rich browns and Scottish moor burgundies. Ideal for a vintage or stranded project to evoke a by-gone era. The mill itself was established in 1798 and has gone from being directly water-wheel powered to generating it’s own hydro-electricity from the River Ugie by which it sits.
The shop also caters to the spinner, felter and crochet fan with fleece, hooks, buttons and a large selection of pattern books positioned handily close to those comfy-sofas, which were even more encouraging of a sit, read, knit and natter when viewed up close.
After almost two hours basking in the yarny goodness I eventually plumped for some Alpaca Sock (60% alpaca 20% merino 20% nylon) in solid Sapphire, DROPS Delight (75% superwash wool 25% polyamide) in graded grey-green and Shilasdair Luxury DK (20% cashmere 40% angora 40% British merino) in a variegated green shade called ‘Wild Sage’ and dyed using natural extracts of Skye Tansy and Indigo. My entire purchase cam to just over £18.
I’m already itching to go back as there were many, many yarns left behind that I would love to make a home for and I am delighted to hear from Amy that they are already taking steps to put the shop stock online from this Spring. This won’t stop me from visiting in person, despite the distance from home, as the experience of purchasing yarn was so much heightened by the friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The snug is available for anyone to use, whether for knitting, crochet, spinning or parent and child groups with tea/ cakes laid on if advance warning is given for the modest sum of £3.50/ person. Mondays & Friday ‘s 2-6pm is the regular time for the drop-in knitting & crochet group and many evening and weekend knitting courses are offered. They are also child friendly with felt-making courses throughout the upcoming half-term holidays.
Big thank you to Kat for taking the photo’s of Nest on her phone when I realised that I had left my camera at home!