Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Maybe I picked the wrong school.

So I'm up in East Lansing, MI at the fun and exciting Michigan State University for what is effectively a conference. The conference is of course, fun, exciting and educational. Yay, physics.
If I had known about the yarn shops in the area, maybe I would have applied here for grad school. They have a good physics program, but they have amazing yarn shops.
Holy crap.
First off, I know you're thinking - "East Lansing....that has to be near Thread Bear, right?"
Why yes. Yes it is.
More importantly, it's also the home of my friend Amanda, who is happy to knit with me and take me yarn shopping, especially at Thread Bear.
Thread Bear is stunning. Thread Bear has every single yarn from every single manufacturer in every single color, ever. (I might be exaggerating, but not by much.) I was paralyzed by choice. I found yarns and colors of my favorite brands that I did not know existed. As Amanda puts it, it's the size of her grocery store back home. (They also bundle up the kits of the infamous Tulip Sweater, which has been driving Dream in Color at the LYS crazy lately.)
Somehow, I walked out of there with three skeins of sock yarn and a magazine, but that's only because the other alternative was buying the entire store. When I go get my camera I will show you this yarn, and tell you the story behind it (there's a story). Let me tell you, it's good stuff.
I also heard about a couple of other yarn shops in the area too. I thought Thread Bear was enough to satisfy me for a while, but I'm not about to turn down the opportunity to go to another yarn shop that was right in the downtown area.
Holier crap.
I was having a little trouble finding Woven Arts , so I popped in a store downtown and looked them up in the phonebook. The owner kindly directed me down the street to the store with the tree outside that was wearing sweaters. I thought this was a great indication for a yarn shop.
The shop is very small, and it's not even packed to the gills with yarn. Instead, it was clean, inviting, and filled with some of the most beautiful, unique yarns I have ever seen. It was absolutely amazing. First off, there were baskets of handspun.
I pored over that alone for at least an hour. I wound up with a little skein of pale blue and white silk that will likely become a headband (maybe the Dream Swatch from Knit and Tonic. I've been blog stalking her long enough, I should probably use a pattern.) It's spun by a local woman named Jacquie Vaughan, who according to Nancy (the owner of Woven Art) actually taught Veronica of my LYS to spin. We kept having small world moments like that.
Then, probably half of the yarn in that shop is hand dyed. There were brands I didn't recognize, of all sorts of decent cottons, silks, and various wools. Also, which I think is amazlingly clever, she buys popular brands and hand-dyes them herself. That way, you know all about the yarn, how it works, and can use it if the pattern actually calls for it, but you get in a gorgeous hand-dyed colorway. It's just so smart, I can't imagine why I haven't seen it before at another yarn shop. There was a massive skein of Panda Cotton she had dyed in obnoxiously beautiful rainbow colors that was long enough for two pairs of socks. She happily split it in half! Ladies and gentleman, that is amazing customer service. But I assure you, there were many, many other tempting yarns there.
One of the base yarns is a lovely cotton/silk blend that really feels more like silk. There were some fantastic colorways she had dyed already, but I'm getting to dye me an entire sweater's worth of black. I've been wanting to make the Simple Knitted Bodice out of black silk for a very long time, but it's far harder than I realized to find a worsted weight black silk. Not only will I have it now, but it will also have the character and beauty of a hand-dyed yarn. I'm so glad I found this store.
But the yarn was only half of it. The entire back half was filled with weaving looms and spinning wheels. If I lived here, I'm sure I would never leave that store. I never had any urge to learn about weaving until I saw it in action. It's beautiful. However, I think this is a path I had better not pursue just yet. I certainly can't afford a loom, and I know I would want one.
When I show you the yarns I picked up, for the prices I got them, you will be flabbergasted. In addition to the silk for the headband and the panda cotton, I picked up some white mohair (intended for the Icarus shawl (scroll down)). It was 1000 yards for $27.50. That's the entire shawl, and then some. I also got cream colored thick and thin cotton that will go for lacy washcloths, the perfect go-to knitting gift. It was, get this, 700 yards for $7.15. That's just a little over $1/100 yards. Think about it - I don't think you can get Peaches 'n' Creme cotton for that. Of course, I still highly recommend Thread Bear, but I got into so much more trouble at this little shop. Something about knowing that this is the only place in the world that you can get this yarn makes it so much more tempting.
A good blogger would post pictures right here and now, but I'm too excited to wait until I get the camera. Overall, this has been a highly productive conference. I don't know if my stamina or my credit card could take another yarn shop in this trip. That's a good sign, right? Right?
Also, I found a really awesome used book store. I spent about $20 and walked out with a bag full of cool old books. (Note to self: books are heavy, particularly when you have a 15 minute walk in 90 degree heat.) (Note to self: Screw it, books are totally worth it.) No knitting books, though, save a really scary one from the 70's that I emphatically did not get.
Also, I learned a lot about physics and advanced my career as an academic professional. Yeah. That part, especially.


Lorna said...

Wow, sounds like an awesome excursion into both ends of the yarn spectrum.. Can't wait to see your goodies!

Mathgirl said...

That would definitely qualify as a worthwhile conference. I'm attending a math conference this July and already have the LYSs staked out for the one afternoon off

DK said...

Wow. I never thought I'd be considering vacationing in East Lansing....

Nancy McRay said...

Thank you for the wonderful words! I may visit your blog several times over the next few days, just to re-read your post about my shop!
Your black yarn is in the dye pot right now - I plan to leave it in over night. Get it good and dark!

Woven Art

Nancy McRay said...

Thanks for your kind words! I may visit your blog several times in the next few days - just to re-read it!
Your yarn is soaking in a good dark black dye bath right now - I plan to leave it in over night.

Woven Art

Amanda said...

Soo... Instead of studying for the exam I have in a week, I was googling blogs for the Tulip Sweater. (I'm seriously thinking about purchasing a kit.) And low & behold, I happen upon yours!

Ha! love it.