Well, I'm in London right now, and I did make it to a knitting shop -- a real knitting shop, too. I'm not sure the knitting shelves in the haberdashery sections of department stores should really count, although I appreciate the opportunity to use the word "haberdashery," which never fails to charm me.
I Knit is out by Waterloo station; a bit of a jaunt from where we're staying in Wimbledon, but not too bad since I was making a day of it by doing some shopping near Oxford Circus anyway. I've seen the shop mentioned on Ravelry boards whenever people ask for London yarn shop recommendations, and although I can't say it was mind-blowing, it certainly was a nice shop with a very good selection, especially considering how small the place is. I would say that it was the kind of place with not enough room to swing a cat, but I've never really understood the metaphor -- considering the nature of cats, I don't think there is really anyplace in the world you could attempt to swing one and get away with your eyeballs intact. Unless we're talking about "rock-a-bye-baby" type swinging, which I believe some felines on the cuddlier end of the spectrum would not oppose, at least not violently; I've always envisioned someone grabbing a puss by the tail and heaving away. But I digress.
At the shop, I was rather taken by some German self-striping sock yarn. I believe the brand is Schoppel Wolle, and the type is Zauerball, though I may be reversing that. Either way, the colors are lovely and it's a fairly soft, tightly spun single ply. I'd say it's about as soft as Noro Silk Garden Sock, though it's less hairy and the color repeats look like they might be longer. I bought two colors, one russety-orangey-red, and one purpley-plummy-maroon. I think at least one is going to be a gift. Likewise, I think the other two skeins I picked up will be gifts -- one is a Wensleydale Longwool, spun in Yorkshire from the fleece of Wensleydale sheep. There's a nice lustre to the wool; it almost looks and feels like a wool/mohair blend. (It's the paler green skein on the top right.) The last yarn I picked up is a Scottish-made yarn, J.C. Rennie Supersoft. According to the label, this yarn is a blending of the "first clip", from lambs' first shearing. It's pretty soft for a shetlandy-type yarn. I can't decide whether this one is for me or whether I should use it to knit a gift for someone.
My final purchase was that of the earrings you see in the second photo. The wee studs I bought for myself, since I think they'd be cute to wear to the next Stitches, and the gaudy turquoise ones are going to be a gift for Jason's grandmother, who likes both knitting and silly dangly earrings. The maker, Max Alexander, has a web site -- and an Etsy shop.
Tomorrow, we're heading to Brussels. I may check out a yarn shop or two while I'm there, though at this point I'm a bit more interested in shopping for clothes. I usually find tons of awesome stuff when I'm in London, but today's excursion was disappointing. I'm holding out hope for Brussels, and, more importantly, Paris!