Home » Blog » Meet the Yarn Shop Owner

Category: Meet the Yarn Shop Owner

sealy macwheely and friend standing in front of a colourful wall of yarn in a yarn shop

Meet the Yarn Shop Owner – Sealy MacWheely

Welcome to the second feature where I celebrate my lovely stockists. This time it’s the turn of Katie from Sealy MacWheely, whose exuberant approach to colour and texture I’ve admired for years.  I’m delighted she’s chosen to stock my hand-dyed yarns in her shop in Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow.

What made you want to open a yarn shop?

The full story of how I fell into spinning involves a bag of alpaca poo and a boring summer during my time at university. (Note from me – that’s a story I need to hear one day).  That being said, the yarn shop dream in its current form was envisioned only a couple of years ago as an epiphany whilst suffering from the flu. I envisioned a space which celebrates the beauty of handmade and local crafts and is welcoming to everybody with an interest in yarn and fibre, irrespective of proficiency.

It took a lot of hard work getting from that point to where I am now, juggling my own small business with a full-time job, but it was definitely the spark that lit the touch paper. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and looking around the shop today it almost doesn’t feel real!

How long have you been a knitter/spinner/crocheter/felter/all of the above?

Like many crafters, I was first taught to knit by my beloved Grandma as a child but I barely managed more than a basic garter stitch square before giving up my needles for a few years. At age 19 whilst at uni I discovered the drop spindle and never looked back. That was nearly ten years ago now and I have since added weaving and occasional felting to my repertoire. My return to knitting has been quite gradual over the last decade but it’s impossible to be surrounded by so much beautiful yarn on a daily basis without being inspired. Crochet, however, has been a very recent addition and so far I can manage granny squares but cannot for the life of me read a pattern!

What’s your favourite thing about your shop?  What do you think your customers like about it?

Hands down the thing I love most about my shop is the brightness and variety of the colours! It’s the first thing most of my customers comment on too so I imagine they share the same sentiment. I find it fascinating how each dyer has their own distinct style and colourways, each one is so different and unique!

How do you choose what yarns to stock?  It must be mind boggling!

Sealy MacWheely is a bit unusual for an LYS in that I exclusively stock hand dyed or local yarns. I am really proud of the fact that I met each of my makers in person prior to opening the shop, mainly at festivals, and would describe each of them as a friend. We are so lucky to have such an amazing community of indie dyers and craftspeople in the UK and really the only pre-requisite for being included in the shop is that they are all lovely (and talented) people.

What’s your yarn philosophy? What does yarn mean to you?

I am first and foremost a spinner, it is the fibre itself which drew me towards yarn and I am fascinated by the full process of producing a finished garment from a pile of smelly, greasy fluff. The sense of accomplishment you feel after making something from scratch is irreplaceable and although I no longer have the time to fully process a fleece on a regular basis I am now hooked on every element of yarn creation.

What would you like people to know about your shop?

Sealy MacWheely is more than just a shop, it is a community space that is welcome to all, irrespective of skill, experience, age, race, sexuality, religion or ability. Just say the word and I will have the kettle on and the biscuits out in the Knit’n’Natter room! The shop itself was partially funded through a successful Kickstarter Campaign and as such I think of it as being created by and for the Yarn-loving community!

 

Nikki Small and her family outside Ewe Felty Thing in Llandudno

Meet the Yarn Shop Owner – Ewe Felty Thing

Welcome to the first in an occasional series called ‘Meet the Yarn Shop Owner’.  This is where I introduce you to one of my stockists and ask them a few questions so you can get to know their yarn philosophy and general delightfulness.

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!!