As you may know, I am currently spending 2 months traveling through the UK and Europe. There are a few reasons for the trip, but among the primary ones are to visit family members and friends that I have not met or seen in ages, and to explore the knitting culture firsthand on the “other side of the pond”! I recently got a chance to do the latter by visiting a yarn store in Manchester, England – Countess Ablaze!
I’ve been visiting my aunt Jem for the last week since arriving in the UK, and we went into the city to see this yarn store. I found it through Google which is a good thing as my aunt was unaware of its presence. Ironically, we had visited a haberdashery a few days prior that was less than 2 minutes away! Anyway, given the lack of yarn shops in Manchester (so unlike Vancouver, BC), I was thrilled to find this gem of a shop right in the downtown core! I quickly found out however, that it’s a yarn dyeing studio, not a typical yarn shop.
If you look closely you’ll see Countess and I standing in the window. Just a heads up, when you arrive you’ll have to ring the bell to get someone to let you in. That’s because there are 3 floors to this studio! The first is the main retail space. The second is a combined show room and partial workspace where shipments are sorted and other packages put together. The third floor is exclusively staff and where the dyeing takes place. Countess is often up there working her magic! I say magic because from when you first step into the studio you feel like you’ve walked into a rainbow! Or you’re walking over the Bifrost into the magical realm of Asgard! I have been in many a yarn shop and seen many displays but the sheer magnitude of colour in this one is astounding!
As a custom dyer, Countess has her own brand of sock yarn and fingering weight yarn. There is also a sign warning you that the names of the colourways may offend your sensibilities – how polite considering that is also says, “Oh well”! This character directly reflects that of Countess and she is brashly unapologetic. She has set out to do things differently, and she has succeeded beyond expectations!
I wasn’t surprised to see books and accessories in the studio, but again, not all the usual suspects. She has a great collection of books and needles that aren’t everywhere else. It just adds to the charm and character of the studio. I continued my journey to the second floor and was pleasantly surprised at the great combination of functionality and practicality of the space. Bright and colourful, it just envelops you in warmth. There is a fabulous courtyard which unfortunately is restricted to the store owners along the street, but the windows along the wall allow a tremendous amount of sunlight to flood the displays. Perfect for lighting the brilliant colour and the table where many a knitter has sat and worked happily, whether in the studio to get some help/instruction on a project, or as a participant in the knitting group meetings held on Saturdays! I plan to attend the one on June 23rd so I hope to see you there. Here’s a little peek into more of the colours and yarns in the store.
If this has whetted your appetite to visit the studio, I am glad and urge you to do so! If you’re unable to visit I recommend you check out COUNTESS ABLAZE and join her group the Antisocials! They’re quite friendly (despite the name, lol) and you’ll get some great insight into the Countess as well as firsthand news about upcoming specials!