Charity shopping

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.

Merino roving.

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?

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22 thoughts on “Charity shopping

  1. Jan Marriott

    Just returned from a trip to NZ….wonderful finds…not dirt cheap as Kiwis know their wool. Tons of roving, dyed and undyed, hand painted wool, vintage 3 ply from the 50s ( my favorite) even a spinning wheel for $25. Alas there was only so much I could bring home to Canada.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      They’re all there when you look hard enough (it’s getting past the eyelash yarn that’s the hard part – I hate that stuff)….

      Reply
      1. stitchcrazy

        Ha Ha…its fun sometimes though! LOL. Hard to work with, but people seem to go crazy over stuff made with novelty yarns more than something that you spent hours on with cables and beautiful yarn.

        Reply
        1. stitchcrazy

          I have no clue!!!! I guess they don’t realize how much time and work goes into the good stuff. 🙂 I must admit I’m using a fuzzy yarn to make bunny blankets for my kiddos. 😛

        2. kate Post author

          Yeah, I guess that’s it. When all those amazing yarns came out a few years ago they certainly got some people knitting, or they did round here, which is good. It was mostly the teenagers round here, or their mums, as they wanted scarves but couldn’t find/afford them already made up. And then scarves started appear-ing on market stalls everywhere… Wonder if any of those scarf knitters are still at it?

  2. islandthreads

    wonderful finds Kate, I still have sooo much from when I lived down south my excuse then was ‘well one day I will live in rural Scotland and won’t have the opportunity’, turnned out to be true too not much here, lots of recylcling among people here as with everything being brought in it’s all precious, bet that Colinette throw is cosy, Frances

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I love your excuse – and how true it turned out to be, so it’s just as well. I’m quite grateful that I didn’t manage to come up with that stash-enhancing logic when I left London (after twenty years), as I’d have been wrong. Admittedly at first the prospects weren’t promising, but the situation is much improved. And there’s always Wonderwool. No there isn’t. Not buying anything. Never heard of it. Not even going.

      Reply
      1. islandthreads

        I’d never heard of Wonderwool and thought it was a shop local to you, however curiosity got the better of me and I just did a search…………..now you’ve done it! and free P&P if I spend £30!!

        yesterday I was sorting out a very big drawer that is at the bottom of an old wordrobe you know the ones bigger than a baby crib, I have 2 just 2 pieces of fabric for the charity shop the rest has gone back in the drawer!!

        my poor children will have to sort this out one day, Frances

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          Well, there are two Wonderwools – one is the fabulous show Wonderwool Wales, and the other is the online shop with the bargains (check out their Rowan discounts – or maybe that should be DON’T check out their Rowan discounts). Online shopping is very, very, very bad indeed!

          Look at it this way – at least you’re two pieces of fabric down. It’s better than none, or – heaven forfend – an increase….

        2. kate Post author

          Well, there are two Wonderwools – one is the fabulous show Wonderwool Wales, and the other is the online shop with the bargains (check out their Rowan discounts – or maybe that should be DON’T check out their Rowan discounts). Online shopping is very, very, very bad indeed!

          Look at it this way – at least you’re two pieces of fabric down. It’s better than none, or – heaven forfend – an increase….

  3. Anne

    I just love charity shops and have had great finds there but I have to say never roving. Have you read the latest Spin Off re charity shop finds ? seems the world and his wife are now on to it so finds might get thinner on the ground LOL

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      The roving was fantastic – and thank heavens it didn’t end up in the rag bag! Plus with that amount of natural I can play with dyes and know I’m not messing up anything really vital… Haven’t seen the latest Spin Off – can I have a quick look at yours sometime?

      Reply
  4. del

    If only I had more time. I would LOVE to shop some of the thrift stores in my area. Even if I didn’t find such treasures, the shopping in itself would be a treat.

    Lovely yarn you scored there!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Well, if your thrift stores are anything like the UK’s charity shops, you do have to spend a bit of time rootling about. I’ve got quite good at speedy scanning and spotting, but that’s probably the result of long training in Paris ‘degriffé’ shops where there’s always something good underneath everything else (zooming in on a tiny piece of linen or silk at 30 metres, for instance)…

      Reply
  5. Annie

    I have *never* found a decent knit related bargain in a thrift/charity store here. Old patterns, yes, but usually not cheap. And acrylic yarn, which I won’t buy, but never much of it. I blame the big Chirk car boot which I really must try and get to one Sunday. That or I’m coming over your way to fight you in the aisles ;D

    Not sure if I’m going to Wonderwool … can’t afford it really, because no way could I come back without yarn!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I know people who go to Chirk from over here, so it probably is operating like a giant whirlpool, sucking in all the goodies. Happily (for me, that is)not quite all. Nine times out of ten, all I get is acrylic and patterns involving the insertion of gigantic shoulder pads – but at least there’s that one in ten chance.

      I’ve decided I’m viewing Wonderwool as a non-selling exhibition, useful for inspiration and that’s it. Whether this will make a difference or not I can’t say. I suppose I could leave my cheque book/credit cards behind, and only take about £3.50…

      Reply

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