I’ve been dragging my sock around town, annoying everyone, but putting in a row here and a row there.

Here it is visiting the parachute jump at Coney Island. (My knitting has now visited two of the remaining remnants of the 1964 World’s Fair, the other being the awesome Panorama.) By the way, as an occasional reader of weird pop culture history books and through my years of research for work, I’ve discovered that almost everything was invented or debuted at a World’s Fair, including Belgian waffles, air conditioning, various electrical gadgets, and ice cream cones. Whenever someone wonders when the first “______” came about, if you answer “The World’s Fair!” you would, I think, be right at least 75% of the time.

I also made it pose next to many different types of magnolias, tulips, and cherry blossoms  at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, (and one patch of neighborhood jonquils). It’s like the gnome! It’s everywhere!

This is a small little yarn store in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Midwood, which is a short drive away from Coney Island. Adam and our former co-worker, Seltzerboy (pictured) wanted to eat pizza at Di Fara. (If you click through on the links, you can read about how the two of them are fanatical about Di Fara. I was the victim of much eye-rolling when I suggested that Di Fara should institute a line, instead of the free-for-all pizza ordering system they they currently have.) It’s just a neighborhood yarn store, with Red Heart and Patons, and similar brands, rather than the more high-end yarn stores in Manhattan or other parts of Brooklyn. It is, however, devoted entirely to yarn, unlike a lot of similar neighborhood stores, which tend to be a catch-all of fabric, yarn, Bedazzlers, and other craft supplies. I am guessing that they developed this inventory–of more inexpensive, and often acrylic, yarn–by observing customer demand, though I wonder if it would benefit (or hurt) the store to carry more boutique lines of yarn as well. Their inventory is so similar to that of Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s that it lacks any stock that might give it an advantage over those big-box craft stores. It may be, however, what the neighborhood wants, and a store carrying Koigu or Malabrigo might be seen as too expensive or too snobby by its customers. I don’t know; that’s just my guess.

Stitch N Stitch

1320 Coney Island Ave.

Phone: (718)-692-0100

This was on the same block, and I think it might be owned by the same people who owned Roxy Yarns, but I couldn’t find Roxy Yarns. Perhaps both stores are moving? I liked the name: “You’re SEW materialistic!”

Posted in travelingproject, Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at April 20th, 2008.

Two balls of Ornaghi Filati Luna Park Sock Yarn.

Two years ago, (also in March), I went to visit Seaport Yarn, one of the weirdest yarn stores in Manhattan. Recently, I had heard that the store moved, and this weekend, since I was going near City Hall anyway, I took a visit to its new location. (It’s still in the Financial District, just in a different building.)

Okay, the store is still weird, and continues to be in an odd office space:

(I looked at the photos from two years ago and I was carrying that same handbag, which is funny because I actually don’t use it that often, as it’s quite heavy.) Anyway, that’s me pointing to a paper sign that says: “Seaport Yarn, Fifth Floor.”

The new layout is much more open, and isn’t as kookily Being John Malkovitch-y as the old one. The owner continues to run her marketing business out of the same office though.

But it’s still hidden–it’s in that 181 building, surrounded by hawkers selling knock-off pashminas.

This brings me to a question I’ve been thinking about. Do you feel like you have to buy yarn at your local yarn store if you visit? What if you linger for more than a certain time? What if you’re the only person in the store? I do. If there’s a lot of people, or if I’m just in and out, then I don’t feel obligated to get anything, but if it’s just me (and Adam), and/or I browse for longer then 10-15 minutes, and especially if I’ve chatted with the store owner, I feel I have to buy something. (Hence the sock yarn in the top photo.)

It’s tricky, because I try not to have too much stash (in fact, I am aiming for zero stash), and it would be fiscally irresponsible for my own budget if I always bought something. (I’m not even going to discuss the enviromental and global pros and cons of consuming something you don’t need.) But small businesses do have a certain charm. I used to be less swayed by this argument–buy local to keep your neighborhood’s character–simply because I felt like businesses of any size needed to figure out how to compete with big box stores, instead of soliciting pity purchases from its customers. But with the growth of the internet, it’s something that’s become more and more of an issue.

