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Friday, 7 June 2013

OUT AND ABOUT - visit to The new-look Knitting Hut

A stunning display with our very own Kerstin Kimono
For a knitter with a serious yarn-habit, I count myself VERY unfortunate that I don't have a local yarn shop in my town. Like many knitters, I rue the 1980's that saw the fast decline in our crafts and the disappearance of the local haberdashers, fabric and wool shops that had been a part of every shopping 'parade' across the UK.

Of course, the huge and splendid craft revival that has been gathering pace over the last decade has happily seen an increase in a new brand of yarn boutique. You know the kind of shop I mean - one where you can lose yourself for a good few hours just stroking the fibre, delighting in the array of beautiful colours and contemplating the plethora of projects that will fly from your needles. And it's this kind of shop that it's worth spending an hour (or two) in the car to visit. Hence, my travelling for the requisite hour last Saturday to take a trip to Woburn Sands and the newly, beautifully revamped Knitting Hut.

Sue Stratford, owner and knitter/designer came to meet me at the shop, and told me that The Knitting Hut has been open now for 7 years. I remember visiting the shop around 5 years ago, on my quest to visit one of the new-wave of yarn shops stocking unusual, luxury yarns. I came home with a lovely Knitting Hut branded shopper stuffed full of Mission Falls 1824 Cotton to make my best friend a blanket - a yarn that is now sadly discontinued.

7 years on, Sue has not only created a destination yarn shop with a lively following of dedicated knitters, but has also transformed herself into a knitting celebrity! You will probably know her best for her super-cute knitted toys - Knitted Meerkats, released in early 2012 which saw her rise to the top five of the Amazon bestsellers chart and swiftly followed this year by Knitted Cats and Kittens. I took the opportunity to ask Sue a few questions whilst I was there, and, ahem . . . making my purchases . . .

1) What have you got on the needles at the moment?
An Eyelet Cardigan in Hemp, just cast off a toy reindeer which I am taking to America with me to promote Merry Christmas Sweaters (due out in time for Christmas this year), just casting on a cardigan in Skein Queen Grandiose based on a sweater design from the book, various socks, a pair of wristies . . . oh, and a knitted dog for my next book . . . that is all I will admit to at the moment!

2) Your Knitted Meerkats and Cats and Kittens books have been incredibly successful. Tell us a bit about how you came to design knitted toys.
I never expected to end up designing, let alone three dimensional toys. I haven't had any formal training, everything I have learned is though experience (lots of knitting) and trial and error. I started designing to promote yarns in the shop that weren't selling too well. I just call it making up patterns. I also love seeing a ball of wool and knowing in my mind what I could do with it. I made up a pattern for some toy mice which I then sold as a kit at The Knitting &Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and was spotted by Search Press. The Editorial Director approached me and asked if I would be interested in writing a book and it has just gone from there.

3) My next question is linked to the last one - what are the next cute toys destined to make it into a book?
I am really enjoying the next book, it is 'Knitted Dogs and Puppies' and as we have just had a new addition to our family, a Scottish Terrier puppy called Hetty, I have lots of inspiration. I know what I am going to knit for the book but all I have to do now is find the time!

4) What's the best thing about owning a yarn shop?
There are so many good things about owning a yarn shop, not least having access to all that woolly loveliness . . .  I can buy what I want and feel justified, I have made some fantastic friends and the shop is a great network, the support I have from my customers never fails to amaze me - they are fantastic. I suppose the very best thing has to be the opportunities I have had because of the shop. When I opened it I never expected to be going to America to promote knitting pattern books - that's just amazing!

5) What is your favourite MillaMia yarn and pattern?
My favourite Millamia colour has to be Putty, I LOVE IT! As for a favourite pattern, the one I can't wait to do for me is the Kerstin Striped Kimono from Colour Coded. We are lucky enough to have it as a display garment in the shop at the moment and it is stunning. As far as the children's patterns go I love the Emil Babygrow from Bright Young Things - the splash of colour up the front is lovely and of course it uses my favourite colour.

The Kerstin Striped Kimono and the Emil Babygrow and Teddy Blanket

6) Your shop looks so inviting and super suave now that its had its refit - you've been open for 7 years but how has it changed in that time?
Thank you for your lovely comments about the shop. I opened the shop in February 2006 and over the years it has had a number of different layouts. That settee is used to being moved around! I remember when I opened it felt very spacious and then very soon I was making mini shelves to slot in to create more space to wedge even more yarn in. I am hoping we have got the spacious feel back now and made the shop lighter and brighter. The second settee has been a very popular addition and is proving to be great for the workshops and knitting groups.

7) Tell us something unusual about yourself.
Well, when I tell people I have five children it is always a conversation point. It means I have a very hectic life but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Knitting Hut can be found in a friendly high street amongst some lovely clothes boutiques, and plenty of places to eat (we found the food at The Swan was excellent!) Sue and Heather are always happy to help you out with your knitting supplies and questions - take a trip to see them or you can call them on 01908 586244.

65, High Street
Woburn Sands
MK17 8QY

(posted by Max)

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