Postcard from... Crawshawbooth

Which of us hasn't dreamed of owning our own trendy yarn shop in a thriving location? When I invited different Makers to tell me about how their location has influenced their crafts, today's guest had me nodding and chucking to myself. Joanne Columbine is living the dream... but it's not at all how she imagined it would be. Her postcard, from a small village* in the North of England, tells her story. 

Wool shops come in all shapes and sizes: from metropolitan chic to traditional high street. Cards on the table, when I dreamt about running my own place, I thought it would be the former. In my mind’s eye I could see those polished hardwood floors, pristine white shelving piled high with locally sourced, pure wool and delicious cotton fibre, independent patterns in regimented box files and a chalkboard heralding a busy programme of Tunisian crochet classes, sock heel variants and perhaps a darning workshop or two. I could see myself wafting around in designer duds and arranging pastel roses for the counter. In short, I guess I dreamt of owning Loop

On a short visit to London last year I dragged my poor, uncomprehending husband through their door and spent a good 45 minutes oohing and aahing before buying three balls of their (cheapest) 4 ply and single ball of sock yarn. It is a good shop. Expensive mind, especially for a visitor from t’North of t’Country.

The streets are steep around here! 
Then Mid-2015 saw me hospitalised and living through a bunch of family changes: when recovered I began to think a wee bit more seriously about grasping the nettle and committing to a yarnshop of my own. And one day, my husband brought a little advertisement to my attention: a wool shop, for sale, 20 minutes drive from our home town. Tah dah! Reader, I bought the shop. 

It’s not Loop. It’s weeny, carpeted and mostly furnished from Ikea. As a going concern it had plied a deeply traditional trade in acrylic and baby yarns and my early impulse was to change all that. But good sense prevailed and I decided that I would get to know my shop and its customers first, and maybe change things slowly. I’m so glad I did. Ten months down the line, I am loving my little shop and beginning to really appreciate the value of its role in local life. 

Summer Garden Blanket (find it here)
And I’m realising something else too: I’m probably as guilty as the next yarn-addict of occasionally getting too stuck on ‘stuff’ (just have look at my stash) and, as much as I like pure wool fibre, artisan dye lots, pretty rosewood needles and designer labels, it’s the pure love of crafting and hand-skills that are the most important things to me.


And it’s true of my customers too: they do want good quality yarn for their projects, but they also want good value. Many are eking out a pension, some are simply unused to spending money on themselves after years of ‘making do’. They have busy daughters or granddaughters who won’t be hand washing pure wool baby clothes in Lux flakes, and the idea of spending a months supermarket money on sweater yarn is beyond comprehension. And because I have grown to love and respect them, I think that is quite right. My customers are making beautiful things for their loved ones using the yarn they can afford and that’s just fine by me. And meanwhile, I’ve had top-quality conversations, and wonderful moments, valued insights into local life and the opportunity to take part in making special things. Call me a old softy, but I don’t miss that Northern version of Loop one little bit.

Me, at the Clog Market

*Crawshawbooth - in Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley. It’s a pretty little village nestled in the bottom of valley with a lots of churches for its size, a prize winning butchers that has a street side window onto the, um, butchering room, and its own microclimate. Neat terraced houses climb up precipitous hillsides and in summer its enveloped in green.  Nearby there’s a traditional small market town - Rawtenstall. I’m pictured with our “on the road” version of the Village Wool Shop at the Clog Market - a monthly outdoor market in the square, we’ve taken a stall there a couple of times.

You can read more from Joanne on her website, or Facebook, or you can pop into the shop for a natter! If you want to see other posts in this series, click here. You can also join in with your own 'postcard' on Instagram - simply use #makerspostcards and tag me, @craftsfromthecwtch

7 comments

  1. Oh I love this postcard! Joanne you are living your dreams and how special is that? I love that you decided to cater to your clientele when the obvious desire was to break away. I was a single Mum of 3 for many years before meeting my now Husband. I know that feeling all too well of making do, putting the kids first, and buying what was affordable and easy to get. Until I discovered online shopping I only ever used a cheap acrylic available at the local supermarket. Living in a small seaside town in country South Australia there weren't any other options. We make do with what we can get but we make beauty from it. Thanks Sarah for sharing this story!

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    1. I'm really glad you enjoyed it, Amanda. I think Joanne's story is one that many of us relate to.

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  2. Sometimes the reality turns out more rewarding than the dream! How wonderful that Crawshawbooth has its Village Wool Shop. Promise to call in next time 'Up North'.

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  3. What a great story, she's making us all very jealous I think, haha.
    xo Carmen

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  4. I didn't expect to read about Crawshawbooth when I came here this morning! I grew up not far away and went to Rangers there.

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