We went to brunch on the Upper West Side today, and I was all grouchy thinking about the loss of Murder Ink. I never shopped there that much, but it was a GREAT bookstore, and it always sold a ton of Ellery Queens* (unlike *cough*The Strand,*cough* which is too highfalutin to ever have more than a couple of Agatha Christies on a sad little cart somewhere). It WAS something that contributed to the character of the neighborhood, and I was thinking about how if a murder mystery bookstore couldn’t survive on the Upper West Side, the heartland of cat-owning, tea-drinking, Agatha Christie-reading old ladies**, where can something like that thrive?

*If you like murder mysteries, I highly reccomend Ellery Queen. That said, one of my friends considers the detective “too smug,” so he’s not everyone’s taste.

** Totally me. I don’t own a cat or live on UWS, but I say that with respect. And as a former resident of Morningside Heights, I feel I know the UWS enough to comment on its change.

I grew up, like so many people, reading these kids books set in New York*** and watching Woody Allen movies (my dad is a big Woody fan, though I am on the fence myself), and wanting to live in that New York, a New York of the 1960s and 1970s–a New York that is now changed. I’m not so curmudgeonly that I think the change is always for the worse, and it’s easy to romanticize something that’s gone. (When I lived here in the 1970s with my parents, there was no air-conditioning in the subway, something that I think is Totally Insane.)

***E.g. The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline

I’ve always had an almost automatic dislike of the jingoism of “Buy American” or the righteous yuppieness of “Buy Local,” but as I age into a middle-aged crank, I’ve begun to understand the emotions behind these slogans more. Without local yarn stores and other small businesses, neighborhoods do lose some of their flavor. Anyway. I have more to say on this topic, including some supportive thoughts about the opposing point of view, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts about whether you shop at your LYS or online and why.

Oh, and the new Seaport Yarn info:

Address: 181 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Phone: 1-800-347-2662

Website: www.seaportyarn.com


 

Posted in the Business, Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at March 30th, 2008.

IMG_4901.JPG

Brooklyn General

Address: 128 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Phone: 718-237-7753

 This store used to be on the same block (or fairly nearby) but in a smaller underground space. It used to be cozy but kind of twee, and the new space is much better. It does feel somewhat like a general store, and it has a large selection of yarn, as well as fabrics and other crafty notions. It’s not the most beautifully arranged store (that distinction still goes to Purl and Loop), but it feels comprehensive, as well as offering several types of yarn I haven’t seen at other stores, including a beige/white Noro shade, which was quite beautiful. (I think it’s the same shade as used in this wrap.) It also had a really large book selection, and spinning supplies.

I thought the selection was reasonably priced, though a fellow customer whispered to me, “It’s quite expensive here, you might want to look somewhere else as well,” while I was shopping. I thought it had a nice range of middle-priced yarns actually, but I remember thinking in their old location that it was a little bit on the pricey side, so maybe the old store’s stock was what the other customer remembered.

The store does have one annoying quality though–the staff yarn is not priced directly on the skein. You have to look it up in a little booklet hanging on the shelf, which is kind of a pain. But it’s definitely one of the nicer yarn stores in New York, I think. Definitely worth a visit.

Brooklyn General

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at December 2nd, 2007.

Since I’ve been going to yarn stores, I’ve realized that this country is running out of pun-y names for their yarn stores. (Not to mention pun-y knitting blog names. Adam’s mom came up with mine–he comes from a pun-y family.)

There used to be a flickr group devoted to yarn stores with pun-y names, but it’s now just a yarn store photo group. I think the best needlework pun I have seen was in an issue of Blueprint. It was a caption for a sewing machine, and it said “I got 99 problems, but a stitch ain’t one.” Ravelry‘s tagline is  “Where my stitches at,” which is pretty good too. Though I’m not sure I should be advocating needlework puns that rhyme with rich, as Barbara Bush the elder would say.

Anyway. I’m going to merge two yarn store reviews into one, both of which have pretty good names, Loop, in Philadelphia, and The Point, here in New York.

