Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Off the Wagon and Onto the Sleigh

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.

Christmas Knitting

I feel so much better now, don't you?

Shop Around

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.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Today it is clear, sunny and about -10 degrees in Billings. But, no worries. The knitters of Billings and the surroundings are so excited about your upcoming visit, we raise the temperature just thinking about your arrival. Bring those gloves and your ownself and we'll see that your visit to Big Sky country is great fun! Can't wait.....
Suzanne

Buzz said...

Ok, just a teensy bit harsh on the city, eh? While I understand the failings, it's still one of the most exciting places to live. And now that The Gov is going down, its "dinner AND a show"

Buzz KnitNot

anne marie in philly said...

if you think chicagoland is bad, billings is worse in terms of weather.

so when are youse guys going to impeach the gov and his white trash wife?

currently in philly, it is snowing...big huge honking flakes...but I have my house, I have heat, I have food, I have my cats, I have my knitting...all is right with the world.

smooches!

PS - is dolores home yet?

pdxknitterati said...

There's something insidious and contagious about Christmas knitting. I wasn't going to do any, either. HA!

But now it's done. Unless something else calls my name. I know, just walk away, right?

DutchJan said...

O.... I know what you are going to knit!!
Santa's beard and the rest of his outfit. I will look GREAT on you ;-)

Mrs. F. said...

Being habitually glad for visitors in any season, we're thrilled you're venturing to Big Sky country where like as not it'll be time for a Chinook and 50 degrees. If not, we're all about "dry cold" which as rumor has it (is MUCH less noticeable)...gloves--great idea in any case. Till then, knit happy!
Ewephoria

Kristen said...

Now, now, now, Chicago does have it's problems, but it also has a lot of good things. Plus, the Gov is technically a representative of whole state, so those of us who grew up downstate and will soon be back visiting relatives can also cringe in shame. {sigh}

JoVE said...

Sounds like the north west suburbs might have the ideal location for a display of (at least part of) the 1000 knitters thing when it's done.

Don't you need gloves in Chicago at this time of year, too? Have fun in Billings.

Sue said...

you tease.

kmkat said...

Lincoln Park, home of the ill-famed Lincoln Park Pirates? "To me, way, hey, tow them away / The Lincoln Park Pirates are we" -- good thing you are taking the train...

knititch said...

billings the home of adam carrington. i would love to take a class on tomten taught by you. especially if it included the garter stitch colourwork. not to learn how to make a tomten but in order to have a charming teacher and see montana.

how well things are going for you. it is lovely to see from the sideline.

and your knitting angel ornament which i bought from cafepress is making one little girl in copenhagen feeling all christmassey.

Knit - R - Done said...

If the roads are dry, I'll drive down from Malmstrom AFB. Wild Purls is an adorable little shop and well worth the 4 hour drive I make to get there. This is really exciting!

Anonymous said...

You must come brave the Montana weather! Suzanne is right - we are so excited about you being here. My daughter, who is 8, is waiting patiently for you to sign her copy of your book. She's a little put out with me that I won't take her along to class on Saturday!

Kelly

Heather in Seattle said...

You're kind of a stinker sometimes, Franklin. I mean that in the friendliest way possible :-)

Heather

Randi said...

Couldn't you venture just a little bit west of Billings now, too? Oh, yeah, and wear your longjohns.

Anonymous said...

You might want to consider a pair or two of EZ's leggings. That wind can penetrate nicely.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

Good things couldn't happen to a nicer guy. "But how would YOU know?" you ask.
I just do. And as my darling husband says, "I AM a trained professional." Happy travels. And we'll look forward to seeing the sweet knitting photos after the gift is gifted. (You ARE taking photos, right?)
Happy trails.

Ari said...

Well, the weather is unusual for us. Normally we have very mild winters, so cross your fingers it goes away by the time you come to Billings. I know I've been counting the days until you come. Even braved the weather to buy my yarn yesterday!

Kim said...

While I'd never go to Billings in January (heck I stay out of Minneapolis in winter) thanks for coming for the NW suburbs.

