Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Whitby and Some Holiday Shopping (Because You Can Never Have Too Much Souvenir Yarn) . . .

One of the things I loved about Whitby was the uniqueness of its shops.  Aside from a Costa, a Boots and a few supermarket chains, all of the stores in the main historical centre were independents and it gave the whole area a wonderful vibrancy; the shop windows just kept enticing you in for a closer look.

Interestingly, my first sighting of yarn occurred in the little village of Staithes.  There was a tiny, cozy yarn shop at the end of the main street (although I can't find any mention of them on the internet to link to), but although I was very tempted by some lovely colourways of Noro, what I really wanted was something British and unique to the area,  and this shop mostly sold American yarn and acrylic blends. 

But keep searching and ye shall find wool!  Following my fibre instincts, I saw a sign for a crafts market up a side street.  This led to a lovely little courtyard and a room full of lovely local handicrafts including photography and textiles.

And in a large basket, I found some Shetland wool, hand-dyed by Phillippa Joad of Wheeldale Woolcrafts. These two earthy skeins came home with me.

Staithes has long attracted artists, drawn to the scenery and the beautiful light in the town.  One of my favourite artists - Laura Knight - had a studio in Staithes, in the early 20th century,  not that you'd know it;  the only plaques around are for James Cook who apprenticed here as a teenager. Nevertheless, there are a few contemporary galleries to browse in and I came across the work (and the artist himself) Ian Mitchell, whose landscapes of the Yorkshire coast and countryside  I like very much.  I bought a few cards and would like to buy and frame some of his prints one day.

And in Whitby itself  I happened to pass a Wholefoods store, almost hidden, tucked away in a small alley . . .

. . . and did a double-take when I looked closer in the store window.

And so I discovered Propagansey! Now I did know that Whitby was a great place to explore the tradition of ganseys - the patterned jumpers that fishermen wore to keep them warm, but also to identify them if the worst happened out at sea.  Once a year in Robin Hood's Bay, there's an exhibition of dozens of these ganseys.  Alas, it wasn't happening while we were in the area, but the shop did sell gansey 5ply worsted 100% British wool from Frangipani (a new wool to me, but it's great that they sell by the cone as well as by the skein) and some gansey patterns. The colourway I got was Falmouth navy which is a very deep navy with a bit of green in it, I think.  It's really lovely.

It was then off to Bobbins which also specializes in gansey kits; their gansey patterns are only sold with the yarn to make them.  Unfortunately they were actually sold out of all their gansey wool, but they also offer patterns that can be knit in a shrinkable denim cotton, similar to Rowan's denim yarn.

Here are some of them displayed on their walls, all named after local places.

I bought a pattern called Scarborough and a giant cone of dark black cotton in which to knit it someday.

Whitby also has the most wonderful independent bookshop; the type that sadly continues to disappear from most towns and cities.  It even has a spiral staircase going up to the first floor.  I bought a biography of Laura Knight by Barbara Morden.

You also can't escape the many shops selling Whitby jet, which I learned is fossilised pieces of the monkey puzzle tree.  Who knew? I previously thought it was a type of rock.  I really wanted a nice pendant but everything I looked at just didn't appeal. They were nice pieces, but nothing special.  Until I popped into The Ebor Jet Works.  You can see the workshop the minute you walk through the door and I knew this was the right place to find something truly unique by a local artist. As I was talking to the proprietor, he told me that while they were committed to only using jet from Whitby (they hire beachcombers to search the shorelines for the rough pieces which they then polish and turn into jewellery), many of the larger companies import it from cheaper sources around the world.

On one of the shelves at the back of the studio was a selection of necklaces and earrings with "Coast to Coast Souvenir" written on the accompanying tag.  The Coast to Coast walk, which I did three years ago,  doesn't end up in Whitby, but further south at Robin Hood's Bay.  But you certainly get a glimpse of Whitby in one of the last legs.  Ebor uses slate from the Honister Mine near Borrowdale in the Lake District, which you walk past on one of the early stages, along with the Whitby jet to create a very simple but beautiful necklace.  I love it!

Finally, on the drive home from Whitby we made a short detour to the Yorkshire Lavender Farm. Even though the plants weren't at their peak of bloom and fragrance, it was still an interesting place to visit.  There's a shop selling lots of lavender products,  a cafe where I had a lovely slice of lemon and lavender cake, and a small garden centre where I bought three different types of lavender; they are currently potted and though small now, I'm eager to see how they grow and the different variations in colour promised by the leaves and blossoms. And I can't seem to get over my current purple obsession.

And that was all. . . honestly!

1 comment:

Sallyann said...

I've been thinking about going to Whitby for years and not quite got round to it. I am now going to make it a mission to go it looks and sounds gorgeous. Thanks for the lovely and inspiring writing.