Churchmouse Yarns and Tea

I got my first taste of the Churchmouse brand while at a fiber festival a couple of years ago.  Their knitting patterns are exquisite, and I fell in love with their style immediately.  When we were planning our trip to Seattle, I just knew we needed to take a ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island to visit their shop.

And then, a few weeks ago something wonderful happened.  I was in Boston for the Yarn Market News conference, and I started chatting to the most charming gentleman.  Turns out it was John, one of the owners of Churchmouse!  Along with his longtime wife Kit, the two have built a beautiful shop and brand.

While in the shop, I felt very inspired, both as a knitter and yarn shop owner.

You can take classes, brew a cup of tea, and browse the large selection of knitting and needlepoint supplies.  There are charming surprises to be found everywhere you turn, from repurposed furniture pieces to extra large knitting needles.  And their spring window display is beyond charming, don’t you think?

I brought home a few new skeins of yarn, the bulk of which comes from Brooklyn Tweed.

Now the question of what to knit…

This Week

This is the week! The much-anticipated, long dreamed of week that my new yarn shop opens for business! Deep breath…

I’m feeling a lot of excitement, a little bit of anxiety when I look at that seemingly endless list of to-do’s, some vulnerability about putting my dream out there for public consumption, and a whole lot of gratitude that I get to live that dream.

Last week I hosted a sneak-preview stitch night for some of the Ravelry knitters in the area. It was a great turnout, full of the friendly faces and excited yarn shoppers. This was the first time Stash had been open to non-family members or close friends, and it was exciting and humbling to receive such an enthusiastic response.

This blog is going to remain a chronicle of my personal knitting life, though I’m sure some business talk will creep in now and then. To stay in the loop about the happenings at Stash, check out the new shop blog, website, Ravelry group, and Facebook Page.

Have a great week!  I’m hoping to be back here on Wednesday for Yarn Along.  I have some knitting (a very little bit) and lots of reading to share.

Stash Update

After looking at nearly every available space in my community’s downtown district, I have found a home for Stash.  It had to have the right combination of space, character, natural light, and potential.  I believe this spot has everything I was looking for, plus room to grow. And look at that window!  Can’t you just imagine the wonderful display possibilities?!

exterior before

interior before

This whole opening a yarn shop thing is really cutting in to my knitting time.  I had to take advantage of this moment and get a few stitches in on my around town sock!

Now that the space is secured, I am moving pretty quickly in an attempt to open at the beginning of October.  My mind is abuzz with ideas for the layout, including a seating area, gallery space, learning space, storage, and display.  The vendor list is pretty exciting, and I’ve started placing orders and receiving shipments!  And soon there will be the not so small task of cleaning this place up (oh, the dust!), painting, and putting in all of the fixtures.

This is a very exciting time, indeed!  I can’t wait to show you the transformation as it unfolds.


A New York City Yarn Sampler

Saturday’s activities in Manhattan led me to two local yarn stores that had been recommended to me by friends. The first is School Products, purportedly New York’s oldest yarn shop, located on Broadway between 28th and 29th Streets. It’s up on the 3rd floor, so you have to take an elevator and then ring the bell to be buzzed in to the store. Definitely something you would just happen to wander by!

According to their website, they carry a “rainbow display of yarns for every need and purpose from hand knitting and weaving to machine knitting”. Much of their yarn is imported internationally, from luxurious Italian cashmere to baby camel. They had plenty of interesting yarn, but visually the place lacked warmth, and there were a lot of dusty, empty shelves. I was the only person there on a Saturday, which left me feeling a little akward, but also afforded me with the ability to browse at my leisure.

I also saw a large selection of Koigu sock yarn which may be of interest to me on another trip; this time I told myself I was not going to be adding any new yarn to my sock stash! Mainly I was drawn to the unusual yarns with no labels. Looking through a box labeled Italian Cashmere, I found this:

It’s a subtly variegated lace yarn, and it didn’t come with a label. I bought two skeins thinking I might try to make the Hanami stole from Pink Lemon Twist.

I also kept going back to the box of yak and camel yarn, trying to decide what I could do with it. At various moments I had about 7 different colors in my hand, but I finally settled on two neutral shades that I thought I could strand together to make mittens.

A short train ride took us to our next yarn shop stop in Greenwich Village. The Point is a knitting cafe located on the charming Bedford Street that beckons you inside with its large window into the shop. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a young woman behind the cafe counter. She could tell it was my first time there as I was openly gaping at both the delicious baked goods and all the yarn. She told me about the setup of the store and offered help if I needed any. There were several groupings of knitters within the small space, all knitting and chatting away. The atmosphere is very warm, friendly, and cheerful. And the yarn selection wasn’t half bad, either!

Here I am literally drooling over the sock yarn…Lorna’s Laces, Cherry Tree Hill, Claudia’s Handpainted, Alchemy, and a few others were calling my name. Instead of buying more sock yarn, I got a piece of luscious blueberry pie and sat down with my own sock in progress to contemplate.

Maybe it was the setting, or maybe I was just really hungry, but that was the best slice of fruit pie I have ever tasted. It didn’t hurt that I ate it while knitting in the sock yarn corner, either! I was also within easy view of this:

That’s Classic Elite Yarns Jil Eaton Minnow Merino. It’s a single ply worsted weight and that’s machine washable! I bought 2 skeins each of the fuscia and orange. By the way, isn’t that a fantastic way to display yarn? Not only is it visually stunning, it’s quite practical as well. The skeins don’t get tangled, mangled, or worn out from being on display. When you want to buy something, you just grab the hook and you’re good to go. They also had some metal baskets affixed to the wall by their bottoms, yarn stacked neatly inside. This is where they have all their Noro…

The whole time we were at The Point, I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. The staff were so friendly, the seating and knitters were comfortable, and it had such a creative, fun atmosphere. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, I would highly recommend taking your knitting and your sweet tooth and sitting for awhile. Maybe I’ll be there too.

