From the editor's keyboard

Encounters with knitting shops


What does handknitting have to do with Seinfeld? Nothing as far as I know.

That's why I was surprised to find an episode of the television comedy blasting from a laptop computer when I walked into an otherwise lovely yarn shop the other day. More, the shop was so poorly lit, I couldn't tell navy from black from brown. It's a new-to-me shop — being in another, nearby town — so I wasn't sure what I'd find when I dropped in. I didn't expect Jerry Seinfeld. In fairness, let it be said that I'll own up to a rather well-earned reputation for being a curmudgeon about unnecessary noise and too-low lights in restaurants and stores, but I'm certain I wasn't the only person in the shop irritated by Mr. Seinfeld. I left without spending a nickle — a yarn store first for me.

Much more to my liking is Toronto's Romni Wools. This massive store — 6,000 square feet! — is the yarn lover's dream. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and, miracle, Romni always seems to have whatever needle size I need. Not for the time-constrained or the faint of heart, it's a place where the stacks of shelves jammed with yarn are lined with stacks of baskets jammed with more yarn. It's a place to spend a couple of hours, retire to the neighbouring coffee shop for a little think and return to make your purchases. Bring a bundle buggy. If you live within driving distance of Toronto, it's worth the pilgrimage to experience the shop and expose yourself to the scores of yarns you never knew existed.

Of course, I equally like Wendy Mortimer's Wool Mill — you've seen it — we've done a photo shoot or two there. Wendy has a nice selection yarns and a great selection of handknitted garments you'd be proud to pass off as your own work, were you so inclined. There's room to sit and chat with a friend and, best, an incredible font of knitting experience and information ready to help.

I also like Toronto's KnitCafe. A small serving of yarn supplemented by a café with great sweets and hot drinks — and a real sense of community. (Why don't more yarn shops serve treats? We won't get crumbs on the yarn, honest!)

Thanks to KnitNet and the travel bug, I've visited dozens of yarn shops in dozens of cities. Over the years, I've even developed my own little checklist of qualities that make a shop first rate. If I ever open a yarn shop, it will

  • be well-lit
  • have baskets to pile up your purchases
  • boast a good magazine and book section
  • offer a well-stocked selection of needles and other small tools
  • have knowledgeable staff that treat customers like friends — after all, aren't we all members of the same club?
  • offer a table and chairs for friends to sit down and chat
  • provide "stitch and bitch" evenings
  • offer short, inexpensive classes in interesting little techniques

Oh. And have scads and scads of lovely yarns in all fibres, colours and weights.

How about you? Where's your dream yarn shop? What do you love? Hate? email me!