It’s like the start of a new school year. Never mind that I’m not in school. The other day, my friend was like “Are you ever going to blog again?” And I said, “Why yes, I am.” But you know, I had a lot of freelance stuff, then wedding stuff, and then I got married, and then I had a honeymoon, and then I came back, blahbity blah. I have been knitting, albeit somewhat sporadically, but now that I am weaning myself off wedding blogs (so hard), I am back to knitting blogs.

I will leave you with a photo from the honeymoon, from The Bon Marche in Paris:

yarn

Of course I had to visit the yarn shop!!

Posted in Yarn Stores at September 7th, 2010.

Stitches East
I saw on thew New York Ravelry group that Stitches East was closing. I never actually went inside this store, so I can’t tell you anything about it. I did try to go once when I was visiting the MoMA, but it was closed. Adam took a picture for me (above) and I peeked in, but I don’t know anything about the store. It was in a sort of unusual mini-shopping mall inside an office building (below). These kinds of mini-malls are, I think, kind of rare in the U.S., though I have seen them in other countries. Hong Kong has a few like this, and Paris has their passages, which are, of course,  fabulous and Parisian, and immortalized by Walter Benjamin. (When I was a freshman in college, I sat through an entire class baffled by who Valtah Benhameen was, and it wasn’t until the end of the class that I suddenly made the connection between Walter Benjamin and his German pronunciation.) Milan actually has a mall kind of like this too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the original architect had been aiming for a Parisian passage feeling, but the result (at least on a weekend) is that it’s kind of weird and dreary. I think if it was connected to a train station, like most mini-malls are, if would make more sense, but it’s in a bit of an odd spot. I’m sorry though that this store is closing–the economy is smushing down on the yarn business, I guess.

Stitches East

Posted in Yarn Stores at March 17th, 2009.

For those of you who are interested in food, Adam wrote an extremely detailed description of all the food we ate in Milwaukee here. For those of you who are interested in fiber, on the other hand, here is a mention of the first yarn store we visited.

I did a little research and found that Milwaukee residents seemed to recommend three yarn stores, Just 4 Ewe, Loop, and Rhuama’s. Just 4 Ewe was actually quite close to where we were staying, so we went there before we went to play an awesome afternoon of bingo. It was described as being in a cute little village, which Adam refused to believe, especially when we came up near it and it kind of just looked like a strip mall. But actually, the center of it IS a cute little village (see above), and it’s a live/work artists’ community, with the shopkeepers living above their stores, most of which are artisan-y stuff (pottery, beading, etc.). Adam said in the car that this was his favorite yarn store ever, and I am pretty sure this is because when he came in, the owner offered him a dish of homemade blueberry crumble and coffee. Note to yarn store owners: Free food is very alluring for non-knitting significant others.

Just 4 Ewe

Anyway, the owner was very friendly and chatty, and she had a lot of interesting info about Milwaukee. She also sells her own handspun there, which I bought for a cowl, and some sock yarn dyed by an independent dyer in Milwaukee. (I like having souvenir yarn that’s local to the area.) There was a pretty big and deep selection of yarn here, and it was a really cute and friendly store.  Plus, they had a really neat electric ballwinder:

Just 4 Ewe

Just 4 Ewe

Address: 8615 S. Market Place
Oak Creek, WI 53154
Phone: 414-768-Yarn (9276)

Posted in Yarn Stores at March 11th, 2009.

Purl by the Sea
When we went to Montauk on Valentine’s Day, we of course had to make the obligatory stop at a yarn store. Montauk’s only yarn store (I think) is called Purl By The Sea and was very difficult to find, even though Montauk is super-small. I ended up having to call the owner (Nora Franzetti, also of the real estate shingle there) and she gave us step-by-step directions even though we were literally a block away. Montauk, you are so confusing.

Anyway, this is really a very nice store. My secret dream is to live in a summer beach town during the winter and be a “townie,” and this store seemed like the local hot spot for the townies in the winter. I was actually surprised they were open, because I assume Montauk does most of their business in the summer, but they were, and all the customers were having a grand old time. I think they were supposed to be having a knitting circle, but it seemed a bit more like a daily catch up. It seemed like a fun neighborhood spot, adding more fuel to my dream of becoming a beach-town townie. It also had an unusually wide range of yarns, price point-wise–this was the only boutique-type store I’ve seen with Red Heart and Lion Brand yarn, which is nice. They actually had a huge selection of everything, including lots of higher-end brands, all in a snug, cozy space.

