While I came home with a not-insignificant amount of yarn from my 6 week long trip to the west coast, I still didn’t buy yarn at ever yarn shop I visited (that would have definitely required a second suitcase).
Between the Bay Area, and Portland, I ended up visiting 15 yarn & fabric shops (plus a handful of bead shops and vintage stores). More than just petting all the yarns & fabrics, I loved having the chance to get a feel for so many different shops in a condensed period of time.
I think we all know this if we have a favorite local yarn (or fabric) store, or if you’ve ever bypassed the closest shop to travel to your preferred shop further away, but every shop is different. Sometimes it’s simply a difference in what they carry, but other times it’s something more illusive, it’s the culture, or the environment, or simply a feeling, that draws us to one shop over another.
Of course, if you surround me with yarn, fabric, or textiles, I’ll feel at home.
And yet, I’m constantly amazed at how individual every yarn shop is. Some categories of shops all look & feel the same (like big box stores), or fall into a few general categories (like book stores, or gift-y boutiques), but no two independent yarn stores really feel the same at all.
Lacis is a shop combined with a museum. The upper parts of the walls & ceilings are the “museum” part – with more lace and clothes than your eyes can take in. While the shelves at eye level are stocked everything from fine yarns, to millinery supplies, to beads, to tools for every type of lace making, to select vintage clothes, to all the books, to lace fabrics, and on, and on. The proprietress is incredible, and kind, and knows her stuff to a T. If you’re ever in the area and have any interest in lace, or textiles, or clothes, or fabric making of any kind you must visit. I came in a second time at the very tail end of my trip and walked out with a million (more) photos and 1,000 yards of cobweb weight silk that I might just keep as a pet.
The second shop I visited was A Verb for Keeping Warm – which it turns out was about 4 blocks away from the first place I stayed at. I loved how this shop mixed fabric, and yarn, and fiber, and tools. There was tons of natural light, everything was clean and organized, and packaged beautifully. This hanging was in the middle of the shop, and was incredible – it was made up of small naturally dyed swatches of fabric and beautifully showed off the range of colors you can get from natural dyes.
Britex Fabrics – four floors full of fabric. It felt like the never ending store! Each time I went to another floor there was another one above it.
I loved how they divvy their fabric up by floor, all the wools & suitings were on the first floor, then cottons & silks on the second, then trims & notions on the third, and finally remnants & sales on the fourth. I also appreciated the uniformity and neatness of their bolts of fabric – a far cry from the mish-mosh of fabric you get at stores in the NYC garment district.
ImagiKnit, in the Mission in San Francisco, was the first place I bought yarn on my trip. I intentionally left the east coast without a knitting project, intending to find yarn and decide on a project when I got to the west coast – this Ito yarn fit that bill beautifully. ImagiKnit was a really wonderful shop – stuffed to the gills with yarn, it had a lovely and knowledgeable staff. They also had a small, but well curated selection of locally milled & locally dyed yarns.
Avenue Yarns is a shop just to the north of Berkeley (I think). I’m not sure if it’s technically within the bounds of Berkeley, or if it’s actually in Albany, CA – but either way it’s a great shop with an excellent selection and if I hadn’t been trying to keep my luggage light I probably would have walked away with some of the spinning fiber they stocked. They’re spinning fiber selection was small but beautiful! And though they have a sparse web presents – they’re definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, was the last place I visited in the Bay Area. Two floors and three rooms of fabric! I’d say a major percent of their stock was quilting cotton, and at the same time there was also a pretty excellent selection of other fashion fabrics. And within the quilting cottons there were a nice variety of weights – some of which (maybe with a wash or two) would work well as fashion fabric for clothing.
I ended up bringing home 3.5 yards of a loud plaid cotton gauze, and just under a yard of a black & white brushed cotton plaid. There were a couple other fabrics I had my eye on, and if I hadn’t had to fly what I bought back across the country – I probably would have bought more.
Now that I’m writing this all out, and knowing how many shops I visited while in Portland – I think I’ll save the yarn & fabric tour of Portland for tomorrow.