Friday, July 15, 2005

Yarn Store Review: Khadija Yarn Shop

While my parents have bought the new house in Kokomo, Indiana, they don't live there yet. They're still getting it in order, ripping down wallpapers and replacing light fixtures installed by the previous lady of the house.

I have never met this lady, and hope I never will. I can only say that her horror vacui is all too evident even in the empty rooms she left behind. I have never seen three different patterned papers and two colors combined in one space before.

The light fixtures, for their part, are so ugly that when I saw the one in the downstairs bathroom I actually developed a rash on my eyelids.

Since we couldn't stay in the house yet, we were guests of the Schuelkes, dear old friends of my parents and the people who introduced them to Kokomo in the first place. (We like them anyway.) Charming Mrs. Schuelke, anxious to alleviate our fears that my parents were moving to a town that could have kept Diane Arbus busy for 50 years, took us on a whirlwind tour of the best the place has to offer: little caf├ęs, historic houses, and a truly impressive stained glass factory.*

Smart woman, she also knew the way to the nearest yarn store.

So we visited Khadija Yarn Shop, 3712 La Fountain Street in Kokomo. It's a tiny little place in a strip mall, but one of the plate glass windows was entirely covered by a SALE sign and that's always promising.

Included in the posse during our visit were Mrs. Schuelke, my sister, and both my parents. This meant I didn't hang out as long as I might have, given that the levels of their interests in yarn range from slim (my mother) to none (my father). We did stay long enough that I can offer the following.

The shop has two rooms. The first, smaller room is jammed to the drop ceiling with pattern books. You think I am exaggerating, but I am not. It would take a person at least half a day, possibly more, to go through all the books. I had about two minutes. Most of what's there was like the Bernat book pictured above. According to C, it looks like it was released as a tie-in with the movie Valley of the Dolls.

Now, some will scoff, but (as dear Miss Jane Brodie would say), for those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like. I picked up the book for two reasons. First, my sister liked one of the knit shells inside it. Second, although I have no intention of knitting the shell or anything else in the book (they all use ribbon yarn and require finishing on a sewing machine), the pictures, my darling, are to die.

Check this out:

The open-eye look in full bloom. What was the allure of perpetually looking surprised? Was it supposed that men found startled women to be especially yummy? Is she meant to be thinking, "You want me to put that where?" or what?

Not that I think the vacant, bovine stare of the Britney Spears/Olsen Twin set is an improvement. Feh.

And look at this:

The other popular fashion expression of the era, a relic from the golden Bettina/Suzy Parker/Lisa Fonssagrives era at Vogue: icy-cold sophistication.

She could probably rip the face off the mailman with one swipe of that manicured claw and still keep her pillbox on straight.

Did I mention the price? A lot of the books are were (and probably still are) on sale for 40% off the cover. This one set me back 80 cents.

In the second, much larger room, yarn lines the walls on high shelves. The center floor is reserved for something I had never encountered before: knitting machines.

I will confess that the allure of knitting machines escapes me utterly, but they seem to be mighty popular in Kokomo. There were three women (one of whom turned out to be the saleslady) working at machines. If this is your heart's delight, the store (if I remember correctly) will rent you a machine by the month and also offers classes.

The yarn selection is large but most of what I saw was mid-price to low-end. Brand names I noticed included Patons (lots of it) and Berocco. There was a pretty good selection of needles including bamboos by Clover.

No Rowan, no Lorna's Laces, nothing unusual or luxurious or locally spun. Just plain, stout yarns for (I am guessing) plain, stout knitters.** If you're fiber snob, this store is not going to do much for you; but if you need basics and you need them cheap, stop in.

Regarding customer service, I'd say it was just fine. When we arrived I led the way into the store, and got the usual response - raised eyebrows and a "Can I help you find someting?" that clearly telegraphed the metamessage "I am afraid you've mistaken us for the auto parts dealership two doors down."

However, after I explained that I was a knitter visiting my parents and checking the place out for the first time, she recovered her composure and was very friendly and solicitous. I bought my book, and she said she hoped I'd come in again on my next visit to Indiana and spend more time looking around.

With all those books to dig through, I think I'll be back.

*I didn't want to spoil the flow of positives, so I'm putting it in a footnote that we also visited two of Kokomo's other claims to fame, housed side-by-side under glass in the town park. They are a taxidermied bull with no tail and a tree stump, both freakishly large. I won't even bother to comment.

* *Not perjorative. I like plain, stout people. I'm already halfway to being one.


Calvin said...

Franklin, I swear. You had me ROTFL when I read your comment about the downstairs bathroom's light fixture! Priceless!! I totally agree with you about the model's "Vogue: icy-cold sophistication" look. To me, it looks as if she's thinking, "Don't f*** with me! I'll slap you into next week"!!

