usa part the first: the smooshy…

im back, although i dont feel quite like i have fully arrived. i managed to pick up a throat infection thing on the last day (my poor sister got it pretty soon after we got there, so at least i cant complain about that!) and i am very severely jet lagged and not thinking clearly.

ive decided to break my posts about the trip into 3 separate topic areas, and am starting today with the post about the yarn and the yarn stores, because i know thats what the knitters really want, and also its the easiest for me to talk about! so we will go through them in the order that i visisted them, from the west coast to ‘back east’, and i give you my opinions as a personal point of view only, with my own rather particular likes and needs.

first of all, a general statement about yarns and yarn stores in america. it was winter. and it was really cold. so a lot of the yarn stores had seasonal stock in. also, they need heavier yarns than us most of the time, so i found a LOT of chunky, worsted and DK yarns. for sock yarns, koigu was ubiquitious, and i know we can get it online, but there is nothing quite like seeing it in the flesh. i had a hard time resisting. also, what a store says it has on its website does not actually reflect what is in the store! (they seem to run their online businesses as a slightly seperate enterprise). and finally, i shopped fairly selfishly. i had taken only one formal pre paid order from george, and i really wanted to get her what she wanted, given the recent visit to pfaffenhoffen, but even with much research and pre-departure communication, her order was hard to fill. mostly because she had used the stores’ websites for resarch, but what they actually had on offer was something different.  other less formal requests met with even less success, so i tried to pick up gifts for people, but mostly, i really wanted to just spend my hard earned money on myself. in case you didnt know, ive had a crap year in some regards, and unmitigated yarny self indulgence seemed well earned. not all of what you are about to see is for me, and i wish i could have got something for ‘everyone’ but i didnt, and im not saying what here is for me or for someone else, but some people might get a nice little surprise in the post this week, thats all im saying.

first stop, imagiknit in san francisco.

we scheduled this in for our second day on the way up the hill to haight-ashbury. i had heard good things and i wasnt disappointed. a lovely, two roomed store, high ceilings, plenty of room and SO MUCH YARN! definitely the biggest collection of yarn in one store in that i saw. it was hard to be confronted by so much so early, i didnt want to go too hard to early and have nothing left for DC or NYC, so i was very frugal. i had made a list for myself of what i was looking for (enough grey something for a leaving cardigan, and special sock yarn from everywhere), so i tried not to get overwhelmed, and the staff were very helpful and friendly. even so, i came away from here with three things, some claudias hand painted sock yarn, some mal sock in ravelry red, and some dream in colour smooshy sock yarn (pretty heavy sock yarn) in a lovely grey flecked with chocolate:

onward and upward, and across the snow covered interior to washington DC where after the conference was done (more on that later), we spent saturday morning wandering up dupont circle, and dropped into looped. id been planning on going to stitch DC, but that was in the opposite direction, and im sure its very good, but gee im glad i found looped.

firstly, what a great location, above this restaurant on connecticut avenue, and running the entire length of the building, so two rooms, joined by a hallway. the hallway was where you entered, with the luxury yarns and knick knacks (including some of that elusive highlighting tape). the front room had a lounge in it where my sister seated herself, and the walls were covered in floor to ceiling shelves of DK and worsted yarns, and the back room was the socks and lace weights. it was the front room that grabbed my attention here, almost the entire range of cascade 220 and the lovely berrocco alpaca which i had not seen before. i liked that about this shop, not a huge range of names, but a complete set within a range, if you know what i mean, so you could see all the colours. what i did see here was the cascade alpace lace, which was on my to-get list for george, but i was worried about carrying too much and was sure id be able to get that in NY. hmmm. in retrospect, i wish i had spent a lot more time and money here! this is what i got:

10 skeins of berrocco ultralight alpaca in black, an impulse buy for a cardigan. its so light and smooshy i couldnt resist. blue sky alpaca silk for a pigeon hat (ok so that ones for me), some grey frogtree pediboo sock yarn (merino bamboo), some red berocco ultralight alpaca (can this stuff get any softer?!) and some shibui sock yarn. they only had a few of these, and i didnt see it again, so i wish i had got more. ditto on the berrocco ultralight, i am going to be buying more of that online for sure.

then it was a little hop skip and a jump over to the Big Apple (with a slight detour via philadelphia, but more about that in another post!). we were in the city a whole day before i got to a yarn store, with the first stop being string on our way to the guggenheim.

this was an interesting experience. high end yarn shopping, like a personal boutique. and oh, the cashmere. not a huge range here, but thats because they specialise, and boy do they specialise. and it doesnt come cheap. i couldnt afford more than the bare minimum here, even with the help of jody’s gift voucher (and a very nice sales assistant who gave me the ‘kit discount’ for the classica even tho i wasnt buying it in the kit). so i got $160 worth for $125. but yes, i did just say $160 for 4 balls of yarn.

