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.
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 on a skein of yarn in most situations (exceptions are discussed below).
Schedule: Although NYC is the City That Never Sleeps, yarn shops generally operate on a schedule where they 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. If you can only visit one yarn shop in NYC, this is the one I recommend!
Lion Brand Yarn Studio
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’ve been to Knit-A-Way a few times, since the shop is around the corner from my dad’s apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. There is a large selection of yarns not generally seen in the fancy yarn shops. The store has a mix of big box brands and higher end yarns, which is great if you are on a budget. The store owner is an interesting character and is allergic to wool, so all the wool is located towards the back of the shop. On occasion, she has been known to close early or go on vacation (with a little sign left on the door), so a phone call before visiting may be in order. I recently learned that Tatyana Mirer teaches here, and I’d like to take her Bruges lace class. (Updated to add: I took the class with Tatyana in June, 2012, and it was wonderful!)
La Casita Yarn Shop
La Casita is very small and is equal parts yarn shop and hang-out spot. They have a tiny cafe which serves tasty treats and alcohol :). You may not find the yarn you are looking for since they have a smallish inventory (and the prices are steep), but you will definitely make friends and have fun crocheting or knitting here. They also have a nice collection of notions, needles, and hooks. They are open late, too (until 10 p.m. on weeknights), so you would be able to squeeze in a visit after a long day. Smith Street in Boerum Hill/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, has recently become a hipster haven with many nice eateries and other shopping options in the nearby area that you can check out before or after your visit.
P & S Fabrics (no website, 359 Broadway, Manhattan, 212-226-1534)
P & S is the type of old-school yarn and fabric shop I grew up with. The yarn selection is pretty standard in a big box store type of way, but the staff are very knowledgeable and there is a good range of notions, as well as fabric and sewing supplies. If you run out of yarn during your trip, this is an very inexpensive way to stock up while supporting a local business (instead of going to one of New York City’s Michaels locations). Call ahead for the schedule. (Tip: Lion Brand Yarns are much cheaper here than at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, but P & S doesn’t carry the LB Collection.)
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.
Smiley’s is the ultimate discount yarn shopping location. The store is located in Woodhaven, Queens. Smiley’s primarily sells discontinued yarns/colors and their prices are incredible. The decor is utilitarian. This is a cash only business and the store is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, except during their famous yarn sales, when they are open Monday through Saturday. Every year, they have a big yarn sale at the Holiday Inn in Midtown, Manhattan. At the Manhattan yarn sale, 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 would be 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 subway adventure story from your lengthy J train commute.
After years of being notorious for snooty attitude and poor customer service, the Yarn Company is under new ownership. While I previously avoided the shop because they were not crochet-friendly, I’ve been there a few times since the change in management, and the vibe is definitely much better. The new Yarn Company is actively seeking a multi-craftual clientele and it offers classes in knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving, quilting, sewing, and embroidery. While I haven’t yet fallen in love with their yarn selection and pricing, I do continue to stop in because it is a work in progress and seems to be moving in a positive direction. (Updated to add: The Yarn Company now carries many exclusive, signature colorways, so it makes a great tourist destination.)
Skip the trip
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).
String in Midtown East, Manhattan is attractively set up, but the prices are a bit steep. The staff was helpful when I asked about ordering yarn in a particular color, but I didn’t feel as welcome once I asked about crochet hooks. The vibe got a little chilly at that point. Also, they only carry one type of crochet hooks (Susan Bates Silvalume).
Yarntopia on the Upper West Side/Columbia Heights, Manhattan has a nice selection of yarn, but seems to fluctuate in customer service/amiability. (Updated to add: Yarntopia announced that it is closing as the owner is moving to Philadelphia.)
What about all the other yarn shops in New York City?
The New York City Crochet Guild has a list of yarn shops on its website. Checking out the Yelp reviews might help you decide which shops to visit.
What’s your favorite NYC yarn shop?