I went to Philadelphia for work a few weeks ago, and I scheduled myself onto a late train coming back, so I could eat something there and visit a yarn store. Yarn stores, yay!

loop

This was really a wonderful and inspiring store. It reminded me of Purl, here in New York. Whoever orders their yarn has an amazing sense of color, and their store is filled with plump yarns in wonderful hues. They had just gotten a shipment of Koigu and it was spread all over their sofas, and there was yarn! Everywhere!

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I judge fairly harshly on how stores are styled. First of all, they need have to have some sort of color palette. Both Loop and Purl sort by yarn brands, but it almost feels like they sort by color. They both offer a ton of jewel- and candy-colored tones. Even if a store offered beautiful neutrals, I think I could be lured. What I don’t like is when you go into a yarn store and it looks like you’ve wandered into someone’s storage area in their garage. I’ve been in some yarn stores, and they have a combination of baby pastels and dust bunny-ish yarns, and it just seems like someone’s attic. At Loop, the yarns seem like pigments–inspiring materials to paint with.

Photo from Loop’s flickr photo stream–their blog post about it is here.

(I loved this sweater…and look at those colors in the back! Don’t they look great?)

My second criteria is that there has to be a lot of yarn. I hate going into yarn stores (or any sort of store, actually) where there’s only a few skeins here and there. I want to feel a sense of abundance in a store. (I told this to my mom once, and she was worried that this made me sound like I grew up in abject poverty, and that I ran around saying, “Please sir, I want some more.” Don’t worry, I had plenty to eat growing up. It’s just that I like stores to have a lot of stock.)

And here I must now discuss The Point.

The Point

I know many many New York knitters like The Point. It is always well-reviewed when New York yarn stores come up, but I am here to complain. Many years ago, before I learned to knit, I remember walking by The Point at night and thinking it looked like the most wonderful place. I said to my friend, “Wow, that yarn store looks so nice–it makes me wish I could knit.” But since I have actually become a knitter, I realized that this store has some problems. I think it has to do with the way they display their yarn, which is in baskets (as you can see in this photo). There’s something weirdly skimpy about the selection in those baskets, and they’re difficult to get yarn out of. You need one of those trash-picker claws to get the yarn out of the top baskets, and it’s hard to see the different colorways available in each basket. In the back, the skeined yarn is held up by hooks, and once agin, there’s something unwelcoming about the display. There’s something uninspiring about the way they display their yarn and it never wants to make me buy stuff here. 

That being said, they have a lot of tables here for people to sit and knit, and their staff always seems nice. I think they need to carry more yarns and display them in a better (perhaps more conventional) manner, and have a more inspiring selection.

Loop 

Address: 1914 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Phone: 215-893 9939 or 877-893-9939

The Point

Address: 37a Bedford Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone: 212-929-0800 or 877-60-POINT

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at November 10th, 2007.

Fashion Design Books

Fashion Design Books

Address: 250 West 27th St.
Phone: 212-633-96446
Website: www.fashiondesignboks.com

Adam spotted the re-opening of this store the other day. This is the campus bookstore for F.I.T. (the Fashion Institute of Technology). They have a large wall of yarn, all made by…

Fashion Design Books

LION BRAND YARN!!!

At first, I was a little excited because I thought they might have Cotton-Ease, this hard-to-find Lion Brand yarn. But they don’t, though they do have fun fur and lots of other somewhat weird novelty yarn.

I’m really disappointed in this store. How could a fashion college have such a terrible selection of yarn? They even have these brand-spanking new Lion Brand booklets that are straight from the 1970s. It’s one thing when you’re a weird creepy sewing/yarn store from way back (very popular in the outer boroughs) and have dusty, faded brochures that were never sold; it’s another thing when you ORDER new Lion Brand learn-to-knit brochures that still teach you how to make horrendous acrylic slippers. Knitting has evolved so much since the selection here, and for a fashion college to renovate and choose to trap its knitting section in 1982 is really a shame.

I think Lion Brand has been trying to evolve a little bit, but they’re still trapped by their loyal fun-fur-loving customers. (What’s weird is that the Lion Brand HQ is right near Union Square–I used to walk by it all the time at lunch–and yet it hasn’t really evolved as a brand. Though I have to admire the intensity of this.

