Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Yarn Crawlin' - Down and Dirty in the Garment District

The Garment District in New York is Amazing. Because it is still really used by an Industry, and not just the industry of Retailing to Hobbyists. As such, it's messy and not all that clean and not all that clear, and in some ways, not so convenient. Anywhere else in America, the store you go to for fabric also has zippers and thread and needles and velcro and interfacing and patterns and buttons and a Bedazzler. You know, all the stuff you need. Here, you go to blocks and blocks of stores, in weird old buildings, sometimes without storefronts, hidden inside the buildings. And there's no Bedazzler, but a bedazzling array of fabric. But only, for example, satins and silks. Or weird unorganized odds and ends on long unwieldly tubes, not on handy Retailing to Hobbyists bolts. And they ain't got buttons, or needles, or zippers or zip. Just fabric. Unless maybe they do, because sometimes they do have thread or something. But don't count on it, and there's something there about gift horses and looking in the mouth - it's an awesome system, don't mess with it.

But you're looking for yarn, anyway. And it is here. In the same sort of weird, specialized, tucked away, not-too-gussied-up way.

I will say that for the sewing and fabric enthusiasts among you, the Empire Quilt Guild's big show is THIS WEEKEND at FIT - Stephanie's speaking gig is. March 24-25. You know you want to go. Click anywhere on this whole sentence for the details.

The Garment District Yarn Tour

The down-and-dirty show-me-funky give-me-amazing crowd. And anyone who can get around by themselves and gets to the big Stephanie Representing event early.

Start: Anywhere. Time is running short for my blabbering on and on. This is more of a what's-in-the-area list.

We've got The Yarn Connection. It's not really in the Garment District, but it really is worth a visit. These ladies are seriously serious, this store's been around longer than many, many of the others in the New York, and they've got lots of great stuff.
The Yarn Connection
218 Madison Avenue, by 36th Street (between 36th/37th)
2nd Floor
Mon - Fri 10-6, Thursdays open 'til 8, Saturday 10-5

Then there's the somewhat famous School Products. Also a yarn store in New York with a history a lot longer than Stitch-N-Bitch Nation. They've got a funky stock - they keep some standards in (Brown Sheep, Karabella, baby yarns), but they've also got a lot of wild stuff on cones and in irregular skeins. They're most famous for having great cashmere. And they do.
School Products
1201 Broadway (between 28th/29th Sts)
3rd Floor, Suite 301
Mon - Fri 9:30-6:30
Sat 10-3:30

Also the slowly-becoming-famous Habu Textiles. Japanese artisinal. I don't even know what to say. They sell their own yarns, I don't think they carry anything that's made for commercial yarn retail except their own stuff. More oriented towards weaving and what a lot of folks might call experimental or fiber art pieces. Wild. Amazing.
Habu Textiles
135 W 29th Street, (between 6th/7th Aves)
Suite 804
Monday - Sat 10-6

And the elusive Vardhman Inc/Unique Knit Craft. No website, though it's the one one in this area that's actually a walk-in-from-the-street and not on a second/third/eighth floor. Very few listings on "lists of New York yarn stores." But a real person answers the phone there and the greeting is "Unique Knit." I think it's probably a gold mine, if you take the time to track it down and sift through their offerings.
Vardhman Inc.
257 W 39th Street (between 7th/8th Aves)
Mon - Fri 10:30-6:30, Sat. 11-5

Happy shopping, happy knitting, and have a coffee at Antique Cafe: at FIT on 27th between 6th and 7th OR their larger and packed-full-with-amazing-fresh-flowers location at 26th just off of 6th Ave (between 6th & Broadway). One of the earlier careers of the proprietor was the manufacture and sale of amazing silk plaid boxers made in India.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Yarn Crawling: Guest Tour!

Yarn Crawling: Guest Tour With Guide! And Pitstops!

Lizbon has not only fantastically offered up this well-written tour, but has offered to TAKE YOU WITH HER on this tour. She will be going on either this Friday 3/23 or this Saturday 3/24. Email her at lizbon AT girlwich DOT com if you’re interested and let her know which day(s) you are available.

Also, Lizbon's Knitter's guide to New York Restaurants (many in the path of this yarn crawl), available as PDF by clicking here.