Is that secret project what you were working on at Prairie Arts and Fibers? I was too overwhelmed in your presence to ask what the pattern was (such a dork I am) I know someone who needs that for a new year's gift.

Would you share the pattern name?

Lisa said...

I would dearly love to see some pictures of Billings. My grandmother spent the Depression years there, raising sheep. Obviously, she taught me to knit decades later, and I've always wanted to go see Billings, and think of her....

Patti said...

Your description of Chicago totallly cracked me up. Good thing you have all those wonderful yarn shops, or for pete's sake NO ONE would ever visit! Enjoy Billings in January!

Anonymous said...

I am soooo going "anonymous" on this one because I don't want to get my @$$ kicked, as Montana women are tough as nails (I only know because I am one) BUT that being said - Please, Please, PLEASE! don't judge all of MT by the appearance of Billings it is very FLAT country. You MUST take a side trip west to see the Rocky Mountains Bozeman would be a really good start, the further west you go the more beauty you will be surrounded by. So much so that you will literally want to poop your pants it s so pretty, especially this time of year! Hope you have a fabulous trip!

soxanne said...

I do not feel better with the glimpse.

I want more.

LFRIES said...

Are you knitting reindeer? With a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too? Because that would be amazing.

stash haus said...

Billings.

MT.

In January.

Is this, perhaps, cosmic payback for your fantastic time on Queen Mary 2?

What - can't you find a yarn shop in Aruba? ;-)

I've been to both Billings and Bozeman (got relatives in both) - and I have to agree with Anonymous number 4 - Bozeman is in a beautiful part of the state and more picturesque. But both have fine yarn shops.

Anonymous said...

and I don't feel better either...

I WANNA SEE MORE
I WANNA SEE MORE
I WANNA SEE MORE
(holds breath, but to no avail)

Margie in Maryland

Joanne said...

As others have said, Montana's weather isn't THAT bad! I wish I could make it down, but a 10 hour drive in Jan is not ANYONE's definition of a good idea :)

Your book is fantastic - and other knitters on my list got it for Christmas, I assure you!

Nell said...

You're gonna love Billings. It's wild west and college town all in one.

GinkgoKnits said...

The weather here in San Francisco has cracked the "below 40 degrees mark" and we are all weeping into our granola about the cold.

The only thing for it is to pair some local artisan chocolate with some sourdough and pretend we are becoming even more like Parisians.

Scar said...

Give me regards to Billings,
Remember me to Rocky Mountain College, . . .
up there under the Rims.
It should be a fun time. Wish I was going to be there.

Susanne said...

Well since Alberta (directly north of Montana) is currently in a deep freeze of -25ºC, you might want to get some long undies too my friend. Oh I wish I could take that class but alas I guess it is full!!
Have fun, dress warm and smile!

Roxie said...

Montanna in January? I think I can find my pattern for a knitted willywarmer if you need it.

Hooray for the good yarns store finds!

Ann said...

Well, it's not the cold, it's the humidity -- there will likely be very little in Billings, which makes the cold less penetrating! So my advice is to pack some heavy-duty hand lotion, and your gloves.

And, we could very well have a chinook for your visit, and be enjoying 60-degree temps!

And to answer "Annoymous," Billings is in a river valley, surrounded by soaring mesas -- the "Rimrocks." The prairies to the east and west are rolling, not flat; very interesting geology. Mountains ain't all THAT interesting. ;)

Knitter Girl 39 said...

Oh it was so nice to meet you at Prairie Arts! I am halfway through your book (started reading it last night). It makes me laugh and helps to ease my stress of my last class (2 nights left).

Keep warm and take care,
Becky (ravelry: KnitterGirl39)

ps. I'm the one who is finishing up my master's degree. You suggested to finish the class first before reading your book but I couldn't resist. lol

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Chicago. Great place to be from. Far from. Lived there. Hated it. Moved on to warmer climes.

