Posts Tagged ‘LYS’

On the Road: A Verb for Keeping Warm

July 6, 2013

My apologies for my absence.  These days, Owl Manor owns me from sunrise past sunset.  Yes, I knit.  At times, rather frantically, trying to find my “center” again.  The needles are always beside me, and I often fall asleep with them in mid-stitch.

A recent trip to the Left Coast gave me the opportunity to visit multiple LYS in that part of the world.

First, a stop at the much-talked-about A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, Calif.

A Verb ... and a cafe

A Verb … and a cafe

I am fortunate to have a spouse who builds LYS visits into vacations.  He is a foodie ~ and since food is a requirement, we always “manage” to visit places he wants to go.  He makes mine a priority, too.  The presence of a terrific cafe on one side and a cupcake shop on the other on San Pablo Avenue didn’t hurt, either.

I should not have been surprised to find owner Kristine in the light-filled front window at the big work table.  Somehow, after reading so much about her, it seemed a little too-good-to-be-true.    But in a day and age where so much trash seems to get more than its requisite 15 minutes, this shop was exactly as advertised.

Pioneer from AVFKW

Pioneer from AVFKW

If you have wanted to test-knit Quince & Co. yarns, this is the place to find them.  So, too, for some Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarns (very hard to find in a brick and mortar shop) and Kristine’s own ever-changing lines.  This stop could have easily been a bank-breaker.  Only the limited quantities of yarn in each dyelot and the knowledge of limited suitcase space provoked restraint.  If you are looking for a West Coast version of Webs, that’s not what you find here:  This is a carefully curated shop catering to knitters who care about what they use ~ and where it came from.

The kit in its souvenir bag

The kit in its souvenir bag

Which brings me to Pioneer, Kristine’s foray into limited-batch organic merino raised in California and dyed naturally.  I relished the opportunity to pick my own colorway for the San Pablo Cowl Kit, which will be some good late night knitting chez Owl.  I don’t expect one of you to be the least bit surprised by my choices (in order): Grizzly Peak, Bonfire and Harvest.

The shop also left me

Hootiful fabric

Hootiful fabric

wishing I knew the first thing about sewing ~ or that I had made enough decisions about Owl Manor to know where in the world I could use bright, bold, graphic prints like this one from Cloud 9.  (Again, organic cotton.)  It was too pricey to pick up without knowing how much I would need or for what sort of project, but I have it bookmarked for when I have figured it out.

If I lived in the area, I would spend a great deal of time at this studio and shop.  As it was, I am glad it was on our itinerary, and I look forward to putting Pioneer and its siblings on the needles … eventually.

In the meantime, one more skein of Kristine’s dyeing has arrived at my house: a skein from The Great White Bale dyed with madder.  Find out more about our adventure here.



June 7, 2011

Having lived a rather nomadic existence for my first three decades, there is one place that will always be home: Chicago.  With family roots there and important years of my personal history, it has a special place in my heart.

Even dirty windows can't mar the beauty

Just passing by landmarks of my life on the el makes me weep for no reason other than that they are dear to me.  Fortunately, none of my fellow strap-hangers notices or if they do, they give no sign.  After all, it is mass transit in a major city and you see just about everything.

When I do visit, there are certain “musts,” which are all people I need to see.  On this trip, however, I built in just enough time (work crisis notwithstanding) for some yarn-crawling around town.

Windy Knitty - get the word play?

My first stop was the newest entrant to the Chicago yarn scene.  Windy Knitty occupies an incredibly sunny storefront in the Andersonville section of the North Side.  It was a pleasant eight-block walk from the el through a shady neighborhood to get to Clark Street.  There, I found owner Mandy poring over color cards for more stock to add to her already bursting cubbies.  Windy Knitty has yarn to satisfy different price points and tastes.  In particular, there is significant stock of various madelinetosh, Malabrigo and Three Irish Girls yarns, as well as some local dyers like Fleur de Fiber, who has her studio within walking distance.  The space is clean and uncluttered and the yarn is well-organized.  Mandy gave me a friendly greeting and we chatted a bit before she helped me

madelinetosh Pashmina - Burnished

dig through her madelinetosh Pashmina to try to match two skeins in the colorway Burnished.  What grabbed me was the hint of color that looks exactly like the patina on aged copper and bronze.  It doesn’t photograph well here, but it’s pretty amazing IRL.

Alas, the aforementioned work crisis 500 miles away ate into my time significantly (requiring me to go to a public library computer lab to build a web page on the fly …), and with one more LYS and happy-hour appointment, I had to leave before I wanted to.  If I were living on the North Side, Windy Knitty would be a LYS where I would be happy to teach.

