SPIN A YARN
When Joyce Mason took in three orphaned lambs on her farm, little did she know that it would lead to her opening her own Devon yarn shop. Penny Batchelor hears her story
Devon’s inspiring yarn store
BOVEY TRACEY is a rural gateway town to Dartmoor in Devon, and is home to Joyce Mason’s shop Spin A Yarn. Named after Joyce’s love of spinning, a hobby she took up to make use of the fleece from her three adopted lambs, the shop is an award-winning yarn store in the South West.
For Joyce, however, running her own yarn shop hadn’t been a lifelong dream. It was only when she and her family went on holiday to New Zealand, and her daughters fell in love with locally spun and dyed skeins of merino-kid mohair, that her lightbulb moment occurred. She taught her daughters to knit, and it was they who suggested she open a shop – if they couldn’t find the yarns they fell in love with on holiday in the UK, then why shouldn’t their mother sell them?
Spin A Yarn opened for business in July 2006, and three years later moved to its current, larger premises in Bovey Tracey. Here, the team runs knitting groups and workshops, and offers customers a well-received complementary hot drink. Over the years, Joyce and her friendly Spin A Yarn team have also treated visitors to a number of knitwear fashion shows featuring designers such as Martin Storey, Louisa Harding, Sasha Kagan, Alison Crowther-Smith and Debbie Bliss.
Joyce is fascinated by natural yarns and, she says, has no interest in plain acrylics. “I love fine merino, silk and buttery-soft baby alpaca, and am tempted by these quality fibres from all around the world. I’m also attracted to unusual fibres and have bought those made from soya bean, banana fibre and sugarcane.”
Alongside well-known British yarn brands such as Rowan, Debbie Bliss and West Yorkshire Spinners, the store also stocks those New Zealand yarns that inspired Joyce to open a yarn store: Rare Yarns NZ, an 80% alpaca and 20% merino blend, and Touch Yarns NZ, offering customers a choice of skeins spun from merino, possum and mohair.
Another rare yarn that tempts customers to the Bovey Tracey shop is the 4ply Arctic Qiviut. It’s the inner wool of the musk ox, an arctic mammal. Qiviut is stronger and warmer than sheep’s wool, and is said to be softer than cashmere. It certainly doesn’t come cheap, at more than £80 for a skein, but Spin A Yarn nd offers buyers a free Arctic Circle Cowl pattern designed by Anniken Allis exclusively for the yarn. The 100% Qiviut skeins come in three colours: Glacier Blue, Arctic Meadow and Lupine. One for your yarn bucket list!
For Joyce, her Devon location is very important. “People come to Devon to be inspired by the natural beauty which surrounds us here, and that is reflected in the natural beauty of the yarns we stock. Being situated in Bovey Tracey is equally important… every year the Contemporary Craft Fair comes to town, which is one of the biggest, most acclaimed craft events in the country.”
Twice a year Spin A Yarn offers new season products. Says Joyce: “British yarns are rapidly becoming more important again, with finer-quality yarns such as West Yorkshire Spinners Exquisite being spun in this country. Bluefaced Leicester is still one of the most desirable yarns in the world, and UK alpaca fleece has a wonderful quality.”
As for colours, Spin A Yarn customers particularly love mixtures of blue, teal and green, and shades of grey, Joyce reports. “Bright pops of colour such as mustard yellow, red and cyclamen also sell well,” she says. “The deep-dyed Malabrigo mixes are especially close to everyone’s heart.”
Joyce stresses that the expertise of her team makes Spin A Yarn different from other yarn shops. “Every member has their own particular talent – some are colour geniuses, others technical pros, or are great at ‘reading’ exactly what a customer needs,” she says. “All the staff have been knitting and/or crocheting for many years.” Local experts also provide classes. Long-standing workshop favourites include the professional finishing techniques class from Claire Crompton (author of The
Knitter’s Bible), and Anniken Allis’s Fair Isle and steeking classes. “Our crochet and spinning workshops sell out very fast, too, as people just love to learn new skills.”
This year will see a big change to Spin A Yarn as, after 12 years, Joyce Mason is retiring and the business is in the process of getting a new owner. “You will have to watch this space to see where they take Spin A Yarn!” says Joyce. What’s for sure is that the person who takes over will have a hard act to follow.
The shop has many visitors, including these local alpacas!