That concludes my brief NYC yarn crawl. There are plenty more yarn shops to sample, and if you’ve been to any of them I would love to hear about it!

Yarn on the Road

Vacation Knitting

While on our trip through the White Mountains, I did a lot of hiking, picture taking, knitting, and (gasp!) crocheting. First, the knitting: I took one existing work in progress along, and was able to finish it pretty quickly.

  • Pattern: Sunday Market Shawl
  • Yarn: Classic Elite Wool Bam Boo
  • Needles: US 10 1/2
  • Mods: None. Can you believe it?!

This is a great mindless knitting project, perfect for travel or knitting on the go. It did get a little cumbersome toward the end when I had to pull out several feet of wool each time I wanted to knit, but it was well worth it. And the yarn held up remarkably well to all the abuse I put it through between being used next to the campfire and being repeatedly dropped on the sandy, pine needle-covered ground.

Keep in mind that, with the exception of the first and last rows, this baby is knit entirely in stockinette stitch. That being said, it knits up quick on big needles, and it was very fun to let those stitches drop in the end. I love the effect; the scarf turned from boring to a spectacular, drapey accessory.

While away, I also started a new pair of socks. This was something I wasn’t sure I would be doing this summer at all; the idea of knitting socks was not appealing to me in the least a month ago, for no apparent reason. Perhaps I had over done it with trying to complete so many in the spring. So I knit a couple of tops and washcloths to clear my mind, and set out to knit a pair of Hedera socks.

This is one of Cookie A.’s amazing sock patterns (available for free online) in my new favorite yarn, Araucania Ranco Multy.

The pattern is cruising along quite easily and quickly, which is keeping me engaged. But once my simple scarf was finished, I needed something else I could work on in the dim light of a campfire. That is where my friend, CrochetingKate came along. You see, Katie is a prolific crocheter. Over Christmas, she taught me how to make a granny square, and I showed her a little about knitting. In the intervening 6 months, neither of us did much with this knowledge. But I was determined to grab her on this camping trip and make her re-teach me the ways of the granny square. For some reason, I have been convinced that I need to make myself a good old-fashioned acrylic afghan!

So, one night after dinner we got out our respective yarn and needles/hooks and shared our knowledge with one another. It all came back to me pretty quickly, and before long I had a decent size square. And I haven’t been able to put it down since!

Here I am sitting outside the yurt enjoying a cold root beer and crocheting up a storm! I cannot believe how fast this blanket has grown! Knitting a blanket to this point would probably have taken me weeks, not hours. I cannot say whether or not I am a true crochet convert quite yet, but it is enjoyable and rhythmic and I am loving the results.

The LYS Search

I tried to find signs of a Local Yarn Shop everywhere I went. Aside from a few hot tips in my last post about the apparent dearth of yarn shops in New Hampshire, I was on my own. Address in hand, I set out to find the Woolen Rabbit in Conway, NH. I found the address, and it seemed like a private home. Okay, maybe I misunderstood….is this an Internet business? I was feeling too shy to go up and knock on the door, so we drove on.

Things started looking up when we decided to take the scenic route home through Maine. We were just cruising along on 302 when I saw a sign for a yarn shop that had an arrow pointing left and said 8 1/4 miles. Yipee! Sweetie turned the car so fast I was tempted to think for a second that maybe she is catching on to this whole yarn thing! After several minutes on a very bumpy, windy road, we ended up here:

I was skeptical to say the least. But, there were a couple of other cars there, and a flag that said “Open”, so we decided to brave it. Inside, I found one of the smallest yet finest collections of yarn I have ever seen. Jan Friend, the owner of Naturally Fuzzy Yarns in Harrison, Maine, says that she is moving toward carrying all organic and/or New England made yarn. She is off to a great start with Green Mountain Spinnery, Farmhouse Yarns, Valley Yarn, Decadent Fibers, Cherry Tree Hill, and Schaefer Yarn Co., to name a few. And she has quilting fabric, books, and accessories in there too, all neatly and beautifully organized. I came away with some great finds, and a bit of a wild look in my eye.

Here’s a peek at my favorite purchase, Nancy from Schaeffer Yarn:

Later on our scenic trip home, we found ourselves out on Cape Cod. I know, it’s not really on the way back to Connecticut, but neither of us had ever been there and we are always keen to cross destinations off our lists of places to see. Again, Sweetie pulled a James Bond-like maneuver with the Subaru and soon I found myself looking at a very non-descript yarn shop. It is, in fact, attached to the Ace Hardware store, and you wouldn’t know it was there if there wasn’t a sign pointing right at the door.

That’s my favorite yarn purchase from this store, Yarn Basket, in Eastham Mass. It’s more of the previously mentioned Araucania Ranco Multy. Check this yarn company out if you haven’t already; it’s sublime. Anyway, this store was a bit bigger and carried standard fare as well as a great sock yarn selection.

I made it home with such fine enhancements to my stash…it is all I can do to stop myself from casting on half a dozen new projects. But I will refrain, at least until I am done with my first Hedera…speaking of which, she is calling my name from across the room. Time to knit!