Rabbitch said...

Welcome to the World of Kitschy Stitches. Stitchy McYarnpants has a whole museum of 'em and posts them on a regular basis. I can't tell you how many vintage knit mags I have here, myself. I crave them, but would likely stab myself in the head with a dpn if I ever made anything out of them! I love that one, thank you! (insert wide-eyed surprised "I just got an ice cube down my crack" look here)

birdfarm said...

Have you guys seen the "Loose Knits" postcards?

Cath Tate (if that's a real person & not just the name of the card distributor...) takes old photos from knitting patterns and captions them hilariously--examples include "She dreamed of a wild, dangerous life tinged with anarchy" and "'Manhood,' thought Dickie, 'is serious business.'"

Check them out here. Note that the popup windows with closeups of the cards are too small to show the captions, which are in small print at the bottom--scroll down to see them). (There's a top frame that goes with this; to see the catalogue properly, start here).

However, I'm disappointed to see that my all-time favorite seems to be discontinued.

It featured two fearsome-looking women in tight sweaters & pointy bras, one with her hand shading her eyes as if looking into the distance.

Caption: "They came from Planet Lesbos in search of sperm."

birdfarm said...

Hey, wasn't Khadija the first wife of Mohammed? If I remember right, she was supposed to be very business-savvy--he started out working for her, taking caravans of trade goods to distant places.

Any clues in the store as to why it's named after her?

Anonymous said...

It's my first comment on your blog, Franklin. I will search my personal photo archives (a.k.a. the sixteen rubberbanded shoe boxes in the hall closet) for photos of the execrable decor in the house we bought. The most attractive room was the bomb shelter.

Love the blog!

Carol S.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Franklin, timely (for me) post. My daughter and I watched "Wait Until Dark" (you know, the scary film where Audrey Hepburn is blind, and Richard Crenna is a BAD GUY) last night.
Holy Jeez, Sixties Sixties Sixties. In between the Mod and Hippie eras.
The lithesome blonde model (Samantha Jones) has a giant flippy do just like these, wears an awful coyote coat, and is meant to be dripping in disdainful cool.
She dies, of course.

dragon knitter said...

so, does that mean you're stout, or plain? if the picture you show on your blog is any indication, you're neither. no i'm not being a flatterer, i just state facts. and i'm with rabbitch, ya gotta check out stitchy's museum. definitely kitchy, make you run screaming for your bell bottoms, kinda patterns. woohoo! have fun digging through the books, i've lost that tendency years ago, i'm just too tired, sigh (old age will do that for ya)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the tour of Kokomo. When can we see photos of the wallpaper?--or perhaps it's like that in the kitchen of the first hovel we owned and CANNOT BE PHOTOGRAPHED.

Jude, plain and stout

Anonymous said...

I figured the name was probably the owner's name...

Anonymous said...

Ah yes. Wait Until Dark, in which Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman with perfectly applied eyeliner.

Anonymous said...

You GO, Franklin! Some people may scoff, but I'm 'gonna go there and buy them all! That model's hair was sitting! A hurricane wouldn't spoil her effect. I've knitted a Chanel style suit from a 1966 Vogue. From the needle size, those housewives had time. The Mens' sweaters are hilarious. They're very Father knows best.

My introduction to handknitting was via a knitting machine, which I occasionally still use. Mine is good for producing jersey yardage, for sewing. They're not portable though, hence my preference for handknitting.

Anonymous said...

Back to wallpaper...just rediscovered this Oscar Wilde quote, " My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go."

I've been visiting Susan's blog--you must be so proud!

Abby said...

"I like plain, stout people. I'm already halfway to being one."

Franklin, I've been a faithful reader for about a month or so now, and I'm just catching up on all that you've written. Now that I've typed that, it makes me out to be a freak. I'm not, really.
I simply have to respond to the quote that I pulled from your post.
You may claim to be halfway to being plain and stout, and having never met you in person I can maybe believe you when you claim to being halfway to stout. But I will NEVER believe you to being halfway to plain. EVER.

sela said...

Oh! You are cracking me up!! I live on the outskirts of Kokomo.

I was just searching for local knitting lessons and stumbled across The Panopticon. Hilaaaarious!

Next time you're in town you'll have to find the hedge over on South Webster across from the park that spells out KOKOMO. It's kind of a big deal.

I cannot believe they took you to see Old Ben and the tree stump! How sad. Wait, I'm the one living here...

Anyway, you've got a new fan. I'm officially hooked.

Anonymous said...

You think it is sad that someone took her to see the bull and the stump....what else IS there to see :)

Perhaps they didn't know about Chief Kokomo's grave site hidden back behind Kautz Field. Now that is a highlight you must search out on your next visit.

A fellow Kokomoian

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