Over the weekend, I had a really delightful (if far too short) visit to good friends who live in Devon. My friend and fellow knitting enthusiast Grace had been promising me she had some good yarn shops to introduce me when I next visited. We only had time for one shop, so we made it a good one: Wool on the Exe in Exeter.
We ventured out on a very gray and rainy Saturday and were met with a cozy and delightful shop, filled with friendly people whose enthusiasm for knitting was palpable. My first impression of the shop was of abundance–there was lovely yarn in every nook and cranny!
The shop is focused on yarns from British companies. There were some familiar-to-me brands, like West Yorkshire Spinners, Fyberspates, and Coop Knits, as well as some really lovely handdyed skeins, including some striking yarn dyed by local dyers and some skeins from RiverKnits, whose yarn I’ve been eyeing up for quite some time. As much as I love some good handdyed sock yarn though, I resisted … I’ve got so many single skeins, waiting to become socks or accessories!
As I was browsing, I half heard Mr. N (who had gamely come along) chatting with the people working in the shop and kept catching snippets of the conversation, something about “not-for-profit” and “community” — I was intrigued, but also distracted by yarn browsing! After his chat, Mr. N came over to me and excitedly started telling me about the really cool work that the shop does. They’re not for profit, so the money they make goes back into the community. The shop also runs knit groups and workshops. At the same time, they’re committed to supporting local artists and makers and British yarn — all so cool! (You can read a little more about their work here) Even from our short visit, I really got the impression that the shop was a vibrant place to be–a class was on while we visited and customers were in and out!
After browsing a bit, I zeroed in on some local and new-to-me yarn. I had first been tempted by some of the lovely range of handspun they had in the shop. I’d then been excited by some 4-ply Cambrian Wool from Wales, which I’ve admired online but never seen in the flesh (fleece, more like!). But then I’d spied Exmoor Horn Wool, a blend of 70% Exmoor Hoor and 30% BFL cross, produced in partnership between the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders’ Society and Exmoor National Park. I’ve never knit with Exmoor Horn wool so was immediately intrigued and started pulling down colors, trying to think about what they could become.
After finally picking two plump 100 gram balls, I headed to the counter, and started chatting with Ella, who is the shop’s Development Coordinator, about my plans for the Exmoor Horn Wool and my love of visiting new shops (and writing about them) and finding new-to-me local wool. At which point Ella asked if I’d seen John Arbon’s Devonia. And oh my. I’d noticed they stocked John Arbon (who are based in Devon) and had seen the lovely Knit by Numbers … but I had totally missed the Devonia, which was in some of the cubbies nearer the back of the shop. The yarn is a blend of of Exmoor Blueface, Devon Blueface, and Devon Wensleydale … and the colors are just stunning. From the looks of it, the base yarn is not pure white, so the palette has the richness and depth that comes from dyeing on a not entirely white base. I was completely taken with the rich, jewel like shades. In my state of happy overwhelm–brought on by being in a busy shop surrounded by so much pretty wool–I just couldn’t decide what to get. First, I picked two shades (a dark piney green and rose shade) and thought I might try them for some sort of colorwork socks. I then decided I’d be more reasonable and just get a single skein of the pine-y color for some socks for Mr. N. Then (on Mr. N’s urging, I might add), somehow four skeins were in my arms, the pine, the pink, a rust, and a mustard (no surprises there!) and I was about to ring them up. At which point, I realized things were getting a little out of hand and that this was a yarn that deserved a proper and considered plan. And Grace kindly volunteered to pop back and pick up some Devonia for me when I’ve figured out what I want it to become.
So in the end, I came away with these two lovely balls of Exmoor Horn Wool ( I’ve been sketching ideas for a hat and mitten set for them today), and this lovely print by Caroline Austin .. a completely unplanned purchase, but I couldn’t leave it. I love the moment it captures: the quiet and complete focus on a knitting project.
Summing up thoughts: an awesome shop, stocking a really wide range of British yarns at a great range price points … some of which I think you’d be hard pressed to find at any other shop. If you find yourself in the Exeter area, I would definitely encourage you to visit … it was just filled with lovely yarn,and better yet, lovely people. And if visiting isn’t in the cards, they’ve also got an online shop — with such a cool community mission, it’s a shop well worth supporting. And they also have a really pretty Instagram feed (with some better lit photos than I’ve managed here!)
Big thanks to Grace and Kate for planning a visit to the shop and to Ella for taking the time to show me some of the wool gems I otherwise would have missed. It was probably a good thing that I didn’t realize til later that Ella was Ella Austin, whose colorwork accessories and toys I have admired for ages! I would have fan-girled in a way that probably would have been just a bit embarrassing … but then again, I could have asked her yarn and color recommendations for a Fancy Hen, Herbaceous socks, or a Spruce Hat .. all patterns I’ve long had in my favorites! As with all things about our whirlwind trip to Devon, I only wish I could have stayed longer, chatted more, and taken in more of the lovely yarn. A return visit is definitely in order!
What did you get up to this weekend? I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from our trip … the sun didn’t peek it’s head out once until Sunday morning, but when it did, we had a lovely stroll on the beach!