LYS – your Local Yarn Store

I love the feeling of walking into a good yarn store – it’s like a big “ahhhhhh” that flows all through your mind and body. Something about the colors, the fiber, the general zen-ness of it all. Maybe it’s lanolin hanging in the air – maybe it’s the mellowed-out knitters, the camaraderie – maybe it’s the sense of possibilities, of creativity, like the big 64-color crayon boxes of my youth.

Can’t say I get that feeling entering a chain hobby store that carries yarn. It’s just not the same. The good independent local yarn store has something they just don’t carry – it’s called “passion.” It means that the person at the register actually knows something about knitting and fibers and can help you with a problem – and is willing to do so. It means carrying natural fibers, in colors someone would actually want to wear.

It means that there are classes, knitting groups, a sense of community – not just yarn and needles and patterns and books, but a real resource for encouraging your passion and improving your abilities.

I like to see organization in a yarn store, too, particularly when it comes to displayed samples – I might fall in love with some little sweater or scarf that’s hanging up in the store, but that’s no help if it’s not labelled to identify the yarn that was used, and maybe even the pattern or the source of the pattern. But I’ll overlook the lack of a label if there’s a store employee who can and will answer my questions!

My problem when I get into LYS nirvana is that I can be completely overwhelmed by the possibilities. I go “tharn” a la Watership Down – (omigaw, I go yarn tharn!) and have to force myself into action. This can lead to impulsive choices that seem okay at the time, and then days later (when I view them in the cold light of my home) seem absolutely insane. Or dull. Or just “what was I thinking?” – Any of these can then lead to yarn buyer’s remorse. And an ever-growing stash of skeins that may or may not ever be knitted up… Of course, none of this is the fault of the yarn store.

Here are a few LYS’s that I know and love:

Babetta’s Yarn and Gifts: It’s a bit of a drive, cuz it’s in a part of town that just doesn’t seem close to anywhere else I go in town, but it’s worth it. Babetta herself is very nice, the place is packed with beautiful yarns, notions, buttons, books, patterns, and TWO comfy areas in which to just sit and knit. I say this, but I have yet to actually go there and “just sit and knit” – cuz I’m a little shy (no, really!). But I’ve made a promise to myself to actually do that within the next six weeks. There’s a coffee/latte/tea shop IN the store! There’s also a little area for kids to play. And Babetta does a newsletter, Gustine and Maya do classes,… Knitter happy!

Rumpelstiltskin: Right in Midtown, so it’s really easy to get to, and in a nice location next to a couple of art galleries and a tea shop (all kinds of English goodies – yum!). Everything is labelled, type of yarn, pattern, cost to make… Linda is very organized! It’s a tiny shop, crammed with yarn, roving, books, patterns, notions. And I love the name!

Had to stifle my burbling devotion all through class – it’s the honest-to-god Yarn Harlot!

A Verb for Keeping Warm: Okay, I will admit I don’t get the name of this shop, but it is a beautiful place to be. Wonderful people, a great little shop doggie, and it is where I got to meet and take a class (and a photo!, above) with my knitting idol, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot)! They have lots of classes here: sewing, quilting, dyeing, knitting – probably more. It’s a $56, 98-minute train ride for me, which may limit the number of times I can go there, but will NOT eliminate it from my list of favorites. Kristine blogs, and tweets, and the larger scope of the store doesn’t take away from the luscious yarns they carry. And if you look at their website, you’ll find they’re into all kinds of lovely natural fibers, dyeing, spinning, and they even have their own dye garden in back where they grow the plants to produce the natural colors… (And there’s a wonderful “hipster” cafe right next door, where I got the best brownie I’ve had in my life – and I am pretty old, so that’s compared to a lot of brownies…). I flatter myself to think that A Verb for Keeping Warm is like the store I might have had if I’d actually studied textiles in the Bay Area in the 70’s like I wanted to before my second divorce… coulda woulda shoulda. I’m glad Kristine followed through!

Yes, I did take a bite out of the brownie before the delicious sandwich. I’m a grownup, I can do what I want…

Tempe Yarn and Fiber: Oh, what nice people! This shop is in my home town in Arizona, so I only get to go there when I visit my mom. But I manage to fit it in every time, because it’s just such a pleasant, relaxing place to be. They have classes, and a big table where you can sit and knit – I fear this will never happen for me at this store, since it’s pretty much impossible to go somewhere else to knit if Mom is sitting at home waiting for me… They also have looms, and weaving classes, and, God help me, I can feel myself sliding in that direction. I have to get better at spinning before I do anything else, though…… 😉  TYF is also a very charitable store. They were the organizers of a project I’ve mentioned before, the DanDoh Hugs for Japan, for the tsunami victims. And they also promote and provide Knitted Knockers for breast cancer patients.  And finally, this store is where one of my favorite “small (knitting) world” stories happened – I was there, buying too much Marina (why? I don’t know – yarn tharn?) and they asked if I wanted to be on the store mailing list. Well, I usually don’t, but this time, I decided I would. They handed me the sign-up sheet, and there was just one other customer name on the page – it was someone I went to high school with – 40 years ago!  I said, “I know this woman! I went to high school with her!”  And they said, “Well, you can say hi, she’s sitting right over there!” What are the odds? Neither of us actually live in Tempe anymore. Very cool – interrupted her class, hugs all around, knitters all smiling… So, another reason to really like Tempe Yarn & Fiber.

