This post was last updated in August, 2016. I’m a native New Yorker who has lived in either Brooklyn or Manhattan for over 90% of my life, and I love to support local businesses! If you’re visiting New York City, check out my recommendations, and let me know what you think!
After I posted about the awesome class I took with Jenny King at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, Evelyn from Project: Stash asked me what I thought of the Studio, since she hadn’t been there yet. I decided that today’s post would feature my favorite NYC yarn shops. I often see threads on Ravelry about folks planning to visit and wondering which yarn shops to see, so I also included general information about the wacky world of yarn shops in New York City.
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So, what’s the deal with NYC yarn shops?
There are some things that visitors should know about yarn shop culture in NYC to avoid surprises.
Price: You should expect that the combination of luxury yarn prices and NYC prices will make it likely that you will spend at least $10-12 on a skein of yarn in most situations.
Schedule: Although NYC is the City That Never Sleeps, yarn shops generally operate what my mother calls “a banker’s schedule.” They usually open at brunch (11 a.m. or later is the norm) and close at the end of the business day (6 p.m. is the norm). Additionally, many shops are only open six days a week, with quite a few closed on Saturday for religious observances and others closed on a week day. Most shops do have at least one “late night” a week, but it is definitely important to check the hours before planning to visit a shop.
Customer Service: It is unfortunately true that many shops with lackluster or even horrific customer service have continued to thrive due to their convenient locations in shopping or business districts.
My favorites (in alphabetical order)
I’ve visited all the shops on this list several times and I’ve found the staff friendly and helpful. These are shops that are crochet-friendly and have prices which are comparable with other shops in New York City.
I stumbled upon this cute shop earlier this year when I was taking an embroidery class with a friend at the Ukranian Museum. I’m rarely on the Lower East Side (Manhattan) these days, so I took the opportunity to check out Downtown Yarns. The shop has a “small town” feel – hard to do, in New York City! – complete with a screen door entrance. The yarn is stacked up to the ceilings and the store has those great, old-fashioned, wooden rolling ladders you might see in a library. The shop is pretty small, so I was super impressed with their collection of knitting needles and notions, which you can sift through on your own. (I hate having to ask to see things behind the counter – I feel like I can’t really browse because I’ll be too annoying to the clerks.) I’ve since made the trip back to the store twice and recommended it to my students who are on the look-out for wooden needles. Their yarn selection is pretty diverse, too, considering their small size.
This is my official Local Yarn Shop. Knitty City is in my neighborhood (Upper West Side, Manhattan), so I frequent it more regularly than other LYSs in New York City – but I love more about it than its proximity to my apartment! I love the comfy corner with books and cozy chairs. I love that the shop is extremely crochet-friendly, and even carries a range of crochet tools rather than just one type of hooks (as many of the knitting-focused yarn shops do). I love the great selection of yarn at reasonable (for New York City) prices, with a different type of yarn on sale every month. I love the large bookcase of knitting and crochet books, including Japanese imports, that you can browse freely. The store also has quite a few events (though my schedule never seems to match up). I have twice needed a hook or needle in a particular size, which the staff has happily special ordered for me.
By the way, Knitty City now also offers the option of winding yarn purchased elsewhere (for $1/skein), so if you packed that extra skein in your suitcase, bring it along with you! If you can only visit one yarn shop in NYC, this is the one I recommend!
The Studio sells the full range of Lion Brand Yarn products, which is great if you are looking for a particular color, but not so great if you are looking for another brand of yarn :). The Studio is located just a short walk from Union Square (Manhattan). The shop takes a minimalist approach to decor and has a fair amount of open space. There is a stitching wall where you can work up a swatch in any of their yarns – if only we could do that in every yarn shop, I’m sure many disastrous textures could be averted. Another nice feature of the shop is that you can print out any pattern from the Lion Brand website in the store for free. If you have been itching to try the LB Collection, Lion Brand’s line of premium yarns, then the Studio is the place to do that. The prices are lower than most NYC yarn shops, but higher than you would expect if you’ve been buying your Lion Brand yarn at a big box store. Overall, to me, the Studio is more like a yarncrafter event space with a store in it than a yarn shop. They offer over 100 classes each month and have many public events which are absolutely worth the trip. Again, the staff is friendly and are equally competent in crochet and knitting. I don’t generally shop at the Studio, unless I’m there for an event or a class, or am desperately searching for a specific color of Lion Brand Yarn, but I do like to frequent their events and classes.
Other interesting yarn shops
These shops may be worth a visit if you have a longer stay in New York.
I haven’t been to Purl in ages, so I’m not really qualified to review it thoroughly. I did enjoy the overall vibe and that they combined a yarn shop with a quilting shop, but I remember suffering from major sticker shock. The prices were high by NYC yarn shop standards, but in line with shopping in overpriced SoHo standards.
Slip Stitch Needlecraft is a new addition to the New York City yarn shop scene. Located in Brooklyn just minutes from the Nostrand Avenue stop on the A/C subway lines, it serves a diverse community — and this is reflected in its yarn selection. You can find inexpensive “big box store” yarns along side luxurious skeins with natural yarns. The shop is also wheelchair compliant and has a large lounge area where you can curl up on the couch with your latest project.
Smiley’s is the ultimate discount yarn shopping location. Updated to add: Smiley’s closed their retail store in 2015, but still have their amazing, cash only, “yarn riot” sales in Manhattan. If you’re visiting the New York area, be sure to check their schedule on the website! You can also shop their online store anytime. At the annual big yarn sale at the Holiday Inn in Midtown, Manhattan, you can only buy yarn by the bag, so it is best to bring a friend unless you need 10 balls of each color of yarn. Visiting Smiley’s is the yarn equivalent of stopping at Century 21 while you’re in New York City – you’d get a great deal and likely come away with a good adventure story from your shopping experience.
Updated to add: The Yarn Company is now web only, but it still makes a great tourist destination. Check out their exclusive colorways online, or look for them at a local pop up shop. After years of being notorious for snooty attitude and poor customer service, the Yarn Company was purchased by new (friendlier) owners a few years back. The Yarn Company sells several exclusive yarn colorways which make great souvenirs and gifts.
In my opinion, there are a few shops that you can definitely miss, especially if you are on a tight schedule.
Seaport Yarn is conveniently located in lower Manhattan and has a large selection of yarn and notions, but the shop is messy, and the customer service is poor. They also have a ridiculously high “credit card minimum” ($30, when I last checked).