So far, the third Shawl Society II design is still strictly under wraps. The yarn I used, however, has been revealed, and it’s another very special one. This time, instead of featuring an indie dyer, we have an indie yarn producer. Opus is a brand new yarn from the brand new company. Walcot Yarns. Walcot was founded by two true yarn connoisseurs: Carmen Schmidt from A Yarn Story, and Sharon Spencer from Great British Yarns. With years of experience selling gorgeous yarns and a shared devotion to quality and beauty, they decided to put their heads together to create their own line of small batch, luxury yarns, made in the UK. Opus is the first yarn, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with it. Soft, fluffy merino and alpaca blended into a cloud-like skein of wonderfulness in a versatile sport weight. They have also put together a fabulous collection of patterns to showcase Opus, which you can see on their beautiful website. This jumper in particular caught my eye. Those cables!
I was delighted to get a chance to ask them our series of questions: now that we’re a few interviews in, it’s really fascinating to see the differences and similarities in the answers from each producer and dyer. Their creativity and journeys are unique, but the passion for yarn and making is a common thread in everyone’s story. Sharon answered our questions today, and it was lovely to get to know her a little better. For even more on how Opus and Walcot yarns came to be, I recommend listening to Episode 53 of the Yarn in The City Podcast, where you get to hear Carmen tell her side of the story!
Have you always felt called to a creative job? Did you do a lot of making as a child?
I always wanted to have a creative job, but sadly wasn't a very creative person in that I can't draw or paint or express myself in that way. I used to make doll's clothes very badly and then found knitting which I could do marginally well. I really really wanted to sew but can't cut in a straight line, not even with a ruler.
Can you think of a moment when your passion for yarn really ignited?
It's done so a couple of times - once in the 80s when I really wanted to make colourful, patterned sweaters such as those by Patricia Roberts and again about 10 years ago when I found hand dyers and their fabulous yarns.
How did you learn to do what you do?
If we're talking about knitting, my grandmother taught me when I was about 7.
When did you decide that becoming a yarn professional was the path you wanted to take?
We had just sold our family business and wanted to do something different. We both had experience of retail, websites, mail order etc and I had always wanted a yarn shop, so the decision was quite easy - persuading my husband only took slightly longer.
Are there particular inspirations you use when you’re choosing colours?
I don't really choose colours as I don't dye, but I like putting colours together and seeing what happens. Two ranges of yarn I sell have a total of over 350 shades so it's great to get loads of those out and play putting them together and tweaking the look until it seems right to me.
What’s a “day in the life” for you as a yarnie?
I spend of a lot of time counting yarn and putting it in bags. The best bit is researching and buying, that's great fun.
Do you have favourite fibres or blends you love to work with most of all?
That's a difficult one, I love Opus of course as it's really soft and lovely to work with, however I love working with Shetland or tweed yarns. I love the way they feel really 'woolly' and soften as you work with them.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
For me, it was choosing the colours of Opus. It was great fun to sit with Carmen and choose shades, it was surprising to see how in tune we were on this without having discussed it beforehand.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned since you began your business?
That everything takes 100 times longer than you expected.
What would you tell someone who’s thinking about making the leap into a creative business?
Do so, but make sure you have a plan B!
Do you ever feel tempted to hoard your own yarn?
In terms of stock, yes. I quite often feel disappointed when the last bag of yarn in a particular range sells.
When you’re knitting, what do you like to make?
At the moment, I'm enjoying knitting shawls, they are fairly quick, usually interesting and make great gifts.
Besides yarn and knitting, do you have other creative pursuits?
I do tapestry, usually in the summer when it's too hot for knitting.
I loved getting another peek behind the scenes at the life of a professional yarnie, and I hope you did too. Big thanks to Sharon for giving us this interview, and to Walcot Yarns for being part of this season of The Shawl Society. I can't wait to hear what the members think of Opus: I know anyone who knits Shawl #3 with it will love it as much as I do. Just wait until you see what it turned into!
Keep an eye on what Walcot Yarns is doing, see their beautiful collection, and maybe get yourself a few skeins of Opus by visiting them online:
Walcot Yarns Website