Bluestocking Wool and Gifts carries on 80-year tradition in Cainscross, Stroud

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By Fontofall55 | Monday, November 05, 2012, 09:26

"I can't be entirely sure how long there has been a wool shop here," says Sunie Fletcher, speaking at the launch of her new venture, Bluestocking Wool and Gifts. "But I've been told that it's around 80 years.

"So it's really good to know that I am carrying on that tradition and that there will still be a wool shop here in Cainscross."

I can neither confirm or refute the accuracy of Sunie's information about Bluestocking 's history. All I know is that, for as long as I can remember - and I'm talking a good 30-plus years - the shop at 22 Westward Road has indeed been the place to go for those in search of a 'good yarn' .

For many years it was Olveston House; more recently, Along Came Polly.

"I learned to knit three years ago, when I joined Uley Knitting Group," says Sunie. "So I was a regular customer here.

"When its previous owner went on maternity leave she asked if I could look after the shop. Well, I jumped at the chance.

"Once baby came along, she decided to relinquish the role of shop owner to concentrate on being a full-time mum, and asked if I would be interested in taking it on."

This is quite a departure for Sunie - or Dr Sunie Fletcher, to give her her full title.

A senior manager at MTV Europe in the 1980s, in more recent years Sunie studied for, and achieved, a PhD in 'Female Aesthete Novelists of the Fin de Siècle and Beyond' at the University of Exeter, having first taken her BA and MA at the University of London.

"I'd reached this point in my life where I didn't really know what I wanted to do next," she says with amazing candour.

"I love this shop; I loved coming here. So when Lucy asked whether or not I fancied taking it on, I thought, 'Why not?' I could see that it had real potential."

Sunie says she is extremely and eternally grateful for all the help she has received in getting the shop refurbished and open in time for the launch.

"Would you believe that we shut the shop for just one day, giving us a three-day weekend in which to get all the refurbishment work done?" she laughs.

"I've had loads of really amazing help and support from my knitting friends. I couldn't have done it without them.

"I hired one craftsman - Lawrence Kee - who bravely supervised 18 women with all the sanding and painting.

"They have all been absolutely amazing - they've really rallied round to help. I cannot thank them enough.

"And would you believe, Lawrence is actually through to the finals in the Daily Star's Britain's Top Tradesman competition?" she chuckles, pointing to the newspaper's profile on Lawrence, which proudly adorns one of Bluestocking's walls.

"He deserves to win - he's absolutely fantastic at what he does. He's been such a huge, huge help."

As well as a range of yarns, including Rowan, Adriafil, Artesano, Sirdar, King Cole and Stylecraft, Sunie stocks a wealth of patterns and quality sticks, hooks and needles - indeed, she has every accessory a modern knitter or crocheter could possibly need.

And with Christmas just around the corner, those looking for something that little bit special or different, might be interested to learn of Sunie's wonderful range of greetings cards and giftwrap (from both established and up-and-coming designers), collectable Persephone books, retro and vintage-style toys, cool jewellery and handmade homeware.

Picture gallery of the Bluestocking Wool and Gifts launch party

I was particularly taken by the Ditsy Doodles range of embroidered cushions, bags and pictures on display.

Based in Daglingworth, near Cirencester, Ditsy Doodles is owned and run by mums Jenny Inglis and Christine Bass.

The duo, who have a passion for all things homemade, first started out by turning their own children's drawings and paintings into wonderful canvas creations.

Now, using a technique called freehand machine embroidery, they are in business turning other people's children's drawings into beautiful, original pieces of art.

I think they make a really beautiful and unique gift that any parent, grandparent, auntie or uncle would treasure.

Sunie is also in the process of setting up a variety of groups, get-togethers, events and tutorials at which people can learn the basics, improve or acquire techniques, and hang out with like-minded people who share a passion for creating.

And as if things couldn't get any better, visiting Bluestocking couldn't be easier.

No pay and display or trudge from a multi-storey necessary. There are short-stay spaces right in front of the shop and a free all-day carpark at the end of the block.

Opening hours are currently 9am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and will be extended during the pre-Christmas period.

Drop in soon – Suni can't wait to share her new shop with you.

'Cast off' those old-fashioned notions

One might be forgiven for thinking that knitting and crocheting are pastimes reserved strictly for the over 70s, but recent years have seen 'Knit and Natter' groups springing up in all manner of places.

Sunie learned to knit three years ago when she joined Uley Knitting Group.

Even pubs such as the Crown and Sceptre in Horns Road, Stroud, are starting to hold regular knitting groups, and youngsters are discovering the joy of knitting and crocheting at after-school clubs.

Carrying on local tradition

The history of the parish of Cainscross is one steeped in the woollen industry.

For centuries, most of the villagers living in the tiny parish were employed in one of two industries - they either worked the land, or worked in the local woollen cloth mills.

Indeed, records of a mill at nearby Ebley - home these days to Stroud District Council - date back to medieval times.

So it's quite heartwarming to stumble across a shop which is carrying on a local tradition.

* You can follow Sunie and keep up to date with all the latest news and events at Bluestocking Wool and Gifts on Facebook.



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