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

The Knitter - - Contents -

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!

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