And they gave me this free bag with purchase!

Purl by the Sea
Address: 34 South Erie Ave
Montauk, NY
Phone: 631-668-7875
website: montaukonline.net/purlbythesea/

Purl by the Sea

Posted in Yarn Stores at March 6th, 2009.

Purlesence

I went to Sunnyvale, CA, over the Christmas holiday for a work lunch and I, of course, had to sneak in a yarn store visit. This is Purlesence, which was a little hard to find because it was in this strip mall, which is not very Bay Area and I was lost in a sea of strip mallness. (The Bay Area does have strip malls, but they are not, I think, native to our land.) Anyway, the people in the store were nice and helpful, and it seriously was like the land of holy grail sock yarns. I always read on the internet about Socks That Rock and Dream in Color, etc., but they’re not commonly available here in New York. This store had every cult-y sock yarn you can imagine:

Purlescence

This is their rack of Lorna’s Laces and Colinette, and in the back you can see their Dream in Color. The stock is quite amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I didn’t buy any of it, because I was too overwhelmed with choices. (I did buy one skein of Rowan Cocoon, which I will show knitted up shortly.) They also have a big space in the middle for people to sit, knit, and chat.  It’s not the most stylish of stores (I still love Purl, here in New York, and Loop, in Philadelphia, best, for their color and style), but it had a really deep inventory of hard-to-find yarn. Definitely worth visiting. (For those of you who are car-challenged, like me, you can walk to it from the CalTrain stop.)

Purlesence

Website: purlescenceyarns.com
Address: 586 South Murphy Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Phone: (408) 735-YARN (9276)

Posted in Yarn Stores at February 13th, 2009.

feb309 003

Yarntopia, from across the street. I am taking up digital photography, so you have to excuse the learning curve on these photos. Adam, who is the better photographer, normally shoots the pictures for New York Minknit, but I am trying to learn, so bear with my efforts.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday, and swung by my old  neighborhood, Morningside Heights. I stopped by the local yarn store up there, Yarntopia, which opened a couple of years ago. I’ve stopped by this store a couple of times the first year it opened, and I went back today. It’s a one-woman operation, and it has a solid range of yarns (Malabrigo in all weights, including sock, large selection of Noro, tweed yarns), all available in fairly broad range of colors. Ivete pointed out on Yelp that the prices here are a bit higher than the suggested manufacturer retail price, which is actually something I’ve noticed across the board in New York yarn stores. Almost all of them–including the ones I frequent–charge more than the prices you’ll find listed on the internet. I assume it’s sort of unspoken collusion (not anything nefarious, unlike the Sotheby’s and Christie’s scandal of a few years ago) among the stores–if Purl can charge $14 for Koigu, then so can Knitty City, etc., and probably a result of the higher rents and costs of doing business in New York City. Even Knit-a-Way, the somewhat odd Brooklyn yarn store, sells their Addi Turbo needles for more than Purl, and definitely more than internet vendors. It is a problem though, and for customers who are watching their budgets more carefully now, stores that continue to charge these higher prices may find themselves having stiffer competition from the web. Many of us who are willing to pay a premium to support local stores, as well as to see and feel the yarn in person, may consider ordering from the internet instead when the difference in prices begins to significantly affect our shrinking disposable income budgets.

feb309 008

Duane Reade. Awesome or evil? You decide. Isn’t the snow on the trees pretty?

It’s a tough decision. I know that part of why I love New York is its collection of small, non-chain stores, and though this kind of  Stuff-White-People-Like-rant is a cliche, it’s also true. The loss of great independent bookstores (read: record stores, grocery stores, or whatever you love) across the city and country strips a community of its personality, even if many of these stores are/were run by crochety and/or snobby weirdos. (The Strand, I am looking at you.) But, at the same time, if these stores cannot compete with chains or the internet, I am not sure that our society should require that we support these stores out of a loyalty to a notion of the common good. (<–This is my closet Republican talking. Two of my friends, a Republican couple, gave me a book yesterday entitled Why Higher Taxes Are Wrong, or something, saying that it would push me over the edge to the “right side.” I was like, um, I do have closet Republican leanings, but as someone who voted for Obama twice, in the primaries and the general election; who grew up in San Francisco; and whose father worked her whole life for a civil rights organization, I doubt I am going to join the dark supply-side. But you never know.) Asking people to shop at your store because of a fealty to an ideal is a quick way to go out of business.

 feb309 015

A sculpture at twilight (no, not the vampire Twilight, just regular twilight) in the garden at St. John the Divine. Also on my to-do list: learn photo post-processing.