Lizbon’s Tragically Hip (Soho and E/W Village) Yarn Crawl

Meet at Le Gamin (132 W. Houston, just west of Sullivan, on the north/ uptown side of the street) to fortify for the trip with caffeine and croissants and crepes. Cross Houston and walk half a block down to Purl Soho, at 137 Sullivan St. Gawk and finger and buy. Don’t miss Farmhouse Yarns’ or The Fibre Company's new Terra line – oh the colors.

From Purl, walk east along Houston (Crate & Barrel, on the corner of Houston and Broadway, has publicly accessible restrooms upstairs, if needed) to Ave. A (one block east of 1st Ave.). Note that on the south side of Houston, Ave. A will be called Essex St. Turn left to walk north (uptown) on Ave. A. to Downtown Yarns, located at 45 Ave. A (just north of 3rd St.), on the west (left) side of the street. It is tiny, so look sharp or you’ll walk right past it. Lots of pretty things crammed in here.

Then wend your way westward and northwards to Knit New York, on 14th St., just east of 2nd Ave., on the north (uptown) side of the street. Optional stop on the way is Magry Knits, at 80 E. 7th St. at 2nd Ave. Knit New York has a café in front (lavender chamomile tea, yum!), and yarn in back and along the sides.

Next, you can either walk west along 14th St. to 6th Ave. (bathrooms available on the way in Whole Foods, on 14th St. between Broadway and University – go to 2nd floor, bathrooms are in hallway to the left of the juice bar. Also in Barnes & Noble, at northern side of Union Square, 16th St., between Park Ave. So. And Broadway) or hop on an M14A or M14D bus heading west, or walk one block east to 1st Ave. or west to 3rd Ave. and get on the L train, heading toward 8th Ave. Get off the bus (or subway) at 6th Ave., and walk one and a half blocks downtown (south) to Gotta Knit, at 498 6th Ave., 2nd Floor, between 12th and 13th Sts., on the east side of the street. Look up for the sign in the window.

From Gotta Knit, you can either walk downtown and westward to Bedford St. amid the tangle of streets that is the West Village, or take the F or V train (at 6th Ave. and 14th) downtown one stop to West 4th St. At West 4th, follow signs for the West 3rd St. exit, which will dump you unceremoniously onto 6th Ave. at W. 3rd. Cross 6th Ave. at this intersection, then walk downtown (against the flow of traffic) along 6th Ave. till you reach a kooky intersection of three streets on your right (it will look like more than 3). Look for Bleecker and Carmine streets on your right. There is a little square with a lot of pigeons in the center of it. Amble to your right along Carmine St. (or on Bleecker a very short distance to Carmine where you will be turning left to get onto Carmine). Walk one block along Carmine St. to Bedford St. and turn right onto Bedford. The Point will be on your left, at 37a Bedford. Whew! Stop and refresh yourself and marvel at how tangled a web the West Village can weave.

If you are so inclined, you can, after leaving The Point, walk back to Bleecker (head west on Bleecker, away from 6th Ave.) and enjoy the lovely smells of Aphrodisia (spices, natural bath products), the fantastic cheese at Murray’s Cheese Shop, or have dinner at Home Restaurant or Cornelia Street Cafe - both on the tiny Cornelia street, which is just off Bleecker, about a block west of 6th Ave. At its other end, Cornelia runs right into 6th Ave., and you can cross 6th and walk up a block or two to the West. 4th St. subway station again (here you can pick up F/V or A/C/E trains). If you need an N/R/W train, walk east from here, passing through or just above or below Washington Square Park to 8th St. and Broadway, where the R and W trains stop (you can transfer to an N or Q train if needed at 14th St., one stop north, or at Canal St., two stops south).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Yarn Crawling: The Village People

The Village People Tours
Villagers, Disco Dancers. Lots of walking and lots of alternatives on this tour.

Abbreviated Alternative Tour: The I ♥ the L Train Tour. Start at the Bedford Ave station in Brooklyn for The Yarn Tree. Proceed on the L Train one stop to 1st Ave for Knit NYC (or walk over the Williamsburg Bridge – it’s such a lovely view!). From 1st Ave, back in the L to 6th Ave for Gotta Knit. To get to Stephanie The Yarn Harlot’s book signing on March 22 from there, take the F/V from 6th Ave at 14th up to 23rd Street/6th Ave OR go over to 7th Ave at 14th and get out at 28th Street/7th Ave.