AND, just yesterday, at the end of a wonderful lunch with my daughter and her godmother Jamey, I discovered a new friend, The Tin Thimble. Not right in town, but in a great location in a converted fruit packing shed that is now a great restaurant, a nursery, candle shop, gift shop(s), art gallery, and, most importantly, fiber heaven… The Tin Thimble is a self-described “little creative sewing shop” – beautiful fiber for spinning, felting, etc., great fabrics, buttons, vintage sewing patterns, new sewing patterns, sewing and felting classes, jewelry, silk scarves for dyeing, dyes, and on, and on,… They have an Etsy presence. They blog. Large area for classes, a super creative vibe, and really welcoming. Although the emphasis is definitely on other fiber arts and crafts rather than knitting, I’ll be going back there… intrigued by the dyeing of silk…

The Tin Thimble – delicious!

Should I mention an LYS that I sorta liked, but didn’t really love, and now they have closed? Not that MY feelings about them killed their business – but maybe my experiences were shared by others… Not naming names, but the store was run by a woman who, while a very sweet person, didn’t actually KNIT. She had a knitting machine. She was a crocheter (is that a word?). Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a knitting snob, but I think a yarn store owner should be able to KNIT. And maybe if she’d been a knitter, she’d have known that she needed to stock all the sizes of needles, and display them so you could find what you needed. Seemed to have a lot of trouble with technology – debit cards, email group lists… And I got the feeling that she started the business on a shoestring (haha), since the store was teeny-teeny-tiny, had no place to sit, hardly enough room to turn around, really, and no bathroom. Definitely not a spot to hang out. And now it’s, well, gone.

Here’s hoping you find or have found your own knitting nirvana spot in which to revel, commune, commiserate, or just sit and knit… Where it’s cool in summer, cozy in winter… There are refreshments available, help if you need it, new things to explore, and beautiful, natural, inspiring fiber…

And if you find one with a wine bar, I’d really like to know about it…


Waiting – Yay!

Most people really don’t like it when they have to wait for something; when the doctor is running late, or they have to go to the DMV, or they have to get to the airport 2 hours ahead of their flight. Knitters, on the other hand, love a nice wait. It’s a perfect excuse for knitting right in the middle of everything!

Of course, it’s best if it’s a seated wait, but if we’ve planned ahead, we’ll have something that can be worked on even while standing (another reason to love socks!).

Anyway, how wonderful to have a period of time where you’re clearly making the best of things by knitting – great on a plane or a bus, doctor/dentist/optometrist’s office, kids’ sporting events, hospital waiting rooms (I wouldn’t actually wish anyone I love to be in a hospital or having surgery, but knitting through it is very therapeutic). I consider knitting to be my “non-prescription Valium.”

It keeps the hands and (part of) the mind occupied and produces something of value – very important when you have so much to do and someone is “wasting your time.” My mom, who doesn’t knit, gets pretty bent out of shape every time she goes to the doctor and they leave her in the examination room for “forty minutes!”. A: I don’t think it’s really 40 minutes, and B: If she had knitting with her, she might even be a little sad when he finally shows up.

I’ve taken to carrying my knitting with me when I leave the house. I have several different sized bags – the huge one which also happens to have an incendiary political statement stenciled on the side; the medium one that is very low key, but still big enough to stuff a scarf or even a lace shawl into; and the small one I made myself (felted), which can easily hold a sock, yarn, etc., and besides, it’s so cute!

My little felted knitting bag. Love the magnetic closures – hated sewing them in.

So I do need to take a moment when I leave the house to decide how long I might be gone, so I know which project, in which bag, to carry with me. There was that one time I thought I had a simple nonstop red-eye flight home from New York – had just a small project with me, a little DanDoh scarf that was to be sent to Japan as a gesture following the tsunami. (I bought the yarn in a yarn shop in NYC – but that’s another story…). Anyway, nothing else to knit. Well, I was planning to sleep a bit, so it seemed like that would be plenty. NOPE. Six hours delay at the gate, but we were on the plane. SIX HOURS. And I had nothing else with me to knit. NOTHING. And this was before I had a smart phone, too, so I couldn’t even browse Ravelry (which I can happily do for hours…). They let us off the plane for about 20 minutes at some point – WHY isn’t there a yarn store in every airport??? I finished the scarf. Then I had nothing else to do but sit there and try to stifle my silent screams of anguish throughout the flight. ALL THAT WASTED KNITTING TIME!!!

So now I tend to put more yarn than I will ever need into my bag. And extra needles. And the instructions for the next project I’m considering… Just in case. Here’s a little list of other things you might want to keep in your bag:

  • Scissors (I carry small kitty-nail-clippers, just in case I have to go through security – photo below)
  • Tape Measure
  • Crochet hook (to pick up dropped stitches. I know, I never do either, hahaha)
  • Waste yarn (something bright, and enough to put your project onto in case of emergency, like a broken needle, or a TSA agent who doesn’t know you can take your needles on the plane…*)
  • Nail file
  • Row counter (in case you might get interrupted and have to jam it all in the bag…)
  • Instructions for your current project (and the next one…)
  • Stitch markers (regular and locking)
  • Small notebook to note any changes you make in your project
  • Chocolate (shouldn’t there always be chocolate?) (I leave it to you on how to keep it all from becoming chocolate knitting…)

Pretty sure I got these at a big chain pet store

That’s it for today. Oops, here’s a shot of the completed socks from last time:

Working on another pair now – LOVE these.

Next post: The all-important LYS….

* Incidentally, it’s never happened to me, but I did once hear a lady say she had to take her project off the needles because an agent said she couldn’t have them on the plane. So I ALWAYS print out the TSA info online that says knitting needles are okay – I print this when I print my boarding pass, so it has a current date on it. Just In Case.)