I believe that these stores must find efficent ways to compete in order to survive. First, some may have to fail, (just like Lehman Brothers, or as one of the above mentioned Republican friends bitterly said yesterday, “the only bank allowed to fail.” He is, unsurprisingly, a former Lehman banker). New York just can’t support this many yarn stores, and though some, like The Yarn Connection, were perfectly great stores, there is not enough demand for all to survive. Secondly, the remaining stores must offer product that is unavailable elsewhere. Purl is a good example–their selection of Koigu is vast and constantly changing, and they have a number of colorways from Lorna’s Laces and Blue Sky Alpaca that are custom-made for them and not available anywhere else. Third, they must be willing to sell over the internet, WITH A WELL-DESIGNED INTERFACE. I cannot tell you how many online yarn stores have crappy websites that make me want to stab myself.  The future is here. Fourth, they need to promote either cheaper projects (one-skein projects) or lower prices to match the internet, and try to sell more. Volume, must, unfortunately, make up for diminishing profit margins. Finally, a number of these stores have to improve their customer service. I don’t want to pick on Yarntopia, but the customer service there has been, all three times I’ve browsed there, a bit brusque. If high-end restaurants are lowering prices and sucking up more than ever to customers, all of retail has no choice but to do the same. Of course, it’s easy for me to talk as a consumer, rather than a yarn store owner, but I think my analysis is correct, and the stores that don’t change will go out of business.

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Okay, truly a crappy photo. But the height inside is really cool.

On a more cheerful note, unemployment has given me the chance to appreciate the poetry in everyday New York. Sometimes I forget, but New York is a really beautiful city. I went into St. John the Divine yesterday, and I forgot how magnificent it is inside. Plus they have a new insane sound system, so the organ is more like a cinematic surround sound roar of faith. Just walking around and seeing the trees all dusted with snow was so beautiful.

Yarntopia:

Address: 974 Amsterdam Ave
SW corner of 108th St
(between 107th St & 108th St)
New York, NY 10025
Phone: (212) 316-9276

Posted in the Business, Yarn Stores at February 4th, 2009.

I’ve been sick at home all day, knitting and listening to the 5 cds that I own. Seriously, I only own like 5 CDs. I know, it’s shameful and weird, whatever. I’m big into WCBS, weather on the 8s. I’ve already listened to Morrissey, Serge Gainsbourgh, and now, Amy Winehouse. Apparently, I only own CDs of drunk Europeans. Next up: Johnny Cash. (Moving on to drunk Americans.) I also do not own an iPod, and have been thinking of breaking out my tape recorder Walkman on the subway, just to mess with people’s minds.

Anyway, yesterday I went to the Yarn Connection, which is near my office, and which, sadly is closing. I never got around to writing a review of this store, because I am lazy, but now that it is closing, I am writing what might as well be a eulogy. The Yarn Connection was this sort of odd, mothball’d (literally, the foyer smelled like mothballs, though the store didn’t) relic of an old New York. Not Edith Wharton-old, but Annie Hall-old New York. One of the women working there mentioned that the store had been there twenty years, which means it must have opened in 1988, but it felt like it had opened in the 1970s. (I just looked it up on IMDB, and Hannah and Her Sisters was made in the late ’80s, and there’s also a distinct Hannah and Her Sisters vibe about this store.)

I think there are two cities that loom large in many people’s imaginations, New York and Paris. And for me, like many other people, my concept was shaped by random children’s books and movies, and this store was straight out of those books and movies. I know I’ve mentioned this Lois Lowry kids’ book before, The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline, but that book and Louise Fitzhugh’s Sport (which was a sequel to Harriet the Spy), kind of formed this notion of 1960s and 1970s New York for me, and along with random stuff like Tootsie, it formed this vision of what New York was like.

