Listen, I have something to tell you and I don't want any grief about it or I'm packing up my dollies and going home.
Remember when I wrote smugly that I wasn't doing any knitting for Christmas this year? The words were no sooner out there in the universe than I had a marvelous, irresistible idea of something to knit for Christmas. It happened in a flash as I stood in the midst of chaos, staring down a six-foot-long to-do list studded with imminent deadlines. So I cast on immediately.
But it's Christmas knitting and therefore secret, and therefore I can't tell you about it or show it to you even though it's turned out quite sweet. Oh, the agony.
I can't stand it. I want to give you a peek. You want a peek? Just a peek.
Here's a peek.
I feel so much better now, don't you?
The folks who want us to host the Summer Olympics in 2016 would have you believe that Chicago is Shangri-La on Lake Michigan, but it ain't so. We've got the highest sales tax in the country, soaring poverty, lousy schools, a rotting transit system, daily drive-by shootings, a growing gang problem, city and county officials so corrupt and inept they make Caligula look like King Arthur, and a climate that combines the worst of the Amazon jungle and the Arctic tundra with the air quality of Beijing.
On the other hand, we have more than our share of quite good yarn shops–so many that I have yet to see all of them.
This week, I got to visit two for the first time. By happy chance both proved to be not only stuffed with good yarn and fun knitters, but interesting for their strong, individual visions of what shop can be.
On Thursday night, I hung out at Knit Night at Sister Arts Studio in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. It will tell you everything that I was scheduled to be there for two hours and wound up staying for three-and-a-half. There were knitters, crocheters, and I got my first up-close look at shuttle tatting from an engaging and articulate corsetière.
Donna, the owner, has built a business that encourages a many-branched approach to creativity. Her place is not just a yarn shop, though her selections of yarn, hooks and needles are excellent. She's got kits and supplies for many crafts, some fibery and some not, with an extremely generous selection of tools and resources that will appeal to kids. (This is a great shop for kids. They even offer camps and parties.) I came away feeling that here is a shop that doesn't just sell and teach, it promotes creativity across all age groups in a way that ultimately benefits the greater good.
Then, on Saturday, I ventured to what was for me the ends of the earth: the northwest suburbs. I'd never been to Prairie Arts and Fibers in Grayslake because I'd never been to Grayslake. I'd never heard of Grayslake. It's part of that scary hinterland beyond O'Hare Airport that, on my mental map, is mostly blank aside from a few sketches of dragons and a big question mark.
But the owner, Linda, kindly encouraged me to visit and put me into the capable hands of Denise, who arranges all the events. Denise assured me that the commuter rail to Fox Lake stopped mere steps from the shop's front door, and that if by some chance I missed the station the train and I would not, in fact, roll off the edge of the earth and into the void. Who knew?
So after a quite pleasant ride from Union Station, I got out at Prairie Crossing and found a shop that is large, bright, beautiful and–they did not lie–directly across from the station.
Like Sister Arts Studio, Prairie Arts and Fibers goes way beyond being a yarn shop; it's a yarn shop/gallery hybrid. Linda promotes the work of local artists, so among the skeins of this and that are photographs, prints, pottery, even furniture. What's more, the selection is excellently curated. No junk. And fair prices, too–fair to the artist, and fair to the buyer. On top of that, they've got a line of mustards, sauces and preserves from the Galena Canning Company. I came home with a jar of the pumpkin butter and it is to die for.
City folks, it's worth a trip and the trip is easy. Get the Fox Lake Metra schedule and go!
Even Further Afield
Now that I've braved the northwest suburbs I think I'm ready to trek onward. In fact, I'm going all the way to Montana. Billings, to be precise. This will be my first visit to Big Sky Country, and I can't wait.
Wild Purls (1343 Broadwater Avenue) has very sweetly asked me out for a book signing (on Friday, January 9 from 6–8 pm) and to teach a class on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Tomten Jacket (on Saturday, January 10). The signing is free, of course. I think the class is sold out, but if you're curious about anything you can contact the shop at wildpurls (at) bresnan (dot) net or call (406) 245-2224.
Ah, Billings in January. I hope it won't be too overrun with honeymoon couples and day trippers. And I should probably finish knitting my gloves.