Now, the Bohemian-who-could-walk-all-day tour.
The East Village Start:
Knit NYC
on 14th Street between 1st & 2nd Avenues. This is one of those brilliant knitting cafés, so you can start here when you’re ready for a little snack. There is a danger that you’ll find some great yarn and a new pattern and oh, just look at casting on while you drink your cappuccino and suddenly finding yourself spending the entire day knitting there. If you consider that sort of thing dangerous.

If the caffeine gets you hyped up to move on, head south. Stop at Magry Knits on East 7th Street (80 E 7th, near 2nd Ave, between 1st/2nd). I can’t believe I haven’t been to Magry Knits, but it sounds like they’ve got finished fashion garments as well as yarn for sale, and will even do repairs and possibly custom work.

After you’ve gotten an eyeful (and possibly a bag-full) of the yarn action at Magry, continue heading south, and a little east, to Downtown Yarns on Avenue A (between 2nd/3rd). This is one of the well-loved, well-visited, well-discussed yarn stores of New York, and they’ve always got an amazing window display. They’re also amazing for the selection of yarn they’re able to fit into their small space, but if you’re touring with a large group, perhaps you’ll consider rotating shifts of people inside Downtown Yarns and the eateries across the street. There’s The Bagel Zone for bagels and funky atmosphere and Two Boots for great specialty pizza.

From Avenue A, you’re surprisingly close to the 2nd Avenue stop of the F/V train, where the 24-hour entrance is really at Houston and 1st Avenue. If you don’t get waylaid by possibly the best whiskey and beer bar in New York, d.b.a. on 1st Ave between 2nd and 3rd (16 rotating beers on tap! Scotches listed by region on long chalkboards!), pop into the F or V uptown to the West 4th Street stop.

This is the alternative West Village Start to the Tour: From the West 4th Street subway station, walk down Carmine St. (go a little South on 6th Avenue until you get to the intersection, ignoring the cream-puffs on the corner), past both the adult and children’s Unoppresive Non-Imperialist Bargain Book Stores (real name!) to Bedford Street. Peek to your left down Bedford and you’ll see Point, another knitting café. You know what to do.

No village tour would be complete without a dip into SoHo to Purl. If you think you’re “yarned-out” already, go anyway for Purl Patchwork, two doors down from Purl, and full of really great quilting fabrics and supplies. They have classes taught by Liesl, they have the Wee-Wonderfuls Put-Together books. From Point, it’s really easiest to walk to Purl. Just keep heading down Bedford Street, at Houston turn left and go a little block to Sullivan, right onto Sullivan and you’re there already.

If it’s Magical March 22nd, 2007, you’ll be wanting to get to Stephanie The Yarn Harlot’s book signing at FIT on 27th between 7th and 8th Avenues.
From Purl: Take the C/E from Spring Street to 23rd Street/8th Ave.
From Point: 1 at Houston to 28th Street/7th Ave OR C/E from West 4th to 23rd Street/8th Ave.
From Downtown Yarns: F/V to 23rd Street/6th Ave.

Stay tuned for the Updated! Improved! Map! And more tours (now I've got 27 stores on my list), including The Garment District and the Upper West Side. Please feel free to add corrections or ask questions or just say boo in the comments. I will update the tours and info as I can.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Yarn Crawling: The Ladies Who Lunch Tour

Ladies Who Lunch

The Ladies Who Lunch Tour
Ladies and Gentlemen who need cashmere. Ladies and Gentlemen who will enjoy the thrill of strolling by the windows of high fashion at skyscraper prices on the Upper East Side. Ladies and Gentlemen who want to end up at the Metropolitan Museum. Ladies Who Lunch.

Caveat for this tour: I am a Downtown Girl with a Brooklyn Wallet, not a Lady Who Lunches with an Upper East Side Pocketbook. I haven't been to a single one of these yarn stores. However, having written the tour now, I'm quite excited to take it. I herewith present you with the tour and the chance to beat me to it.

Edited to add: I forgot The Wool Gathering on this tour!
Feel free to start at The Wool Gathering at 84th at 2nd Ave and then proceed to the rest of the tour as below.
String at 1015 Madison Avenue, between 78th and 79th Street. It's a Madison Avenue yarn boutique with appropriately, outrageously, Madison Avenue Yarn. The woman who owns the store literally wrote the book on luxury knitting. Cashmere, silk, and more cashmere. There's so much Cashmere in that store, even the Koigu is in cashmere. That's right, Cashmere Koigu KPPPM (except it's not M, it's C, for Cashmere). You have been warned.

