Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Southern Yarn-A Knitter’s Journey to Asheville

I’ve just returned from a mini-vacation to Asheville, NC, a yarn paradise—in fact, that is the name of one of the yarn shops there. The Asheville area has everything I like in a vacation –good weather, pretty scenery, a cosmopolitan city with lots of art and entertainment, and most importantly, good yarn shops. The Chamber of Commerce even prints a brochure called “The Fabric, Fiber, Bead Trail” to assist the knitting tourist with finding places to leave her (or his) money behind. I used the brochure to find my way to 4 shops in the Asheville area. I loved them all, but managed to keep my money in my wallet (only because my stash currently exceeds the capacity of an entire closet).

I appreciate all handicrafts. Besides knitting, I dabble in jewelry making and collect pottery, and Asheville has an abundance of those crafts as well. The city has a unique history of promoting rural folk crafts through craft guilds and folk schools. We visited some gorgeous galleries. I was especially impressed by the Allanstand Craft Shop at the Folk Art Center, The Southern Highland Craft Guild, and the New Morning Gallery.

I liked every shop I visited, and realized that each had something different to offer. If I lived there, I don’t know if I could have a single favorite. My visit was brief, but here are my impressions:

Asheville Home-Crafts
In Grove Arcade
PH: (828)350-7556

-Small shop, not a huge yarn selection, but nice.
-They offer finished crafts for sale. Lots of knit hats and accessories were on display; and it seemed to attract local knitters who were looking to both buy and sell.

Earth Guild
33 Haywood Street
PH: (828)255-7818
Toll Free: (800)327-8448

-A full-service craft shop, in business since 1970!
-In addition to yarn, they sell dyes, beads, polymer clay, looms and weaving supplies, spinning wheels & more.
-Friendly owners told me about the classes they offer.
-Lots of yarn on cones(good for weavers, but also good quality for less money).
-Had their own line of Dragonfly Yarns-special died cottons and chenille.
-Emphasis on high quality knitting yarns over novelty yarns.

Purl’s Yarn Emporium
51 College Street
PH: (828)253-2750

-Colorful and bright,I loved the way yarn was arranged by color rather than type.
-Friendly male clerk.
-Eclectic clientele--lots of college students and 30-somethings, male and female.
-Nice selection of books and novelty yarns.
-Cozy sitting area for their knitting nights.

Yarn Paradise
6 All Souls Crescent
Biltmore Village

-Quaint building in the Biltmore village.
-Cozy knitting table, a knitting group was in session. I was warmly greeted by very friendly owner and her loyal customers.
-Great selection of yarns, both basic and novelty.
-Nice selection of unique buttons.
-Lots of finished objects on display to inspire you!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Knitting Away

For me, knitting and travel are intertwined. Knitting on airplanes is another one of my favorite places to knit. In years past, I traveled a lot for work and I would get loads of knitting done while waiting at the gate or flying cross-country. I love being creative and productive, blissing out on knitting while my fellow travelers are bored and irritable.

I don't travel as much these days, but when I do, it is usually for the soul purpose of knitting. I discovered the joy of knitting vacations back in 1998, when I went to Meg Swanson's Knitting Camp for the very first time. Prior to that, I had been an at-home knitter of intermediate skill at best. Knitting camp opened my eyes, sharpened my skills, and made me hunger for more. I started seeking out knitting retreats and workshops offered by yarn shops, TKGA, and Knitter's Magazine (Stitches). I convinced my husband to go with me to New England, New Mexico, Scotland, and Ireland for the knitting. I also went on lots of retreats without him. I will probably ramble about knitting vacations often in future posts. I have the intention of adding links to my favorite knitting vacations.

I'm posting pictures from one of my favorite knitting vacations--Cheryl Oberle's Knit-Away. It was a terrific trip that combined knitting with scenic beauty. A special bonus - my fellow knitting campers threw me a surprise birthday party. These pictures are from May of '05 at the Knit-Away in Taos. Cheryl is a terrific teacher and a goddess knitter. If you ever have an opportunity to take classes, sign up immediately! I know she will be doing a Folk Shawls workshop in May at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. They offer lots of knitting retreats. Check it out.

The Journey Begins

My first blog, so I shall begin at the beginning. When did I learn to knit? What inspired me to learn?

Despite the fact that my mother was a talented knitter, her crafty knitting style did not inspire me to pick up the needles. Instead, my inspiration came as I rode the train between Paris and Lyon during the summer of 1980. Backpacking around France as a poor college student, I spent a great deal of time that summer on the trains. Over and over I would see French women knitting with gorgeous designer yarns that were nothing like the yarns in my mother's stash. I returned home and begged Mom to teach me to knit. (Which, of course, she didn't do, because she was left handed and I am right handed . . . but that is another story.)

Fast forward to August of 2000. Some knitting friends and I started to meet at a local bookstore cafe. Our group quickly grew from 4 to 14. My circle of friends expanded, and existing friendships deepened. We continue to knit together, every Monday night. Our knitting group is regularly approached by women who say they used to knit, or that they would like to learn. When I was knitting at home, no one ever asked me to knit. In the first year that our knitting group gathered,five people asked me to teach them to knit, and I have taught many more since. Like everyone these days, I'm very busy with work and family, and I don't have much time to knit. I find the time by taking my knitting with me everywhere. I knit in public wherever I can. My favorite place to knit is at an outdoor cafe. Preferably, when I am on vacation somewhere. I hope to inspire new knitters around the world!