Knit.1 used to be sponsored by Lion Brand, and they had some cute patterns, and they still use a decent amount of Lion Brand. Anyway, if you work near F.I.T. or go to F.I.T., this might be good if you absolutely need something, but since School Products is pretty close by, I would suggest going there instead.

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at August 12th, 2007.

At Downtown Yarns downtown yarns

Downtown Yarns

Address: 45 Avenue A

NY, NY 10009

Phone: (212) 995-5991

Webpage: www.downtownyarns.com

This is a cute little yarn store in the East Village. I’m pretty sure that Stitch and Bitch was shot here. It has homey library-like shelving, which one of the employees said the owner buys at upstate antique stores. I’ve been in here a couple of times while waiting to eat dinner in the neighborhood and the staff here is really nice. I’ve never bought anything here, but I think the owner has a good eye for color and texture, and there’s a good selection of yarns here. In the photo I’m handling some Katia Jamaica cotton–here’s a cute baby kimono that someone made with the yarn.

I think this yarn store is a little bit like Purl, but it carries a larger selection of more inexpensive brands, I think.

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at August 8th, 2007.

School Products mosaic 

School Products

Address: 1201 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY

Phone: 212-679-3516

Website: www.schoolproducts.com
 

I’ve been to School Products twice. Once with my co-worker (without her, I would have never found it, because it is in such a weird office building*) and once with Adam last week, after a  horrible Shake Shack burger. Danny Meyer, please go check on Shake Shack because I have been having PTHD (post-traumatic-hamburger disorder) ever since.**   

Anyway. I have decided that School Products is like the Strand. Like the Strand, School Products is famous and considered a New York icon, and yet, I don’t quite get why the two are so beloved. True, both offer good deals (I bought Twinkle’s Big City Knits at the Strand for 40% off last week) on hard-to-find, expensive stuff (School Products offers yak, camel, and cashmere yarn), but yet I find them both sort of uninspiring. I find the Strand much better since it’s been renovated (I know, heresy to Strand lovers), but it’s still kind of meh. The Strand still has an unwelcoming element to it, I think.  I know that School Products has lots of awesome stuff for cheap, but I didn’t feel compelled to buy anything. I think it’s partially because it has a weird office building vibe, with industrial carpeting and overhead florescent lights. Also, I have to admit, I think it’s because it’s not styled very well.

I think it’s a lot like going to a sample sale. I’ve scored some great bargains at sample sales, but often I feel so uninspired. Things that I might be lured by if it was showcased in a fancy store seem so horrible when jumbled into a big cardboard box. (Especially Marc Jacobs! There is always so much crappy Marc Jacobs at sample sales. I used to be a much more avid sample-sale goer when I worked in midtown, and before I decided to kill off my shopping habit.)

It’s terrible and shallow, but in a way, perhaps it forces you into buying things you truly like. Because if yarn or clothes can appeal to you even in a crappily lit and weirdly laid-out store, then you’re judging them fairly–in a blind taste test, as it were–without being swayed by designer names or fancy styling. (Books don’t really suffer from styling. It’s just that the Strand used to be really hot and dusty all the time, and in a bad way, not a charming way, and I could never find anything I wanted. But it has improved, post-renovation.)

That being said, School Products does have a large selection of yarn on cones, many at substantially cheaper prices than at other yarn stores. They are also owned by the same family that produces Karabella yarn and who wrote Runway Knits, so they have the full line of Karabella yarn. I’ve seen a couple products made with Karabella Aurora 8 yarn, and when knit up, the resulting material looks very crisp, if that makes any sense, and seems to have very little halo. Though Grumperina has a bad review of it here, I would still consider it for a future project.

* See below

School Products

** My friend offered to split sliders with me the next day, when I was hanging out and having drinks, and I was like “No! I have bad feelings about ground beef!”

Posted in the Business, Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at May 6th, 2007.

Our motel was located next to a Wegman’s, which we went to every day. Also. It was near a strip mall, with a Michael’s. MICHAEL’S!!