When you're ready to step outside and begin breathing again (after you've emptied your wallet or broken your heart from what you left behind, or both), you could stroll down Madison to 75th Street and turn left and walk four long avenue blocks to Knitting 321 at 321 E 75th Street. If your legs are still a little wobbly, go up to 79th Street and take the M79 bus crosstown to 2nd Avenue and walk to 75th Street, left on 75th. (I know, that sounds like the same amount of walking, but it's uptown/downtown blocks vs. crosstown blocks, trust me here). Knitting 321 also tilts towards the high-quality, high-fashion, high-price end of the yarn spectrum. Please, don't let that stop you. It's a yarn store. A store full of yarn. What could be wrong with that?

From Knitting 321, you can walk back west to Lexington Avenue and down to Knits Incredible, in the atrium of 971 Lexington Ave, between 70th and 71st Streets. There's also a downtown bus on 2nd Avenue, the M15. Or hop in a cab - it won't be far, so it won't cost much (possibly about $5-$8 including tip), and what's a tour of the Upper East Side without a ride in a yellow taxi?

The almighty Google seems to give mixed information about the elusive and not-well-known Knits Incredible, so I went straight to the source. Well, to the phone of the source. On the phone, a real, live person informed me that indeed, Knits Incredible is still quite present and quite in business. If you stop in, please, dish all about it, we all need to know more.

For the multi-crafter multi-tasker, you're very close to Wallis Mayers Needlework, at 30 East 68th Street, near Madison Avenue. Their emphasis is on needlepoint and embroidery, but I think they also have quite a bit of knitting yarn. And after all, the amazing Color on Color scarf from Interweave's Scarf Style was knit with needlepoint yarn, and needlepointers have every color imaginable. Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride? About 80 colors. Brown Sheep Waverly, their needlepoint yarn, also touted for knitting on their website? Almost 500 COLORS.

If you like what you see at Wallis Mayers and want to check out another needlepoint store, it's easy to get to Stitches East from there. Hop on the 6 train at 68th St/Hunter College on Lexington Ave and head downtown to the 51st St. stop. Walk west to Park Ave, north to 52nd, and Stitches East is between Park and Madison, inside the Park Avenue Plaza.

From here, well, I can imagine you're ready to head to a whole 'nother part of town. To eat something, drink something, see some other yarn stores. From Stitches East, you're near the E or V at 53rd Street/5th Ave or 53rd/Lexington OR the 6 train at 51st and Lexington. If you're glutton for punishment, you're also near the Museum of Art and Design, where they have the Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting show on right now. And the Museum of Folk Art down the block and MoMA across the street. And the Donnell Library, a special branch of the New York Public Library system that specializes in all the fun art and craft books. You don't have to have a card to have a browse and a sit down.

And, if you're finishing the tour on March 22, you'll want to chase down Stephanie The Yarn Harlot at her book signing. Take the E train from 53rd and 5th Ave or Lex down to 23rd Street. It lets you out on 23rd and 8th Ave, Stephanie will be speaking at FIT on 27th between 7th & 8th.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Yarn Crawlin'

There are 26 Local Yarn Stores in New York City. Where does one begin? You might need help. I need help! But I’m doing my best to come up with some good routes to hit a few of them in one day.

The fine print writ large: I have only been to 13 of these stores (I know, can you believe it? I haven’t met HALF of the yarn in New York!). This information is all gathered from the world wide web. I’ve only included information I thought was quite reliable, but if especially if you’re dragging a gaggle of knitters out into the wild, it may be advisable to call and make sure of hours, etc.

Below are the first two proposed routes. More routes are forthcoming – these barely hit on Manhattan! Also, I wish I could elaborate on these tours a bit - I could spend the next six weeks adding descriptions of these places - but these yarn tours are intended as a favor to Stephanie and her hoards of devoted knitters, crocheters, and general yarn-a-philes, who will descend on this town on or around March 22. Time to get this out there, already!

The Driving Tour, aka The-Manhattanites-Have-No-Idea-What-They’re-Missing
Those who are in Queens or Long Island, looking for the slow road into town. Alternatively, someone with a yarn-loving, car-driving friend in town and you want to hit the places with the Mega-Inventory. In New York, the further you are from Times Square/Wall Street, the cheaper the real estate, the bigger the yarn stores. And the bigger stores can afford to carry more yarn and less-expensive yarn.