Anyway, this store was definitely a throwback to that kind of past. The owner and her employee were both, I think, native New Yorkers, with the accents to prove it (one of them definitely has an accent, I think the other does too), and they were always nice and  harrumphing around the store with their yarn and needles. I stopped by occasionally to pick up some accessories at lunch, and their customers were always middle-aged native New Yorker ladies, and they were always chatting and kvetching. It actually had a good, solid selection of yarn, but it was the opposite of the very styled SoHo-chic of Purl. It had a very only-in-New York feeling about it, not because of the selection, but it was such a neighborhood store, and there was always this sense that it was run for and by native New Yorkers. There’s a certain kind of middle-aged native New Yorker lady who would not hesitate to chew out a mugger who had the audacity to try and rob her and then continue on her errands, and this was the kind of lady who shopped at the Yarn Conenction. It also was a store for people who liked to browse–there’s a scene in Hannah and Her Sisters where Woody Allen goes record browsing, and that New York is gone. Kim’s Video, Tower Records, tons of bookstores, etc., all those stores where dubious men lurk for their obsessive collections have disappeared, and in a more feminine way, The Yarn Connection was a part of that genre. Adam described his friend the other day as “someone who was already nostalgic for things when he was young” and I think I’m like that too. If you’ve seen Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, it had that same kind of nostalgia. Though that movie was ostensibly set in 2008, that movie was one big nostalgic Valentine to that kind of New York.

They’re open until January 17th, with everything at least 20% off, so stop by if you want to say goodbye.

The Yarn Connection

218 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10016
(212) 684-5099

Posted in Yarn Stores at January 3rd, 2009.

I’m not normally into post revision, but I did change a post about Black Mountain Weavers. I have received a couple of negative comments, and I realized that I was inadvertently having a more powerful impact on this store’s image than I meant to.

I was tipped off to my secret super powers when I noticed that I would occasionally get a comment on that post, and when I noticed that it was turning up as a fairly common search term on my stat analytics. Basically, Black Mountain Weavers does not really have a web presence, so whenever anyone googled the store, my blog post would come up as the second item. So my somewhat flip assessment of the store was transformed, via the power of the Google search engine, from a review read by the three people who read my blog, to The Review that anyone looking for info about this store would read.

I don’t necessarily think my assessment of the store was unfair–it did have a pretty small and rather pricey selection–but I reviewed that store fairly early on in my knitting store reviews, and I didn’t necessarily have a sense of the full range of the prices common to indie yarns. Also, I visited it before I read Clara Parkes’ The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, which had a paragraph that I found particularly persuasive: “I’m always on high alert for anything indicating small-scale, locally produced yarn. Not only is it a chance  to get something totally unique in an age of increasing conformity, but it’s a small way to validate and support what these farmers are trying to do…by supporting a sheep farm–by making even one purchase a year–you’re helping sustain an important business and a rapidly disappearing agricultural way of life. You’re also helping ensure a richer, higher-quality variety of yarns for all knitters.”

Adam calls the woo version of the food movement “sustainorganica,” and though it’s easy to make fun of, and not necessarily what I want all the time (I went through a period of addiction to McDonald’s Fillet-O-Fish, despite having grown up in the  “sustainorganica” capital, San Francisco), I think the movement does have worthy goals. So, I put my original review in strike-through and moved it to the bottom of the post, so it wouldn’t show up “above the fold” on Google searches, and tried to write a slightly more neutral review of the store so that knitters who are interested in the store will not necessarily be dissuaded from visiting it.

I don’t necessarily agree with some of the comments on that post, but I think the real lesson is not whether you should or should not support independent yarn spinners and dyers, but rather, how all businesses need to make the internet work for them, not against them. Even if you are some sort of live-off-the-land business or one that was created as a response to our overly technical world (not that that is necessarily Black Mountain Weaver’s philosophy, just a hypothetical), it is important to establish a strong web presence so that when people search for you, they will find how YOU want to be represented on a Google search, instead of a third-party’s opinion. This includes learning how to properly tag and program your posts, so that your page will show up high on the Google rankings. Whether you like it or not, the internet is the future, and any business that wants to survive needs to be aware of the power of customer-generated comments, whether on their own blogs or user-generated sites like Yelp.

Posted in the Business, Yarn Stores at November 1st, 2008.

Did you know that Kansas’ motto used to be “Home of Beautiful Women“? Now, it has a potentially even more inappropriate motto: “Kansas: As Big As You Think.”

