Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Putting the L in LYS

A little shout out to blog visitor Alexandra, commenter and designer of such fine patterns as Coronet and That One Pretty Kinda Argyley Sweater I'll Probably Get Around To When I'm Richer, who inquired about Lakeside and its friendliness. I'll discuss some of the relative merits of the locals, but if you'll permit me to digress briefly into a description of Vegas knittery...

It's always so interesting to vary my usual orbit a little. Last week we stopped in a place in Vegas which branched out into roving and starched knit/crochet wall art. Kind of an odd combination, but I liked seeing how they varied the supply based on climate and preferences. I think they probably had a lot of newer knitters, based on the people knitting in the back and the particular variety of patterns. The roving was kind of a surprise, then. I only bought stitch markers :P Two other hardcore knitters in the house, and... well, the result of that can be found in the "booooooo" section below. Such is life.

In Madison, for so long I stuck solely with Lakeside Fibers; they were the closest, the most well-stocked and the most friendly. Of course, much of that comes from the utter slogging necessary to find and purchase something at the Knitting Tree, the second-closest store. How I ever shopped there, I'll never know -- they had the shortest hours, which limited my time over there to the occasional Saturday jaunt resulting in getting stuck between a Lady who Lunches, a poodle and a teetering display of unpriced cashmere. (Because really, if you hahhhve to ahhhsk...) One night I went over there and couldn't get out the door because the (now-former) owner was blocking the doorway from outside as she yakked on the cordless. She was originally from New York and designed sweaters which usually required a) ample supply of Colinette, b) feathers or c) both. I remarked to friends that I now knew what it looked like when a peacock threw up.

The most galling thing, to me, involved a chance stop over my lunch hour one day. I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd see if they had some long #2s so I could play with Magic Loop. (I'll readily admit that I still haven't found my sock comfort zone :P) So I ask the chick behind the counter -- not the woman-from-indeterminate European-country-who-always-dresses-like-she's-going-to-a-ball, but some rather ditzy type who didn't strike me as being very well informed. She's standing right in front of the needles; I can see that she's got 36" circs and 2s, and the 36" ones are in the teeny sizes, but I don't see exactly what I want. So I ask.

"Oh, do they even make those?" she says. "Because I don't think they exist."

She's got three different needle manufacturers, and she doesn't even bother turning around to check. Of course the needles were all on the wrong hooks anyways, so why would she know? I pressed on, considering the possibility of a different project:"Okay... how about Denise [interchangeable needle] kits? Do you have those?"

The counter lady shuddered and lowered her voice. "Ohhhhh noooooo. Melissa [owner] thinks they're just the most horrible thing. We will NEVER carry those. UGH!"

So it's not enough to deny the mere existence of what I'm looking for... you're going to insult something else I want? Granted, I've since decided that i don't want to get the Denise set for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't change the fact that some people (people who don't knit on their morning treadmill run and don't already own full sets of Addis in aluminum and bamboo, natch) choose to buy the set to save a little money instead of getting individual circs or straights... how rude! How completely unwelcoming!

Lakeside has never been less than helpful to me. It's true that they'd probably have reason to get a little exasperated with me, given my just-silly-enough questions. I like to hope that my enthusiasm and willingness to experiment outweighs anything eye-rollable... especially when I, like, buy stuff. I shopped there maybe once every couple months or so and didn't realize that my hour of wander-and-paw had made any impact until a customer was eyeing the last copy of a pattern I'd just looked at (that Lush leaflet, in fact) and the manager called out, "If [Madam] doesn't want it go ahead." In baseball terms, I'm probably about a Double-A knitter, so I was pleased and surprised that she considered me a regular. (It's always nice when you realize that, isn't it?)

The other two shops I've been to around here are Stitcher's Crossing and the Sow's Ear. Stitcher's Crossing is, I think, more of an embroidery and quilting store, but they have a fair selection of yarns in the back. I recall quite a bit of various Plymouths (including quite a bit of novelty instead of a larger supply of basics, unfortunately), some gorgeous Manos and a surprising amount of more nontraditional yarns like soy silk and bamboo. They may also have longer hours than some of the other shops, but I'm not quite sure as I've only been there a couple of times.

The Sow's Ear is the one that most of the older, Knitting Guild-type knitters I know frequent --rather, gush about lovingly. I really couldn't say much about it, since the only time I'd been there was in search of some Berroco Chinchilla for my first project. (Chemo hat. I had a reason!) I do know that they were the first in the area to offer a coffee shop atmosphere (and hours! open at 6 AM!) to go along with the yarn. Unfortunately, it's in Verona and I am carless.

Back to Lakeside, though... perhaps it's a fact of becoming more familiar with different techniques and styles of knitting requiring truly different things, but I'm actually glad to branch out a bit and check out other places. After the Knitting Tree changed hands, the atmosphere calmed down a lot. I was pretty pleased to see the change, and quite plainly I wasn't the only one. So if I need a little Encore or some Rowan yarns, I know I can go over there and not have to deal with the crazy elitist harpies anymore. We'll see if my preferences shift substantially within the next year or so.


At 3:25 PM, Blogger Alexandra said...

Thanks for this post. Maybe Lakeside deserves another chance. I gave up on Knitting Tree before it changed owners. Something about the racks of long discontinued, dusty novelty yarns at full price put me off. I still can't believe Melissa gets published in Vogue. Wait, yes I can.

I hadn't even heard of Sow's Ear or Stitcher's Crossing. Shocking.

Have you been to Prairie Junction, in Sun Prairie? It's a nice little place, half quilting, half yarn. Lots of needles. Heavy on the Cascade.

P.S. You may or may not know me from Livejournal. We moderate a community together.

At 4:41 PM, Anonymous snakewyfe said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who has been put off by the Knitting Tree.

I'm going to be both carred and child-less this Sunday, iffn' yer up for a trip to either verona or subprairie...


At 12:56 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Hi ...uh, Madam!

Finally checking our yer Blog after too long, and I had to chime in to share the great sense of joy and things-being-right-in-the-world that washed over me to hear that the Knitting Tree is no longer in the hands of that Spidery Broad and her flock of harpies. Nastiest yarn store ever! Sow's Ear was Sarah's and my fave in the area, but we do indeed have a car, so it wasn't too hard to get to. It is right on the bike trail, though, and we did a couple really nice rides out there and back. More comment to come, fer sher!


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