2 balls of string classica cashmere (about the same as sublime in weight and twist i think) and the thing i really wanted, some koigu cashmere, only available at string. im hoping 2 skeins will get me a skinny scarf! i cant begin to tell you how soft this is. you know jade sapphire cashmere? well its softer. speaking of which, our third day in NYC took us to a soho and a little store called Purl.

its a lovely store to be in, so attractive, and well set out, and so warm after the freezing ice laden wind outside, but i was surprised. they seemed to have only 4 or 5 main brands (im sure they had more, but these guys dominated). that is, madeline tosh, koigu, malabrigo and jade sapphire (no lacey lamb, only the cashmere) and they had very good ranges in all of them, but i asked about cascade alpaca and was told ‘we only have blue sky alpaca’. well of course you do. the one shelf of ‘shelter’ was stripped bare (there goes that gift idea), but the jade sapphire was a sight to behold, every colour in the mongolian cashmere in 2 and 4 ply, and the cashmere silk, which i hadnt seen before. i got me some of that, along with a koigu silk/merino blend id never seen before either (mori):

very yummy. i was very pleased at least to see my sister got some things here, a gorgeous little stencil book for a friend and a yard (not a meter) of really cute ‘little red riding hood’ fabric. the fabrics here were really something else. makes us look like amateurs.

and then the thursday we went our seperate ways for a few hours, my sister venturing over to queens to buy some roller derby skates, and me headed uptown to knitty city. i had kind of been saving myself for here, on donnas advice, and im glad i did.

the shop was a mess really but a lovely warm friendly and colourful one (no one seems to want to put labels on the shelves in this country), so it took me a while to figure out what was where, but the staff were really helpful. they had lots of different cascades but only a few colours in each range, so they helped me with the colour charts trying to pick the colours that were closest to the ones that george had ordered. i managed to settle on some lovely blue cascade alpaca lace for her, and that has already made its way down to her, so i cant show it here. but never fear, i did not leave empty handed:

here is a sample of the rest of what i bought, and i say a sample for a reason:

see that grey on the left there? thats madeline tosh pashmina in ‘vintage frame’. there is only one skein there, and there were only 2 on the shelf, but the staff and i had decided it was the best substitute for the yarn recommended for leaving, and they were sure they had more downstairs, so they went to look, and yes they did. so i got 7 of them. just to be safe. that was my own big self indulgent purchase and i dont regret it for an instant. other purchases was some ‘spudd and chloe’ sock yarn, its actually made by blue sky aplacas, and is a wool silk blend, its lovely and soft and shiny and i bought 2 to make long socks with. there is some plain old koigu sock yarn, and another skein of pashmina in ‘briar’. for something.

so, if you are headed to the US for yarn shopping anytime in the future, my advice is to have your project ideas in your head (without projects, yarn buying overwhelm would surely follow), but be ready to swap yarns depending on what they actually DO have. save up for knitty city and string. and dont forget the koigu!

more tomorrow.

k xx

About DrK

researcher, knitter, dog lover View all posts by DrK

16 responses to “usa part the first: the smooshy…

  • gidgetknits

    Welcome back! I loved looking at your yarn travels… almost like being there. Almost.

  • Rose Red

    Heh, I’m glad you just got some “plain old koigu” at Knitty City!! Too funny. I think I bought koigu at every yarn store I went to in New York!! It is nice to see it (and squoosh it) in person isn’t it!

    Really really great selection of yarns there, I’m so envious of MadTosh for Leaving, such a great pattern, maybe we should have a Leaving KAL!! (except I’d have to buy yarn for it and I’m doing StashDownUnder for 2011…)

    It’s hard isn’t it, trying to decide what to get when you go to the first store – you don’t want to go hard, but you don’t want to miss out either…thank goodness most stores do online sales!

    Looking forward to the next instalments of your US adventures!

  • 2paw

    I hope you are feeling much better soon. Thank you for the lovely wool shop tour!! I am glad you were able to find so many lovely things and that generally, your expectations were lived up to!!

  • 1funkyknitwit

    SWOON ! …where to begin, I love it all !!!! 😀

    That Purl shop looks so pretty and you look really lovely wearing Miss Jane’s hat and your wintery coat, that I think you should keep it.. never to be returned… ahahha

    I also happen to love that pretty pink/grey Koigu (lush !) and those reds, Oh then there’s all the grey …like I said WHERE do I begin, just envy on this end ;D

    Thanks for sharing it with the world 🙂

  • Bells

    this was an excellent post to devour on the bus today. It’s was Dr K’s Cross Country Guide to US Yarn Stores.

    I absorbed every word and photo. So much smooshy goodness.

    I need to see a wall of Koigu in person. I really do.

  • Knitdra

    Wow! I’m overwhelmed reading all about your yarn adventure. So many great yarns chosen from great places. Thanks for the tour and the tips. Walls of Koigu, Jade Sapphire et al, just fabulous. Well done you and here’s to a better 2011!

  • Donna

    I want to swoon! In fact, I think I will!

  • D

    I do love me some koigu…..I hate to think that I would come back with as I am sure I wouldn’t be as organised as yourself to plan projects. Looks all fab.

  • donna lee

    Looks like you made a nice haul. Ordering yarns online is certainly easier but holding them and smelling them and seeing the colors in person makes a huge difference.

    I hope the infection goes away now that you’re home and warm. It did get cold here, didn’t it?

  • Tam

    A quick USA yarn-tour! What a great ‘sample’ of yarn you collected! Hope you had room in your suitcase 😉

  • GeekKnitter

    Wow, what a fabulous tour! Too bad your closest stop was 10 hours south of me…

  • Emma

    My word! What a great yarny tour and a fantastic haul!

  • Michelle

    George showed me her gorgeous yarns today, and after I finished slobbering all over them (well, not quite) she told me you’d blogged about all the shops too! Great post – and I think it’s a great reference for any future travels knitters and crocheters are thinking of taking.

  • Ailsa

    Like I said in my email – Shit that’s a lot of yarn.

    So inspired by your great US yarn crawl, I’m even more determined to make Rhinebeck 2011!

  • LynS

    You seem to have been so organised and thoughtful in your chices. When I’m in yarn stores while travelling I sem to lose all my wits. These all look so beautiful – I’m very envious both of the shopping experience and the outcome.

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