Before we return to more current knitting content (there's gotta be some . . . somewhere), I've been very overdue in posting about two yarn stores I visited when I was on vacation in June. I know that I always look for yarn shop reviews when I'm traveling to a new area, so I hope these will help someone planning a future trip.
Near my parents' home in Southern Minnesota is the college town of St. Peter, home of Gustavus Adolphus College. It's also the home of a great natural foods store and deli, and of one of my favorite yarn shops, The Tangled Skein. Unfortunately, they don't have a website, and their location on a side street (217 W. Park Row) means you kind of have to know they're there. This small but cozy shop is definitely worth seeking out, though.
The Tangled Skein has a great selection of Rowan yarns, and a wide variety of other higher-end yarns--they had a beautiful selection of Malabrigo, including some colors I had not seen elsewhere. Their sock yarn selection is worth perusing, as is their collection of books and magazines (they had all the back issues of Rowan's magazine from the last several years, as well as issues of Rebecca). The array of novelty yarns was a bit more than I cared for, and the knitted samples they had on display weren't necessarily to my taste, but there's certainly enough other options to keep knitters busy here. My sister picked up two gorgeous skeins of Araucania's new yarn, Quellon, to make a scarf. I got some self-striping sock yarn. The staff is extremely friendly and approachable (it's Minnesota, of course they're friendly), engaging customers in conversation or letting them browse, depending on the preference of the customer. I look forward to visiting this shop whenever I'm back in Southern Minnesota.
When I visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on my trip, I was surprised that there weren't more yarn shops in the area. Apparently the large town of Marquette has a couple of nice shops (we didn't make it down there), but otherwise the area is pretty much lacking in yarn shopping. I actually found one shop by accident, since it's more of a fabric store than a yarn shop. It's called Sew Irresistible Creations, and it's located right on the main drag in Houghton, Michigan (407 Sheldon Ave.).
The store is divided into two halves; one is dedicated to a decent selection of fabrics (I pretty much ignored this section, since we all know I don't sew). The other half is devoted to yarn. The yarn selection was kind of all over the map--primarily low- to mid-range yarns (Plymouth, Lion Brand, etc.), but with a surprisingly good selection of sock yarn. I almost bought yarn to make Germany-flag socks like these, but I resisted. Maybe if I hadn't, the World Cup would have ended up differently--who knows?
The best thing about this store, though, is the way they have the samples on display. Knitted samples, the books or pattern leaflets they come from, and the yarn they're knitted with are all displayed together (or at least in close proximity). Is it just me, or is this a really obvious sales strategy that many yarn shops overlook? It seems like half the time, I'll spot a cute knitted sample, and even if they have the yarn and pattern details on a tag (which isn't always the case), finding the yarn and pattern still involves a scavenger hunt through the store and/or the assistance of one or more store employees. Sew Irresistible made it so much easier for customers to really use those samples to get inspired.
Speaking of inspiration, I'm zipping through my newest project, which, as I suspected, was exactly what I needed to get excited about knitting again. I'll have pictures tomorrow.