Dateline: London, 6/28/08 - 7/6/08
I can imagine my knitting and beading friends thinking: All this travel stuff is ok, but what we really want to know is: What did you BUY? The truth is that I didn't have a lot of shopping time, because we were busy being tourists and seeing family and friends. And when I did have time for shopping, I was so tired that I didn't take full advantage. This is just as well, because I didn't go as overboard as I might have.
During our walk on the south bank of the Thames, I spotted a shop called Funki Fresh that sells beautiful machine-knit garments. After trying on some shrugs and thinking "I should knit something like this", I decided on a purple ruffled scarf that drapes beautifully.
My prize for the most unusual yarn store goes to Weardowny. When I arrived, there was a couch standing on end, between the gate and the main door. I managed to get in anyway and was greeted by friendly women and a friendly dog. There were knitted garments for sale and a small selection of yarn, mostly Rowan. They have knitting classes, and there's also a guest house upstairs. For class projects they have several patterns for sampler scarves. I couldn't resist buying a cute gift package of 2 skeins of yarn and small straight needles in a miniature hat box, plus the pattern for the lace sampler scarf, for 28 pounds. There was no way this was worth $56, but I was caught up in the charm of the place.
I found the yarn departments at two department stores, Liberty and John Lewis, not so easy until I figured out that it was listed under "haberdashery". John Lewis has a substantial yarn inventory, but the prices seemed a lot higher than for the same yarns in the U.S. Liberty's prices were even higher. Both stores had a 50% off sale on selected yarns. At John Lewis I bought some Rowan Kidsilk Night on sale for 3.75 pounds per skein, or about $7.50. I see that online U.S. prices are about $13 - $14, so I did get a bargain. Both stores also had some beads and other craft supplies. Liberty has always been one of my favorite stores. Outside it looks like a medieval castle, and inside the floors look down on a central atrium. The store has gorgeous fabric that always makes me wish that I sewed. There were also two non-department yarn stores on my list, but I didn't manage to get to either of them.
There are two bead stores within a block of each other in the Covent Garden area, London Bead Shop and The Bead Shop. Neither had anything that I couldn't find in the U.S. One was better than the other, although I've forgotten which! The better one had a good selection of seed beads and I bought some.
The new Swarovski Crystallized Cosmos and Lounge is trying hard to be hip and contemporary-looking. The beads are displayed in plastic drawers. The upstairs lounge serves champagne and fancy hors d'oeurvres, and had an exhibit of crystallized clothing.
Camden Town is a funky part of the city that borders on Regent's Canal, and is famous for its street markets. We spent a little time there with Jeffrey and Helene, looking for lunch and overwhelmed by the many food stalls. Later I went back by myself and bought this bag which is all a single zipper, and can be completely unzipped into a very long zipper. ("But why would you want to do that," Jeffrey asked when we first saw the booth. I don't really have an answer; I just thought it was nice and unique, and I have a bag stash that almost rivals my yarn and bead stashes.)