I’ve been sorting out my stash in preparation for Wonderwool. And no, I’m not buying a single skein. Not one. No way. Nothing. Nada. But one area of purchasing is exempt from my self-imposed ban, and that is charity shops.
They’re a bit like Wonderwool, in that you can’t brood on a purchase and go back because whatever you were meditating on will have been snapped up by somebody else.
Unlike Wonderwool, charity shops have a tendency towards nasty acrylic and eyelash yarns, but underneath all that stuff you might find some gems. Take the cream and brown cottons in the cushion above, for instance. The cream is Pingouin 8 fils, heaven only knows how old but absolutely fine, and the brown is Rowan Handknit Cotton, ditto. I have to confess that the Rowan only cost me 10p a ball, but that was then. I’ve changed since, and so have charity shops.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine asked me to take a much-loved Harris tweed jacket to a cancer charity shop where I helped out (our family have cancer like some families have big noses). He also had cancer so the jacket no longer fitted, and he thought the charity could use the cash. It was priced up, put out and snapped up immediately by a youngish male visitor to the area. I was incredulous when I saw the price that had been put on it, and he saw my expression. ‘I know,’ he said, ‘it’s ridiculous for Harris tweed.’ So I seized the chance, held out our tin and he put a couple of £20 notes in the slot. That taught me. Now if I find something fab which really is priced too low, I add something extra.
Mind you, some charity shops have people in them who know what they’re doing – like a member of our Knitting Natterers who works in one. She called me one day, as they’d had a donation. The manager didn’t know what it was and was poised to put it in the rag bag (!), but she knew better.
About three kilos of merino roving, mostly undyed cream, but with several hundred grams in black as well.
I bought the lot, together with the other spinner in our group. Well, you just have to.
That shop, and that friend, was also responsible for this gem. Admittedly she didn’t call me this time; I found it hiding under the acrylic in the wool basket. But it was realistically priced, because she had noticed that it was 100% cashmere and in perfect condition:
The colour isn’t brilliantly accurate here, but it’s certainly brilliant in reality. And there’s a whole cone of it. Yum!
You often find cones, or at least I do round here. They are generally, however, weaving quality wool – tough stuff for the warp. But every so often, as with the cashmere, there’s something else. This next find was a perfectly normal-sized cone, but of fine 4-ply cotton.
When I wound it off (and I wish now that I hadn’t, but at the time I was intending to use it immediately and wanted to see how much I’d got), I discovered that there were over 2000 metres – so it’s just as well I like the colour. Because of its fineness, I can envisage it in a vintage pattern, and of course charity shops are a source of those too.
Again, you have to pick through the big shoulder pads, intarsia and fluff of 1980s patterns, and pick your way through mountains of dyspeptic-looking baby ones, but every so often there’s a reward.
Mind you, you don’t always want to knit them up…
But I think the prize actually belongs to a non-knitting friend of mine who didn’t realise what she’d found, thought it was nice wool and that I would like it for my birthday. She was right on the nail there. And of course she knew it was beautifully coloured, and lovely and soft, but she didn’t know about Colinette.
Three hanks of Colinette super-chunky, yummy bulky Point 5 yarn which she found in the Red Cross Shop in a neighbouring town.
Gobsmacked, I went to Colinette – they’re comparatively close, and I happened to be passing, honest – and added a couple more hanks intending to make a sweater, but I didn’t wear it in the end (just too bulky). So I unravelled it and made a throw for the sofa. And I love it.
Of course, it’s not just me, or her. I wonder what treasures other people have found?