Loopy Yarns

The last time I visited Loopy Yarns, they had not moved into their home in historic Dearborn Station.  My previous visit had left me a little lukewarm.  No so this time. I received a warm welcome and much-needed directions to the rest room so that I could enjoy my time there.  The space suits the shop’s needs nicely, with actual classrooms on the lower level. I did go with a specific desire: to add the new size 3 and 4 Signature circular needles to my toolkit.  Alas, the shop had yet to receive them.  Rats.

Alisha Goes Around Richness (of Martens) Fingering

However, I was delighted to lose myself in the “lace room.”  Although the yarns ranged from cobweb to fingering, the sock-weight fibers were not the kind to put on your feet.  While some of the yarns were familiar, others were not.  Loopy Yarns carries a variety of bases from Alisha Goes Around, which I had never seen in person before ~ one of the hazards of living sans LYS.  I brought home a skein of Richness (of Martens) Fingering in Nile as a souvenir.  It seems similar to Spirit Trail Fiberworks Sunna, one of my favorite yarns of all time.

Swans Island Organic Merino - Fingering

In addition, Loopy carries Swans Island organic merino, a yarn I have only seen online.  This fingering-weight is incredibly soft, with nice yardage and natural colors.  (The colorway is labeled “Brown” but the tag says “Russet” – more descriptive, by far.)  Although there are myriad skeins of similar colors in my stash, this one spoke to me in a way the others did not, so it was promptly wrapped in tissue to leave with me, too.

Locals swear by Loopy as the mothership of all that is good about Local Yarn Shops.  I was happy to find interested and interesting people there.  In a retail setting where personality sells more yarn than any display, Loopy clearly is selling plenty of yarn.

I had an impending date with a Churchill martini, and scooted on my way, glad to have done just a little yarn crawling in my home sweet home city.



September 1, 2010

A decade.

Ten years.

Just ten years.

Ten years ago.

Once upon a time, all those years ago, give or take a day, NutmegOwl walked into a LYS for the first time.  You see, at the place I worked, a co-worker had invited a group of people to learn to knit on their lunch hours.  She didn’t invite me.  But I would stop by their lessons and watch what they did.  “I can do that,” I thought.  As the summer weeks passed, it was clear I would not be invited.  So I asked where they had purchased their supplies, and on Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, marched in the door and made my declaration.

“I’m going to knit a sweater.”

I left armed with a Susan Bates instructional paperback, a set of US 11 straight plastic needles, a bagful of Paton’s Decor yarn, and a copy of Family Circle Easy Knitting.  Holding a forest green solid and an autumnal variegated together, within two weeks, I had finished the V-neck with the mock cable up the front.

By Christmas, I had completed that sweater for my sister (which I have never seen again), the fluted rib wrap for mom mom and a sport-weight ribbed V-neck vest for my dad.  I remember how surprised they were on Christmas morning when I told them that I had made the gifts myself.

I look back on the months that followed and marvel at my fearless ignorance.  There wasn’t much that I wasn’t willing to throw myself into.  Fine gauge?  Cider House Rules vest from Interweave Knits in Jamieson’s shetland.  Intarsia?  Goddaughter’s layette, think lots of Debbie Bliss and MinnowKnits.  Stripes?  Goddaughter’s layette.  Texture?  You name it.  Except, at the time, for lace, which was something only those on Mount Olympus made from cobwebs.  Little did I know what I was missing!

The knitting world was so different then.  I’ve just been reminded that Knitter’s Review went up right about the same time.  (Check out the new design to commence its 11th year!)  A community of knitters online.  Who’d have thought?  I had no idea some of my deepest friendships would be cultivated that way.

Back then, patterns were only available through books, magazines and pamphlets in LYS.  Interweave Knits, Vogue Knitting and Family Circle were the only quarterly games in town.  Online yarn sales?  They followed soon after, opening up a world of yarns that might not be carried locally.

Pack up your bags and go spend a weekend with strangers in another state at a knitting retreat?  Sure!  How did I choose to introduce myself to a roomful of strangers?  By publicly frogging a nearly-finished complicated cabled Manos pullover that wasn’t meant to be.  (Today, that retreat is my personal Christmas.  Plenty to say about that here.)

Being considered skilled and articulate enough to actually teach other people?  For money?  That one kind of stopped me in my tracks.  Momentarily.  And I found my second knitting love ~ unlocking the mysteries of this craft to bring other knitters on the journey with me.

To paraphrase the YarnHarlot: I am simply never not knitting ~ at least in my head.  A rare day passes that does not involve even two rows of something.

Life has changed greatly in the interim, but knitting has been the constant.

I went trolling about this morning, looking for the appropriate “anniversary” that goes with 10:  Tin, aluminum.

My first thought:  Uhhhhhhhh.  Not too festive.

Then the lightbulb:  aluminum.  The original Inox circulars that first populated my needle collection.  They’ve mostly been replaced by Addi Turbo and Addi Lace today, but I still reach for them from time to time, like old slippers, and run the black cords under hot water to unkink them.

