Thursday, 28 April 2016

A Model Yarn Shop and A Model Village. . .

There are yarn stores that you enter and immediately feel at home.  The Liverpud and I were in Oxford last weekend visiting his cousin and in my never ending quest to check out new yarn sources wherever I go, I knew I had to take the opportunity to visit the Oxford Yarn Store.

It's located about a ten minute walk from the centre of town on a small side street called North Parade Avenue that has other independent shops and cafes. There was a market on too when we visited.

This shop may not be the largest I've been in, but for its size, it is extremely well stocked with lots of lovely skeins.  Plenty of British yarns are represented - West Yorkshire Spinners, John Arbon, Jamiesons, and some local spun alpaca. They also carry Rowan. Isager, Malabrigo, Noro and Sweet Georgia Fibres among many other brands and a good selection of books and knitting magazines.  I had a lovely chat with the owner (who lived in Canada for ten years), and she seems to have created a vibrant knitting community around her store. There are some excellent workshops on offer so do check out their website if you live nearby.

I was quite restrained - I bought some Rowan Pure Linen which was on sale as it's being discontinued. I've heard great things about how the yarn knits up so am eager to try it in a garment.  Perhaps even the one on the cover of the book I also bought.  Classic Knits is an older book by Marianne Isager, but she's a designer that I've long admired and some of the designs in this book are gorgeous.  She likes to use two yarns held together for many of the patterns and since I have quite a bit of laceweight in my stash, this might be a good opportunity to use some of it up.

Of course there are other things to do in Oxford as well. This was the Liverpud's first visit so I gave him a bit of a walking tour after a lunch of yummy Pieminster pies in the Covered Market.

Nearly fifteen years ago, I spent three weeks at Oxford taking a Continuing Education Literature Course.  For an anglophile, I was in heaven.  I stayed in Exeter College and my room was at the top of a tower. I had to write two papers (one on Woolf, the other on Austen) and so I spent many glorious hours in the Bodleian Library which remains one of my favourite places in the world. 

I suggested that we climb up the tower of St. Mary's Church.

For one of the best views of the city and Radcliffe Camera.

We also took a walk along the river and had an absolutely delicious meal at the Red Lion pub.

On the drive home, I suggested stopping at Bourton-On-The-Water, a picturesque village known as the "Venice of the Cotswolds".  Near the carpark is The Bourton Basket which caters to all sorts of crafts - quilting, needlepoint, peg weaving.  Most of their yarn is acrylic although they do sell a selection of West Yorkshire Spinners.

But I did spy some local yarn in their window.  These balls come from Portland sheep which are one of the oldest breeds in the UK, mixed with some Black Welsh Mountain.  The flock is part of the nearby Armscote Manor and the shop owner told me the woman who raises them donates all the profits to charity.  She just wants to support the breed.  From the ball squish it seems to be a very strong and robust yarn.

This is the village of Bourton-on-the-Water.  Not the actual one, but a 1/9th scale model, first built in 1937.  I thought it was absolutely delightful.

Over the years they have tried to update the model by adding actual stores in the real village.

I love how the stone has aged; it just adds to the realism.

Since it is a model of the village, it naturally had to include itself, so here is the entrance to the display, in 1/9th scale.

With a model village within the model village.

And a model village within the model village within the model village.

I felt the real Bourton-on-the-Water was a bit of a letdown after that.

There was lots of bunting leftover from the Queen's birthday.

But apart from a very nice bakery, an interesting church and the stone bridges over the River Windrush, I can't say there was much tempting me to linger.  It felt to me like an artificially constructed tourist version of what an idealised Cotswold village should look like, even though the village has been around for centuries.  Perhaps it was all the stuff being sold in the stores that was 'Made in China' and the lack of any real attempt to showcase anything authentically British.  Which was a little sad.  I loved the model village though!

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