I'm in southern Maine, where the landscape is so freakin' appropriate to a family Christmas that the mind reels. My sister lives in a little town outside Portland in one of the newer houses on the street, built in 1909. The neighbors were built in 1853. Well, the house was, I mean. I believe the neighbors themselves are somewhat younger.
Those of you in the UK and Europe may think this isn't terribly notable, but in the United States a house from the 1920s is still considered to be roughly of the same vintage as the palace at Persepolis. My own city of Chicago, in the 1850s, was nothing but a rancid-smelling, pestilential mud flat. (On bad days, I feel not much has changed).
Maine makes a nice change once a year. They got hills here.
Madness Runs in the Family
When Susan spent the weekend in Chicago during the summer, literally the last thing we did before she headed to the airport was having a knitting lesson. She caught the bug, and the disease has steadily progressed from a garter stitch swatch to a bunny, a kerchief, a scarf, a couple hats, and now she's well into a baby blanket, so there's no hope of recovery.
While my parents (who are also here) did some last minute shopping yesterday, we took off on our own to do a little yarn hunting.
First stop: Spin Me a Yarn (163A State Street, Gorham) This place is just about in Susan's backyard, so it's her LYS.
And such an LYS. Heather Flanders, the owner, met us as we arrived with an open door and a genuine smile. She has been in business since August and her monthly knit nights are already drawing a group of regulars.
We arrived at an auspicious moment: Heather was just finishing her own holiday knitting. Way to go, girl.
In a small space, she has a good range of notions, books, supplies, and of course yarn. There's Opal and Trekking for socks, Peace Fleece (a local favorite, from Porter), Blue Sky Alpaca, and lots of other good stuff and fair prices. Heather will also set up a wish list for you so that friends-and-relations shopping for you will do the Right Thing.
And the shop...Well, let me tell you something. If you're in the Portland area and in the mood for yarn, you have to visit. Because Heather has created what must be one of the most beautiful yarn shops in the United States. Think I'm exaggerating? Check this out.
Tucked into the corner of a little barn is this: the sort of room most of us would love to have in our homes to knit in. Yarn all around, attractively displayed. A beamed ceiling. A gorgeous wide-planked floor. A fireplace. Natural light. And a pair of cozy wing chairs.
If you're a good knitter and go to heaven, this is what the yarn shops look like once you get there.
One ball of Opal sock yarn later, we were back on the road and heading for Bath. (The town, not the room with the tub in it.)
Bath is the home of Halcyon Yarn (12 School Street). Talk about a change in scale. Spin Me a Yarn is tiny and cute, Halcyon Yarn is huge (for a yarn store) and slightly dizzy-making.
I think the look on Susan's face, which I have magnified for ease of viewing, says it all for both of us.
What do they have at Halcyon?
What don't they have?
I'd heard from Marilyn that this place was a favorite of hers ("If it's fiber-related, they do it.") And yeah, she wasn't kidding. Spinning stuff. Knitting stuff. Weaving stuff. Notions. Books. Shelves of yarn that go up to the high (think cathedral) ceiling.
Susan bought Malabrigo for a hat for my brother-in-law. I bought a copy of Beth Brown-Reinsel's Knitting Ganseys and a chibi for Susan.
The service was excellent, and the woman at the cash desk told us about being on the retail end of things during the Great Pink Chibi Panic that happened a couple years ago.
We had one more shop to go, but our stomachs were growling after all the exertion. And so to Portland, and lunch.
We highly recommend Tandoor, at 88 Exchange Street. Good Indian food, reasonable prices, and nice and quiet so you can talk about yarn.
Which we did.
Sometimes, you know, life is good.
And then to our final destination, Central Yarn Shop (569 Congress Street, Portland). It rounded out the day nicely.
Spin Me a Yarn is adorable, Halcyon Yarn is majestic, and Central Yarn Shop is...well, I'd describe it as an Old Reliable sort of yarn shop. Not sexy, but absolutely serviceable.
They got Cascade, they got Classic Elite, they got Brown Sheep and Plymouth and all their kin. They have a big button section, and racks of notions.
If you hunt around, they also have surprises like Manos del Uruguay for $11.95 a skein. (I almost went into cardiac arrest.)
It was here that we encountered a moment of drama, as a woman holding half a scarf came running in to buy another skein of yarn to finish it. You can well imagine the look on her face when she was informed that the next shipment of that yarn would arrive on Tuesday.
Poor thing. I think she may be a brand-new knitter and this may well have been her first knitted gift. If you're reading this, my dear, a few heartfelt suggestions for the future:
- Next time, buy the extra ball.
- When you're told the next shipment of the yarn you need for Christmas will probably arrive on December 23, begin considering other options immediately.
- It's not the end of the world - give the gift "on the needles."
- Perhaps what you have is one-half of a two-tone scarf, with the second half being made of a different but complementary yarn.
- Yelling at the yarn store lady and storming out in a huff is not the answer. Yarn store employees have long memories. And sometimes blogs.
Okay - finally. The coast is clear. I'm all alone in the house. Have to go wrap the ruana. This is going to take some time (and a lot of paper).