Adam has learned that Red Heart yarn is a metonym for “crazy ladies who make afghans that yarn snobs look down on.” Hence the photos.

red-heart.jpg

But honestly, I love all craft stores. Red heart is cheap, and when I was a kid, there were no fancy yarn stores, just Woolworth’s. I love anonymity and unpretentiousness of the big craft superstores. If I only could craft from Michael’s I would be fine.

redheart2.jpg

Also, they had this awesome machine, the Cricut, that could die-cut little confetti things for scrapbooks. It was totally unnecessary, but fascinating nonetheless. I own a Xyron, so craft gadgets are totally alluring.

And yes, Michael’s does not have all the fancy stuff, yarn-wise, but they do have all-wool yarns, I noticed, and knitting looms, and iron-on letters and all kinds of good stuff.

Also, Wegman’s? They had an entire magazine aisle with SIX quilting magazines and two knitting magazines, including the new Interweave that I haven’t seen here in NYC.
Wegman's

In summary, Ithaca, at least in the fiber department, had a bigger selection of knitting books and yarn than most New York city yarn stores. City mice, those country cousins are looking pretty sophisticated! Start packing!

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at February 23rd, 2007.

Adam and I, we try to be cultured people. We went to the I.M Pei-designed art museum and appreciated the landscape:

Like a Brueghel, Claire Says

The view, it looks like a Brueghel, no? Oh, so much culture. Everybody, pinkies out!

Okay, pinkies down. I enjoy a museum, but there’s nothing better I like during a vacation in a new place than (a) going to the supermarket and (b) going to the mall. Very soothing.

Fiber store numbero 2, was in a mall:

Triphammer Mall

Triphammer Mall. One of the saddest malls we’ve ever seen. Most of the stores were closed and the thing was basically falling apart. But, its yarn store was actually very busy and hopping:

knitting-etc.jpg

Triphammer Mall
2255 N. Triphammer Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 277-1164

http://www.knittingetcithaca.com

If I went to business school, I think it would be interesting to do a case study about what makes a yarn store successful.
Homespun had location (the Commons, located in central Ithaca), a nice and knowledgable owner, a better selection of yarn, and a cozier store, but Knitting Etc. was packed with people, despite being located in the Mall of Doom. I would have had to visit both more regularly to figure out if this was an abberation, or a reflection of their normal clientele numbers. I’m not really sure why Knitting Etc. was so hopping (though it did have a class going on), but it’s worth contemplating.

Knitting Etc. does have a great website, as well as a regular newletter with some nice patterns that you can download off their website. And the store itself was quite big, with a great selection of books, and knowledgeable sales staff. I think that Homespun had a better yarn selection though.

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at February 21st, 2007.

Ithaca: A Hotbed of Excitement

Stay tuned for exciting fiber-filled posts all week! As a self-appointed expert in all things fiber-related in Ithaca (having spent three whole days there), I am going to share with you three possible yarn shopping experiences that you can combine with other fun tourist activites should you choose to go to this town.

First post, first store: Homespun

Visiting Homespun, a Yarn Store

Homespun
Address: 314 E State Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-277-0954
Website: No website

This is located on The Commons. The Commons has the same strange shopping available to every college town I have ever been to: several used bookstores, a cafe supposedly run by a cult, several stores that sell punny t-shirts (“Ithaca is Gorges”), and stores that sell imported ethnic fabrics and chunky ethnic jewelry.

Visiting Homespun, a Yarn Store

Above: The store has a really excellent yarn selection. That’s their non-wool section on the right. Since the weather was a warm 30 degrees during my visit, I’m guessing that those shelves are not very popular.

Visiting Homespun, a Yarn Store

Above: Cool fabrics arranged by color. Quilting is so going to be my next hobby.

If you go to Ithaca, you will probably go to the commons, since it comprises all of downtown Ithaca. (A chili cookoff in the commons made the front page of the Ithaca newspaper, the evening local news, and both Cornell papers.) It (the commons) is also located next to Moosewood, the famed vegetarian restaurant.

Posted in Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at February 20th, 2007.