Billings? In January? Franklin, lie down. Drink some tea. Meditate. Maybe it's not too late to get your ticket refunded.

Abby said...

You really should try to get to Mountain Colors if you are going all the way to Montana. It's about six hours from Billings. You go west to Missoula and then south a bit. If the roads are passable it is so worth it. If you go, be prepared to spend about three times what you'd planned; their yarn is amazingly yummy. Have fun!

Heidi said...

From Billings--go west, young man! Come see us in gorgeous Missoula.

Samina said...

Since you're a knitter, wouldn't that be "doilies", rather than "dollies"?

jamesdotca said...

Oooh, I'm jealous of the Montanans (?) who get to attend your class. I'm chomping at the bit to make a Tomten and I'm just waiting for one of my sisters to get knocked up so I'll have an excuse. C'mon girls... get busy!

Suzanne B said...

I too swore that I wouldn't do any Christmas knitting and here I am doing Christmas knitting. We must be addicts. LOL

FiberQat said...

OOO OOO I know what it is! Don't worry. I won't tell. Tee hee!

How exciting to find two lovely yarn shops. Both sound great.

Sarah-potterknitter said...

I also swore off Christmas knitting this year....
While I read I'm knitting the first of a pair of felted clogs to be finished by Saturday evening, and I'm 2 down 2 to go on a set of dishcloths. Oh well

Jeanne said...

Oh, dear friend--the brain and the Universe are both incapable of processing negatives (google NLP/Neuro-Linguistic Programming). So when one proclaims, "I am NOT doing this", both brain and Universe only hear the adamant declaration that "I AM doing this" and overlook the "not" part. Thus, the Universe gladly bestowed upon you the wondrous handknit gift idea upon which you are working. Isn't the Universe fun? :-)

rogue1 said...

Ahh Chicago politics. I find it quite suspicious that Dolores disappeared just days before Governor Blagojecvich was arrested. Are you sure she's not in Witness Protection?.
I want to go camping in Montana. But not in January.

nonstopknit said...

As the winner of the coveted final spot in the Tomten class, I can't wait for your visit! I came to Billings from Houston last January, and it was rather brutal. But, hey, you're a Chicagoan. Billings'll probably feel like a heat wave. But do pack your heavy-duty moisturizer and chapstick.In my experience, Billings is about as Wild West as it gets unless you're brave enough to venture south into the great state of Wyoming.

Cynthia said...

Billings is awesome! I have not been there for years, but it was great. Wish I could commute from NJ to see you--

Please head out to the east suburbs (there is more to this coast than Boston, NY, Philadelphia, and DC).

nancye said...

Wow, I didn't realize you were so down on Chicago. I imagine you're putting your actions where your words are and looking for a new city to live in. I've lived here all my life and find Chicago is like anything else (i.e., relationships, jobs, blogs); it has it's ups and downs, good points and not so good.

Psyched2Knit said...

you make me want to move back to Chicago! The yarn stores sound like so much fun!

Robert A. Nowotny said...

Frank:

If it is still there, try to eat in the first-floor restaurant of the large, old hotel in Billings. I don't recall the name, but it is a landmark -- probably 8-10 stories high and it is not part of a chain. (Or at least it wasn't years ago.) The food is tremendous -- for me, the green chile elk stew was fantatic, but there were lots of other incredible choices on the menu which looked tasty also. Enjoy your trip.

Fibra Artysta said...

Shuttle tatting is awesome. If you are interested in giving it a shot, let me know. I have some supplies left over from my store and teaching days that I'm looking to unload (free) and would be happy to send you along a couple shuttles and some thread. My email is tatgirl207@earthlink.net.

Knitloon said...

Please note that Montana has only about 2 plows in the state. I know this from personal experience. Watch the weather reports, and stay put if they expect a storm. Otherwise you will end up in some civic arena with 200 other people for the night.

mst3kfan said...

Any chance you could trek over to Missoula while you're in MT? Pleeeeeeeeeease? :)

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Ah, but Chicago has given us Obama - that's enough for me! Thank you!