WHAT WE LOVE: An amazing treasure trove and inspirational source of beautiful yarns, threads, textiles and haberdashery goods. Loop knitting shops is a wonderful resource for making and creating all manner of handcrafted and stitched goods.
WHO: Art director and stylist Susan Cropper.
WHERE: In North London’s Islington neighborhood.
What year was Loop established? I opened Loop in July 2005.
What makes Loop so unique? I hope it is obvious that my passion for textiles, yarn, thread, and all things stitched, comes through and inspires others to create.
I source yarns from all over the world, many not seen before in the UK or sometimes, Europe. I also stock the work of makers, working with textiles such as Nathalie Lete, Julie Arkell, and Sophie Digard.
I am always on the lookout for truly beautiful yarns and haberdashery that are either hand-dyed or vintage, I never stop trying to source quirky and special items for people to make things with.
Is there a story behind the shop name, Loop? Knitting is really a series of loops. That, and my previous incarnation as a graphic designer and my love of how the chubby oo’s would look in a logo, inspired me. It was a name that came about around our kitchen table, and was instantly met with a ‘Yes!’.
What are Loop’s “must-have”products? Our collections of hand-dyed artisan yarns from around the world, in natural fibres, are what we are known for. It’s like a candy shop when you walk in as you’re met with a sea of gorgeous colours and textures and beauty all around. We are the UK flagship shop for a lot of special yarns and have collaborated with incredibly talented designers on patterns. We also have a vast collection of very beautiful threads from Japan to France, that are special for embroidery and visible mending and stitching of all kinds.
How has the internet impacted your business? The internet has been fantastic as well as not so great as far as it impacting our business. In one way, my gosh, especially this past year when it has been our lifeline, it has opened up the doors of our London shop to the whole world.
People can see an image that I post on IG and want to knit with that yarn or have those buttons, and it is a source of inspiration for a much wider audience than I could ever have imagined when I first opened the shop.
The presence of online discount shops is always a challenge, but I live in hope that people will know that an independent business is something worth shopping at as there is a team of passionate people offering great customer care behind that sale, and they are not just box shifters. It’s also an investment in community.
Social media is a whole other conversation I think! Pinterest and Instagram are both huge sources of inspiration for me. I have found people from all over the world that I now collaborate with and stock at Loop, from a hand-dyer in remote France to people who make things in Japan and Australia.
Have you adapted your business to the coronavirus pandemic? Yes, we had to. As London went into lockdown on and off for the better part of a year, it was our online shop that really saved us. I reduced my staff a lot, furloughing those that could not either walk or cycle to the shop. I didn’t want anyone having to take public transport, to keep them and everyone safe.
So we were a small crew for most of the year, turning one of the shop floors into a second packing station – I’ll never forget this past year and how incredible my staff are.
At a certain point, when we were all at home, I began work with a film-maker, Richard Jung, to produce a series of short films that we would air on IGTV. They were called ‘Meet the Maker’ and for me, they were a way to feel connected to our customers and the wider stitching community when they could not come into the shop, and had to stay inside. It was a way for me to offer some joy and solace during what was a very difficult time for so many. Some respite from the immense sadness and collective anxiety of the past year.
Each one aired on a Sunday afternoon and they are little gems I think. They are on our IGTV and also our YouTube Channel.
One other lovely thing that the internet has offered during this past year, is that we were able to move some of our classes online through Zoom. Though it is not the same as hearing the laughter of people in our workshop in the London shop, it has allowed people from all over the planet to take part which is a different kind of wonderful.
Who inspires you? Akira Minagawa, Terrence Malick, Sophie Digard.
What inspires you? Films, words, Art, Kyoto, music, walking around cities, and train journeys. ( My heart is happy if I am on a train zooming across new landscapes while knitting and listening to music – that is my happy place). Colour in the most unlikely of places – ripped wallpaper and plaster, Japanese candy wrappers.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. was an art director and stylist in publishing, starting first at Mademoiselle magazine when I first graduated from the School of Visual Arts. I freelanced for many years in NYC and London for Conde Nast and other publishing houses while I also raised my three children. I loved it so much. Most of that time, it was pre-computers so it was very tactile – like making flat collages with type and images. I worked with some incredibly talented people that were an inspiration.
Your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Oh boy. Well, I get to do what I love most in the world. That is such a privilege. I feel like my business card should say ‘Treasure Hunter’. That I can connect with people that create beautiful things, and hopefully offer it up to inspire others to create through yarn and thread is a wonderful thing.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow? @huseyintaskin @prettybookplaces @the_shopkeepers @designfortoday @ingefotografie @ilovepero @accidentallywesanderson @mattzhaig @swarm_leslie_oschmann @bobbimac @bittycar @magnumphotos @koreanlemons @philpenman
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“I think people have a human need to be outside, to see other people, and be exposed in a tangible way to things. As amazing as online shopping can be, it can never replace the experience of walking into a beautiful shop. In terms of being inspired, chatting to other like-minded people who share your excitement about a skein of beautiful hand-dyed yarn or a new pattern, or a beautiful handmade object. To see the colors, take them off the shelf, play with combinations as you decide, and the tactile aspect of it as well. We also have workshops and the sound of people laughing and learning new skills – well, that kind of retail is more than the purchase of something. I think it fills the human need to connect.
I also walk around Central London and see the fallout from the pandemic and shop after shop moth-balled, or shuttered up for good and it is heartbreaking. Like part of the soul of the city has been ripped out. I can’t see a lot of those department stores or chain shops coming back in any new form. Perhaps they will be broken up into smaller units, or become spaces for art, fashion. film or craft, or new startups – I just don’t know. I do see a lot of new coffee bars and gourmet delis opening up but that is not sustainable either for a high street’s vitality.
I am hoping in my heart that landlords will lower their rents, the government will cut business rates for independent shops permanently to something more affordable, to breathe life into our neighborhoods again. So that if someone comes along that has a dream and the drive to open up a small shop that it is possible. Because it is our neighborhoods and people connecting, whether it is with a casual chat with the fishmonger or the bookseller, that is so vital for a sense of place and community.”
15 Camden Passage, Angel, Islington, London