I do still have those original straight plastic needles, too.  It’s been a long and lovely journey.  And if I wanted to, I could pick up those same needles and make something lovely.

Ten years.  That’s a shiny knit-a-versary.

Tales from a LYS

July 16, 2010

As the knitting industry has changed, so has the nature of the Local Yarn Shop.  Countless threads on discussion boards allow customers to rhapsodize or vent.  How a LYS handles a particular moment or customer can be crucial to its success, especially in a community where technology has removed all geographic boundaries that might have once “kept it local.”   And so begins a new periodic feature here, Tales from a LYS.  You’ll find lovely moments and sad ones, too.  Examples of the challenges, victories and failures out there in microcosm.

A few months ago, I stopped into a LYS to pick up some needles and browse.  A second person came in and asked the clerk if the shop carried “Number Four yarn.”

The clerk was flummoxed.

“What are you talking about?  ‘Number Four yarn?'”

“I’m new at knitting and I  have a pattern from the Internet and it called for Number Four yarn,” said the woman tentatively.

“Oh, well if it’s a pattern from the Internet you’d have to bring it in here.  You probably want to go to a craft store like Michael’s for that.”

“Ummm, I think she means the Craft Yarn Council of America yarn weight standards.  A Number Four yarn would be a worsted weight,” I murmured to the clerk, trying to be helpful with full precognition as to where this was going.

Mind you, said clerk was standing in front of a computer that had Internet access. It would have taken precisely 8 seconds to pull up this information, as I just did did. Said LYS has a vast array of worsted-weight yarn at wide-ranging price points.

“How much do you need?” the clerk asked.

“The pattern said eight balls,” said the would-be customer.

“But what’s the yardage?” the clerk pressed.

“Eight balls was all it said.  I left it at home,” said the woman.

“I really can’t help you if you don’t have the pattern,” said the clerk.

“Oh,” said the woman disappointedly.  “I’ll have to go home then.”

The woman left with empty hands.  I wish the story ended here.  Within a couple of minutes, the shop owner came onto the floor.  The clerk related to her boss what had just happened with much snarkiness, making fun of the would-be customer.

I was still in the store.  Clearly within earshot.

Bad manners is an understatement.

The clerk was standing in front of a computer with full Internet access.  Internet access that the shop routinely uses to look up pattern information for customers.  In a store devoid of customers other than me, she chose to not help.  And she recounted the encounter with relish, never for a second acknowledging the impact of her (in)action.  Nor did the LYS owner.

A new knitter who came in with enthusiasm but little knowledge was sent away. I hope she went to another LYS where someone showed her the basic kindness she deserved.

In retrospect, I wish I had listened to my inner voice telling me to jump in and try to help.  If it had been at my then-LYS, I would have done so in a heartbeat (an academic point, as this would never have happened there).  It wasn’t my shop, and the clerk didn’t seem exactly receptive.  I still wish I had.


April 22, 2010

The past few weeks have been pretty unprecedented ’round here.  Eighty-hour weeks, mostly-single-parenthood and more pressure on every front than I’ve ever had to face.  With that period (thankfully) over, I’ve realized all the more how much I miss my local yarn shop (LYS, to muggles).

My LYS was a mere ten minutes from the office.  On a slow or quiet day – back when there were slow or quiet days – I could run over there and just get away from work for a while … experience adult conversation … see new yarns … see projects others were working on … come up with ideas for new classes … visit the dreaded clearance area … and kick around ideas with the smartest yarn businesswoman I know.  (We’ll call her P.)

See, P. and I have history of the best kind.  She was there the long-ago day I visited a LYS for the first time, saying I was going to knit a sweater.  P. never once discouraged my enthusiasm while still steering me in the right direction.  She taught me things large and small about knitting.  P. has a way with people that is simply unparalleled.  She reads the situation and the person and knows the right response.  Her patience is extravagant.  Her sense of humor is wonderful.  Her knowledge of her customers and what they are looking for is right on the mark.   P. first offered me the opportunity to teach.  I was beyond flattered that she had that amount of confidence in me.

Having P. and my LYS gave me a “release valve,” if you will.  I could sit ’round the big table with other knitters, or off on my own, depending on my preference.  P. and I would pore over the latest patterns, peek at others’ beautiful work on ravelry and visit with some other fabulous knitters like TLCKnits and ChronicEnnui. I was a good customer, as my bank statements will attest.  I could pop in for something quick or stay for a long lunch.

I invariably work through lunch now, out of necessity as well as the gaping hole that was left when the owner closed the shop to consolidate.  P. is working at another property now.  It’s greatly inconvenient for me to go there.  I miss my shop pals terribly, and I miss P. terribly.  I miss the face-to-face contact with other talented knitters and the tactile pleasure of touching knitted objects in admiration.

It’s taken me many months to be able to write this, and I do so now with my eyes brimming.

If you have a LYS, you are lucky.  Don’t you forget it.

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