Kniftybits's Blog

All knitting, all the time.

Knitting Hot Spot – Ely, Cambridgeshire September 16, 2010

Imagine my surprise and delight as my own little hometown of Ely, Cambridgeshire, developed into a knitting hot spot in England.  Of course, I don’t know if you know that it’s a knitting hot spot, so let me tell you.

After losing our local haberdashery shop, a few short months later we were swimming in yarn choices. There are FOUR wonderful options for yarn, plus the local Sue Ryder charity shop that sells some yarn.

Newest, and lighting the knitting world on fire is, Yarn on the Square!  This amazing shop stocks those luxury yarns we knitters love, such as Rowan, Louisa Harding, Noro and Debbie Bliss, plus lots of other lovely and fun yarns.  For my birthday I received Sublime bamboo & pearls from their shop, which is gorgeous to work with and knits into a lovely drapey fabric (who knows how long it will be until I finish the sweater I’m working on)!  The proprietors, Christine Brown and Ginette Heard, are warm and friendly, offering help and a chat.  Plus, they have extensive class options and even hosted Debbie Bliss for a book signing!  They are located in the center of Ely on the market square in a light filled shop with a large picture window, comfy couches, a work table, and a great atmosphere.  I’ve been to many a knitting shop and Yarn on the Square is at the top of my list.

Another recent addition to the Ely wool scene is The Ely Wool Shop.  This traditional wool shop gives you a sense of history in it’s historic building located directly across from Oliver Cromwell’s house with a view of Ely Cathedral.  The proprietor, Sandra, is very friendly and helpful.  Her shop offers a diverse range of yarns from around the globe, including Katia, Rico, Artesano, Manos del Uruguay, and Malabrigo.  I was very excited about the Artesano alpaca yarn I bought there the day she opened shop and on more than one occasion I’ve been interested and baffled by the unique choices of yarn, such as paper yarn or plastic yarn.

Barbara Curtis, proprietor of Curtis Crafts kiosk in the Ely Cloisters, is an accommodating member of the yarn world.  When I was on the hunt for acrylic sock yarn for my wool adverse mother, she beat the bushes for me and called to let me know the results of her search.  I really appreciated her follow through.  Barbara provides the affordable, work-horse yarns that are the backbone of certain knitting projects, especially baby knits.  In her kiosk she houses a plethora of King Cole, Cygnet, Woolcraft, knitting notions and other craft kits.  Park in the Waitrose parking lot and she’s located next to Cafe Carrington.

I’m not sure when it happened, but as all these lovely ladies were bringing woolen love to Ely, the Ely Cycle Centre, a catch all shop of toys, crafts, cycles, models, and DIY, upgraded its yarn options as well.  They now have a pleasing little display with a variety of yarn not represented at the other yarn shops.  There is also a delightful array of buttons, fabrics, ribbons, etc.  This department store, directly across from Costa Coffee and Mountain Warehouse, has served Ely for over 40-years and resides in a beautiful red brick building.  It’s definitely worth a look.

So, now you’ve made it to Ely, laden yourself with yarn delights, and wonder what else is there to do?  Yarn shops are compelling, but those spouses and children you’ve dragged along need a break.  Well, let me tell you…

Culturally speaking Ely offers one of the best cathedrals in England (not that I’m biased).  You can tour the cathedral and check out the Stained Glass Museum or climb up to the Octagon Lantern, an amazing feat of engineering and delightful to behold.

There is also Oliver Cromwell’s house, one of his only surviving residences, directly down from Ely Cathedral.  One must wonder how Ely Cathedral managed to survive his reformation.  I’ve heard it’s because it would have cost too much to tear it down, but I wonder if maybe he was a little attached to it?

You can also learn more about Ely at Ely Museum or drive ten minutes to Prickwillow and study up on how they drained the Fens at the Drainage Museum.  For more sites, check out this link.  Also, plan your visit for Thursday or Saturday to enjoy Ely’s thriving markets.

The waterside offers a number of attractions, including FREE Babylon Gallery for art lovers, the chance to take a river tour, Jubilee Gardens to enjoy the atmosphere, and the best tea room in Ely (and all of Britain in 2007!) called Peacock’s.  Peacock’s tea list is extensive, their scones are magical, their sandwiches are delicious, their daily specials are tasty, their cakes are heavenly, and their prices are reasonable.  A definite must to sip and knit!

Now that I’ve touted Peacock’s I feel compelled to mention that there are a number of other wonderful tea rooms in Ely.  The Almonry, directly across from the market square with garden seating plus an inside restaurant option also offers a stunning view of Ely Cathedral. It  is a close second for tea rooms in my opinion.  The Maltings also houses a restaurant directly on the waterfront, plus there is a new tea room on High Street in Steeplegate.  There may be others, so I apologize if this list isn’t comprehensive.

For dinner Ely offers a number of chains such as Prezzo or Pizza Express, but there are also some wonderful local pubs and restaurants, such as Montaz Indian, The Boathouse, and The Cutter Inn.  I recommend you go local!

For a pint there are 12 pubs – I won’t list them all, so check out the link.  Just remember drinking and knitting can lead to knitting regret in the morning.

Now you know why Ely will be the next knitting vacation hot spot – get here before the rush!