Start: All the way out at Knitwits Knitting Studio
in Bayside, Queens. Cruise on in to Smiley's in Woodhaven, Queens for crazy crazy low prices on massive quantities of yarn. Smiley’s has a somewhat limited breadth of inventory, and yes, some of their cheap yarn is inexpensive anywhere, but you can get $3 balls of good-quality name-brand 100% wool there. A place where you can buy the yarn for a queen-sized blanket all at once (without re-mortgaging your home). I’ve been there, done that. Almost done with the blanket.

If you want to remain in areas where there are single-family houses with yards for a bit longer, come down to Roxy's on Coney Island Avenue. If you want the full Brooklyn effect, you can take the scenic route and go all the way down to Coney Island, ride the Cyclone or get a Nathan’s hot dog, drive up through Brighton Beach, admire the crazeee Russian signage & groceries on the way.

When you’re ready to visit a neighborhood that your Manhattan friends have heard of, come up to Red Hook to Brooklyn General Store. If you’re NOT the driver and you’re ready for a drink or a bite to eat by now, you could take a quick detour to Hope & Anchor, a really great place for a cheesesteak, ground pork burger, milkshake, etc., and they’re got really nice house cocktails. If you ARE the driver and you’re starting to think about what you’d like to drink later (or what you’ll have to bring home with you to dull the shock at home over how many bags of yarn you managed to fit in the trunk), stop by LeNell's. LeNell bills herself as a liquor boutique, but not because she’s high-falutin’. She’s got a really amazing inventory of liquor and wine, vast knowledge, and she’s just plain charming. She’s happy to recommend a great $13 bottle of bourbon or a $70 bottle of real Holland gin, it’s all what you’re looking for.

From here, if you’re still ready to look at More! Other! New! yarn you haven’t bought yet, check out the Inner Brooklyn tour or any of the others. Otherwise, if you managed to get through all of that while it’s still daylight, go for a walk in Prospect Park or the waterfront park in Dumbo, between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Or hurry up and get up to FIT to see The Yarn Harlot.

The Intrepid Brooklynite Tour
Those of us who know our way around a bus. And everybody else who’s been curious about what’s so cool about Brooklyn. Seriously, I can’t believe you don’t know yet.

Start: If you’re starting at lunch time, take the F train and get out at Carroll Street in Carroll Gardens. Stroll up Smith Street, one of the best restaurant districts in all of NYC these days, and pick a nice French, Peruvian, French, Italian, French, or French place for lunch. When you’re ready for a walk to work it off, head down Union Street to Brooklyn General Store. Or take the B71 bus at Sackett Street and Smith Street down Union St. to Columbia St. to get there. From there, the B61 bus will take you back to Atlantic Avenue.

Try not to get too distracted by the many amazing new and antique furniture places on Atlantic and get out at Bond Street and check out Knit-A-Way, with a wide variety of yarn types and a comfortable browsing space. They’ve got Noro, they’ve got Brown Sheep, they've got Red Heart Pound O’ Love. From there, you’re a short walk to the big subway stop at Atlantic. Take the Q or B to 7th Avenue in Park Slope. Navigate through the strollers down 7th Avenue a few blocks to Lincoln Place. Ozzie's Coffee is right on the corner if you’re ready for fortification, and Stitch Therapy is just barely up Lincoln Place, one or two storefronts uphill from 7th Ave. When you’re ready to move on, walk uphill to Grand Army Plaza at the northern end of Prospect Park. There you can admire the lovely Grand Army Arch in honor of the Civil War veterans, see the lovely art deco fountain, the art deco Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch and… duck back into the subway. Take the 2/3 into Manhattan. You can get out at the Fulton St stop (Fulton/Broadway/Nassau) in downtown Manhattan to visit Seaport Yarn - So much yarn! Of every kind! Beware, cash or Personal Check ONLY! Or proceed directly on the 2/3 to 14th Street, step out and across the platform to the 1 train (the local!) and get out at 28th Street. That drops you off at the campus of FIT for Stephanie’s engagement.

Okay, can you tell I love Brooklyn? Really, there's a whole lotta yarn in Manhattan. More on that soon.