Saturday, December 24, 2005

Yaaarrrrrrn Craaaaaaaawl

Where I'm Writing From

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:
  1. Next time, buy the extra ball.
  2. 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.
  3. It's not the end of the world - give the gift "on the needles."
  4. Perhaps what you have is one-half of a two-tone scarf, with the second half being made of a different but complementary yarn.
  5. 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).


King Of Hearts said...

Greetings for X'Mas & New Year

Andrea Rusin said...

You have to come visit out local yarn shop. (64 miles west of the Sears Tower). I suppose it goes in the "utility yarn shop" category. There's not much froufy stuff there. But I think you'd like it. Alas... no Manos for less than $12, though. I would have bought it already!

Merriest of Christmases to you and yours.

Sorka said...

Awwhh you did the yarn crawl that I had wanted to do in September when we were there in Maine.( I could soooo live there) You know sometimes having 4 children really slows ya down! .. But tommorrow it won't!

June said...

I like the honeycomb display of the first shop. Is that a knitted *wingchair* in the photo?

Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas Franklin to you and your family. Thank you so much for the kind comments about the parcel. So glad you liked the book , I am sure you will put it to good use. Judith.

Susan said...

Are you saying someone grumped at a yarn shop owner because the shipment didn;t make it in. Yeesh, and at Christmas... And you're right, always be nice to the LYS.

Marilyn said...

Was I right or was I right? Did you almost lose your little mind at Halcyon? They're some wonderful people who run that place, which is why I bought not only my Joy wheel from them but my Schacht loom too. And on a huge order like a loom, they were just perfect.

Now I'm sorry we've canceled our New England trip. We would have gone right through Portland on Tuesday.

Carol said...

Glad to hear you're having a wonderful Christmas with your sis. You're very lucky to have each other! And we're all lucky to have you.

dan said...

Wow! Sounds like a great trip so far! I've seen Halcyon's website and it looked like a great place to visit. Glad you're enjoying Maine!
Happy holidays!

Ellen in Conn said...

My friend Kate lives in a house that was built in 1695, and not burned by Benedict Arnold when a lot of the town was burned, and then moved in 1895. A lot of New England is old like that.

lucia said...

We were supposed to be in Yarmouth, Maine, today, but fate in the form of a nasty little tummy bug afflicting DD intervened. She seems to have (mostly) recovered, so we'll probably head up tomorrow morning.

Q: Can a knitter whose DH thinks she has enough yarn for several lifetimes manage to hit three yarn stores in a 30-mile radius before going home on Monday?
A: She can try.

That Gorham shop looks scrumptious. It would be the farthest away.

Ann said...

Merry Christmas! If I win the lottery, I'm moving to Peaks Island. Just saying. And if you get over to Gorham, stop in at Unique One. They've saved me from yarn follies several times. Then head to Harmony and give my greetings to the staff at Bartlettyarns. Tell em I'ver got another whacking order fer em next month. God I miss New England

dragon knitter said...

sounds like fun! wish i could have been there!

merry christmas, franklin, have fun in maine (we don't have any snow)

Robbyn said...

Oh boy! That sounds like a perfectly splendid day. Thanks for the restaurant tip; I'll have to look into it next time I'm up there. Love Portland, love most of southern Maine.

Merry Christmas to you and all your family. I hope you bring lots of pleasant memories from New England - we're not so bad when you get to know us :)

Jon said...

What's the great Pink Chibi incident? I don't get it.

How did the Ruana go over?

Merry Christmas!

dragon knitter said...

i just wanted to let you know that my fiance got me 2 shirts and a bag from your cafe press shop. thanks a ton franklin, you made it easy for both of us, lol! hope you're having a good holiday!!

Kathy said...

Great tips for the new knitter. They all made me smile. Your cartoons are wonderful and make me smile as well. Merry Christmas Franklin.

Megann said...

Your yarn crawl sounded so fabulous. The pic with yarn and a fire place... to die for! Glad you had a great time with your sis.

Latoya said...

I'm a warm weather gal, but the scenery in Maine sounded beautiful. Its great to hear that someone else caught the knitting bug. Then to go to such a place with that layout of comfort is an ideal place.

Kristen said...

thanks for such a great run down on a few of my own local shops that I haven't visited yet. (I think your take on the Central Yarn Shop is 100% correct, and well said.) Enjoy the rest of your stay! :)

dragon knitter said...

hey franklin! i just listened to your piece on cast on! OH MY FREAKING GOD! my sons came rushing out wondering what in the world had me gasping! i have never laughed so hard!

and what exactly were you, santa claus? (only christmas character not heard from) unless you were olive, the other reindeer.

weaselrina said...

Happy Holidays from a loyal, if mostly quiet, reader!

You've made me want to go to maine!

Buzz said...

"the Great Pink Chibi Panic?" Thats a very Rose Nyland kind of phrase :)

Alan said...

This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


Son Dakika Haberleri said...

Greetings for X'Mas & New Year

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