You may have noticed I haven’t posted a Year of Projects update for the last two weeks. I have been following along with my favorite YOP bloggers, but I think I’m taking a break from the Year of Projects for a while.
I say “I think” because this has been something I’ve debated about for weeks. I’ve actually previously written posts about this and then never published them. I love participating in the Year of Projects because it is a great crafting community, and I’ve “met” some of my favorite bloggers this way. Last year, my YOP goal list was tied to one amazing book, and I felt really compelled to work through it as a way of learning new crochet techniques and also of sharing with the world some of the amazing things crochet can do.
This year, I tried a slightly different approach. I set up a list of goals that included my crafty aspirations for learning new skills. I added some projects that I wanted to be accountable for completing but where I might need some community support to help me stay on track. In some ways, having a list that has so many different types of things on it has made it harder to choose what to work on next. Yes, I know I can sit back and reform my list at any time but I’m not sure that is what I want to do right now.
You see, some things have changed in my life since I joined this year’s YOP. I’ve been given some more opportunities to publish my patterns, and for the most part, I’m not able to share anything about those projects until publication. This means that I’m working on more and more projects that I can’t share with my readers while simultaneously having less and less time for projects on my list.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about three blog posts lately:
this one that I wrote back in back in January about my fear of becoming over-memed.
I know I don’t want my blog to be a place of obligation and crankiness, nor a place of feeling like I don’t live up to (my own) expectations about completing goals. I have a lot of ideas about the direction I’d like my blog to take in the future, but I also have to be realistic about the amount of time I have left after accounting for my full-time and part-time jobs, attempts to have a personal life, etc. The solution that seemed the best for me right now is to step away from participating in YOP until I have time to work on specific projects and I feel energized about posting about them!
I started this knit hat design during Knit and Crochet Design Week. (You can find my posts here: Intro/Kickoff, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and Day 6.) Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wasn’t pleased with the way the decreases were working out. I still haven’t decided how far I’m going to rip it back, or if, perhaps, I’m going to unravel it entirely. (I didn’t have an intended recipient for the hat, so I’m ok with unraveling it completely – but I decided to leave it as it is for a while until I decide.)
An adventurous skein of Malabrigo Rios in Glazed Carrot, galavanting around town with a friend.
I decided to start the hat over in this orange yarn, which would be an awesome gift for my friend, JP. We used to work together about nine years ago, and went through many trials and tribulations together as single gals. Now she’s happily married and living in (extremely) northern California. She is a redhead of the orange wearing variety, and I think she will love it.
Participating in Knitting and Crochet Blog Week last week got me thinking about many things, including colors and the balance between my knitting and crochet projects. My progress in busting stash during April has me excited about working up another stash project. This is why I decided to pick up a knitting project and restart the design in orange stash yarn. Even if I’m intimidated by orange, JP isn’t!
As far as reading, I’m currently about halfway through Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I read about it first through Evelyn at Project: Stash and then heard more about it from Stacey at FreshStitches on her Crochet Chat podcast. Although most people at my job would never guess, I’m an introvert. (I used to think I was “flakey” because I would always decide at the last minute to avoid parties and large social gatherings. Now I just decline right from the start!) This book is fascinating so far and I’m looking forward to reading more.
As part of my 2015 celebration of National Crochet Month, I’m updating this classic post. 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.
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 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. 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.
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. Updated to add: The Yarn Company now carries many exclusive, signature colorways, so it makes a great tourist destination.
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. (Updated to add: Knit-A-Way moved to Flatbush Avenue between Flatlands Avenue and Kings Highway in 2014. I have not visited the new location, but I hear it has a very similar selection.) 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 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.) Updated to add: P & S Fabrics now has a G+ page with hours posted.
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.
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 wouldn’t consider this shop crochet-friendly.
What about all the other yarn shops in New York City?
I really liked Jacqueline Henderson’s take on various projects including home decor and clothing.
I found it harder to find projects I loved in Design Crochet (1978). This book features many designers and is edited by Mark Dittrick. Most of the projects were way over the top, late seventies style, and I couldn’t imagine making them today. In general, even when the projects looked amazing in black and white, the color pics didn’t quite hold up.
Anne definitely has a color sense to match up with Sarah London!
Vintage technique books.
Apparently, Stitch By Stitch Volume 1 (1984) was part of a multi-volume series. Although most of the projects are pretty dated, it does have some great “how-to” photos for knitting, crochet, and other needlecrafts. It also includes a “Shoestring” section of inexpensive projects which often feature upcycled materials.
The first page in Stitch By Stitch’s crochet tutorial.
Originally, my plan for this week’s year of projects post was to talk about my classes over the weekend. But, I realized that I have way too much to say for one post, so I will be spreading out my full Masters experience over several posts. (Secret ulterior motive: I found out about Blogtoberfest, 2011, where you attempt to blog every day in October, through this post by Evelyn at Project: Stash. Since by strange coincidence, I had already blogged every day this month, I decided to join in. If I tell you about everything in this post, what will I talk about for the rest of the month?)
Have you ever wondered why this book shows up in an Amazon search of Crochet Master Class? This secret was revealed by Rita Weiss, who opened the book signing with a presentation on Crochet Master Class. Although I’ve been a big fan of the work of Rita Weiss and her long time colleague, Jean Leinhauser, I never previously had the pleasure of seeing Rita in person. Rita actually has a fabulous sense of humor and had several great one-liners in her presentation.
Rita shared that Crochet Master Class was a dream of Jean Leinhauser’s for a long time. It was their dream to create a book that would thank crocheters for finding new uses for hooks and resurrecting old arts. It would also honor great crochet masters while allowing them to each share a skill. Rita told how she and Jean identified the different masters and then collected original projects for the book for 2 years. The original idea was to include a multi-page gallery of color photographs of each masters’ work. However, just as the book was about to be published, Rita and Jean were informed that the publisher was “getting out of crochet” and the project was dropped! Luckily, they had already been paid ;).
It took Rita and Jean another year to find a publisher, and they were able to keep all of the crochet masters involved. The new publisher, Potter Craft, decided to shrink the size of the project gallery and re-shoot the pictures. Apparently, Rita and Jean came to refer to the project as “the book from hell.” I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad they stuck it out! This is really the most interesting crochet book I’ve seen in ages.
After the presentation, it was time for the signing. A lesser known fact about me is that I get very nervous when I’m meeting new people (in general) and even more nervous when I’m meeting new people that I admire tremendously. (I’m totally comfortable with public speaking though – I’ve presented to groups of over 350 people!) I almost snuck out and didn’t go to the book signing. I was able to remind myself that I couldn’t miss this chance to meet these four wonderful talents, so I decided to ease my nerves by looking through the yarn ;). I finally made my way over to the table, and introduced myself to Jenny King, Margaret Hubert, Tatyana Mirer, and Rita Weiss. Wow, what an incredible evening! Even though I was basically a blubbering idiot when speaking to each woman, they were all quite friendly.