Anyway, we went to Kansas, Adam’s homestate, a couple of weeks ago, and I managed to finangle some yarn store visits in between the barbeque and Tylenol Cold–induced naps…I got off the plane totally sick! I did a little research on Ravelry, on their Kansas City group boards, which had some good suggestions. So here’s a quick summary of the ones I saw:

The Studio

THE STUDIO

Address: 1121 W 47th St
Kansas City, MO
Phone: (816) 531-4466

Website: thestudiokc.com

Also sells: Needlepoint canvas and supplies.

This was the first store I visited, and I was trying to assess its quality (to better budget my souvenir yarn  buying) so I hassled Adam (who had visited Yarn Barn before) for his opinion. He said, “The Studio is to Purl as Yarn Barn is to School Products.” I was amused that he had been coerced into so many yarn store visits that he could make this analogy. When pressed he said, “Yarn Barn might have more yarn, but it looks like this store has a higher-quality selection.” And it was true, this store definitely had the most sophisticated selection, of both colors and brands, of all the stores we visited. Their owner/buyer has a good eye, I think. The store itself was also a nice, located on the corner of a little shopping area, just west of the Plaza. It was actually quite big as well, and there were a few customers sitting around knitting and chatting, and one of them swore up and down that this was the best yarn store in KC. The owner (I think that was her behind the counter) was also quite friendly.

Yarn Barn

(Yarn Barn is not actually spookily green…I think it’s just that this photo was taken at night when a street light shone on it.)

YARN BARN

Address: 930 Massachusetts St
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: (785) 842-4333

Website: yarnbarn-ks.com

Also sells: Looms and weaving supplies.

I was definitely wanted to visit this one because it was called Yarn Barn. Hello! Barn of yarn! Awesome name. Yarn Barn is in Lawrence, home of KU, Adam’s alma mater and winner of the 2008 NCAA men’s basketball championship, aka as the game that transformed Adam into a crazy sports fan. He gripped my arm so tight during the final minutes that I thought it might fall off.  Yarn Barn is quite big, and probably had a pretty big selection of yarn. It did not necessarily have the most sophisticated selection–I just felt it had more of a workhorse selection of yarn than The Studio. This is probably a good store for sweater knitters–they seemed to have a large selection of a lot of solid, basic yarns.

Yarn Store and More

Yarn Shop and More

Address: 7309 West 80th Street
Overland Park, KS 66204
Phone: (913) 649-YARN

Website: yarnshopandmore.com

This shop was recommended by Adam’s friends, who live close by. This store organizes their yarn by color, which personally, I found a confusing system. I picked up a skein of Dream in Color, and wanted to see what other colors they had, but it was hard to figure out easily or quickly. I didn’t spend a lot of time in this store because we had just spent hours eating barbeque, and I was a little tired, but it did seem big, though a little sparse. That impression might have been because that they had a lot of cubbies, but they weren’t packed to the gills. (I like stores that pack their cubbies full.)

There was a big list on the Kansas City Knitters’ board on Ravelry that I found helpful, complete with addresses and store hours, so I would recommend that as a yarn resource if you are going to the Sunflower State. Next time, I’ll probably try to hit up more places mentioned in the Design*Sponge Kansas City guide too.

Posted in Yarn Stores at October 12th, 2008.

Knit New York 

I used to work near this store, and I have always thought it is a little weird. They did, however, have the idea of offering free knitting lessons in Bryant Park in the summer, which is a smart way to get new customers. The staff here is always nice, but it’s one of those cafe/knitting stores, which means that there are a bunch of tables and not as much room for yarn. Personally, I am opposed to the cafe/knitting combo, because it always seems to take up room that could be better used, and it never seems to generate that much additional business.

The store also has a bit of an odd layout. In the front room, they only have a couple of balls out of each color of yarn (I think the rest of the yarn might be in the drawers below) and then they have a weird back room with shelves of yarn. It’s the issue of abundance again–it never feels fully stocked. It’s near Union Square, but enough of a walk that it’s not that near Union Square. Also, it has very little sock yarn, which is always what I look at if I just want to buy a ball or two of something.

I know these reviews are kind of crappy–I need to develop some sort of bullet point system for evaluating stores: diversity of yarn lines in brands / weights / color / fiber; location; amount of yarn available; staff; etc. But I haven’t. Anyway, it’s worth popping in if you’re in the area, but not worth making a trip out of your way to go to, I think.

Knit New York

website: www.knitnewyork.com

address: 307 East 14th St., / New York, NY / 10003

phone: 212-387-0707

 

Posted in Yarn Stores at June 1st, 2008.