First up is Nikki Small, who runs Ewe Felty Thing in Llandudno. Nikki stocks Cat & Sparrow UK hand-dyed yarn and batts, and her shop is a fibre and yarn cornucopia.
So, Nikki, the $64,000 question. What made you want to open a yarn shop?
I have wanted a yarn shop for over 10 years now. I have always loved visiting yarn shops, and it's my idea of heaven. I'd been doing various things that were wool-related for a while, and selling things that I had made, but was getting into dyeing yarn when the opportunity arose to have some space at a local farm park. I got to the point of going to put in furniture when the owner changed their mind and I was completely devastated... however, that old saying of 'everything happens for a reason' really was true. One of my friends ran a shop where she already sold some of my products, and so I went in to talk to her about having a bit more space, and it turned out that she was looking for someone to sublet her back room. The timing was such a coincidence that I had to go for it, and it was absolutely amazing! I loved my little back room shop so much! Things went so well that 6 months later, when the lady running the shop needed to take a step back, I was in a position to be able to take over the entire shop, and now have my very own proper grown-up wool shop, Ewe Felty Thing, in Llandudno. It's my happy place, and I never feel like I'm coming to work!
How long have you been a knitter/spinner/crocheter/felter/all of the above?
Ooh, a long time! I started knitting properly when I was about 18. I had glandular fever and was very poorly, and my aunt and uncle were having a baby, so with some help from my mum I knitted a babygrow/sleeping bag out of snuggly fluffy yarn, and that was it - I was hooked! I have been crocheting (very poorly, mainly plain double crochet!) since about then as well, but have recently got more into it and can now happily follow patterns. I started learning to spin about 10 years ago, with a drop spindle which was given to me by a friend who knew how much I was enjoying knitting. It took me a while to get into it and properly get the hang of it, but I really love it and relish being able to go from fibre to finished object! I felt as well, and that was something I was introduced to about 5 years ago. My children were at school near Hereford, and I was lucky enough to be invited by some of the other mums to a felting class that took place weekly, funded by the Hereford County Council as one of their 'continuing learning' enterprises. I turned up and was absolutely in my element! I don't think I can imagine not having a wool craft in my life, and I love that there are so many different things that you can do, so you can never get bored! It's quite the opposite - there are far too many things to do than there are hours in the day!
What’s your favourite thing about your shop? What do you think your customers like about it?
My 'colour wall' is probably the favourite bit of the shop. I stock yarns from 17 different hand dyers, and they are all displayed on a mahoosive set of bookshelves along one side of the shop. I love arranging and rearranging them and spending time choosing what to use for projects. The customers really love it as well. They can see it from the window and it leads them into the shop, and it can be a bit overwhelming with all the choice!
How do you choose what yarns to stock? It must be mind boggling!
Ah, that's actually been quite easy so far! Because I mainly stock hand-dyed yarns, the quality is almost always brilliant. When I was first about to open, I contacted a few hand dyers through forums and asked whether anyone would be interested in having their yarns in my shop, and was completely bowled over by the response. After that, I've been lucky enough to meet new dyers, local artisans etc who have all wanted to be involved as well.
What’s your yarn philosophy? What does yarn mean to you?
The yarn in my shop is all of a quality that I am proud to stock, and that it is a joy to craft with. There is a place for acrylic and mass-produced, however, it isn't in my shop. I like to support smaller producers as I think that the quality of the yarn is much better, I know if merino is used, then it isn't from mulesed flocks, I have several dyers that use British wool, which supports the local farmers as well. I think that we should be using much more wool than acrylic for a huge number of reasons, not least being that environmentally it is sooo much better. Wool is also better for us, being able to keep us both cool or warm, it can be lanolised (putting the sheep's own natural lanolin back into the yarn) to make it waterproof, which is brilliant for outerwear or for covers for cloth nappies, it's biodegradable, and it hangs and wears in a far more beautiful way than plastic yarns do. So yes - all about quality, uniqueness and proper wool in this shop!!
What would you like people to know about your shop?
That we're fun, friendly, full of fibre, and usually have cake!!