Monday, 7 May 2007

New York Knitting

All shops can be seen on this google map. Let me know if you're having any trouble seeing it and I can email you a copy.
  1. Stitches East - a shop near to MOMA and the "Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting" exhibition, review at the end of this post. This was an early introduction to the mixture of uses any building in new york is likely to have. What might look like a residential block may actually have a shop on the 5th and 9th floors. Or, as in this case, what looks like a posh corporate headquarters may actually be a mini mall with offices above it. So if you find the building don't get put off - it's in there, you just have to dig around a bit. Now at this point I was rather travel fatigued so may not have been at my most receptive but nothing here jumped out at me. Also I couldn't see prices on things which I always find amazingly off putting, even if it's just in a corner shop, so I left empty handed. But the woman there was vwery nice so would be worth a look if you are in the area.
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2. Yarn Connection - 218 Madison Avenue near where it crosses 37th st. You had to buzz to get in and go through what looked like a residential entrance but the shop upstairs was really lovely. It was what I think of as a UK rural shop being quite jumbled with skeins hanging from the ceiling and magazines dating back many years with curled pages on the cluttered table. There were two women there when I went in, both knitting merrilly, but who very nicely helped me out when I looked a bit overwhelmed. The stock is not huge but what they do have is very nice and they seemed to have the full collection of noro and a very decent selection in the $5 bargain bin. Lovely selection of accessories too. Definitely a good one.
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3. Gotta Knit, 468 on 6th avenue near where it crosses with 13th st. This was somewhere I actually went to three times. Which annoys me in retrospect. I went there twice when it was closed, following almost identical confusions on my part, and the third time I guess could partly have been down to my raised expectations but I left quickly having been very underwhelmed. Very little stock and no prices. All a bit too quiet. But if you do go there is a smoothie place next door called Jamba Juice which is worth a go. Only open 11-5 weekdays and 11-4 sat and sun.

4. Purl - 137 sullivan street near the cross with W Houston St. A real piece of eye candy. There are in fact two shops. The Purl knitting shop seems to be a bit of a legend and is posh in the same way that Loop in Islington is posh - you don't go there expecting the cheap stuff and there was quite a bit of luxourious tillie thomas type silk and lornas laces in colours exclusive to purl and so on. Lots of young hipsters hanging out. The real find was the cloth sister shop a few days which was filled with bolts of divine cotton, the least colourful of which would be the kaffe fasset for Rowan prints. I was quite blown away and could have spent a great deal had I not got far too much fabric already.
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5. Downtown Yarns - 45 Avenue A, near cross with 4th st. This was probably my favourite place. It was just what a yarn shop would be like if I owned one. Inside wasn't huge but there was plenty of space to look at all the yummy yarns that were literally floor to ceiling. The owners were lovely and having a funny conversation about english scones as I walked in which I was able to help them out with. They had some lovely needles (I finally splurged on some lantern moon ebony ones here) and there was a big old fashioned kitchen table crammed with casual passers by of all ages knitting and crocheting and two dogs. I'm not praising the dogs, I'm just trying to convey it was a relaxed, all-welcome type place. I spent rather a lot of money here and could have spent the same agin very easily.

6. Seaport Yarns - near world trade centre site 135 william st. I almost didn't go in. What an opportunity I would have wasted! This place was astonishing. I walked in very dubious thinking it must be a wholesaler and almost turned round and walked out a couple of times. When I got in the owner was lovely and took me for a tour through the eleventy seven rooms crammed with yarn of all types from all over the globe. I was handed a lantern moon knitting basket and away I went to fill it up, more or less to the brim. I spent a whooooole lot of cash here but this is where I got all the cherry tree hill and the aussie yarn and the square needles and and and...
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8. String - recently moved from madison ave to 130 E 32nd St between Park and Lex. Another top end posh one. Lots of silk, cashmere, laceweight, all sorts but not much under $20 a skein. It was an experience to visit and a very beautiful shop but I was quite content to come out with just one skein of laceweight.
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9. School Products - I got here and couldn't find it and gave up. I have since been made thoroughly miserable with tales of such yarny goodness that it apparently contains. All I can say is - try harder peeps.

10. Lion and Lamb - depsite being listed on all knitting shop lists for new york this legendary place has closed down. I got this confirmed from a couple of sources.

Here are two small pics of my annotated (scribbled on) map that I doggedly carried around with me like every good tourist should. Along with a big forehead sticker that says 'mug me'. Click on the small ones and you'll get to the larger versions.
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Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting - Hmmmm. I hadn't expected to visit this as I hadn't quite connected the dots in my head that would have lead me to realise I was going to be in new york while it was on. So I went in not expecting it and came out thinking... "I'm glad I hadn't looked forward to seeing that, because it was a bit pants'. Many will disagree with me and I should say first off that I think it's good that knitting and lace are getting out there in the big wide world but most of what was in this exhibition wasn't even remotely lace or knitting and wasn't subversive as much as a bit useless. Some people say that to take something as utilitarian as knitting and make it impractical is zen or art or something or other. But what does it actually say or show about anything if you get a load of old zimmer frames, weld them together and cover them in duct tape? I came out of the exhibition was a moment of clarity about the whole what-is-art debate and decided that art was first what people will pay for and second what people will pay to go and see. And considering that some people will buy anything (I once bought some beer mats on ebay when I got over excited about the thrill of the bid when I first discovered it all) you could say that everything in that exhibition was art. It was certainly 'arty' although that word seems to be becoming rather derogatory.

Here is the leaflet from the exhibition. I thought about the ethics of reproducing it here but as far as I know the exhibition won't be coming to these shores so I consider it fair game. Just no printing it out and selling it, unless you're calling it art. Click on the littl'uns to get the big'uns.
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info, Lixie...I plan a trip to New York, which I have visited a few times but not since I took up knitting again, so this is really useful. I am quite certain I would have been fooled by the shops that are inside building and the ones that don't look like shops :)

Heather Welford

Jenn said...

Lixie, I had a whole 7 hours in Manhattan one day last year, and I think Purl was the only store we saw in common. I wish I'd had more time. Your guide will come in very handy someday when I go again.

I was in London a couple of years ago and saw the "Knit 2 Together" show.
Did you see it? How did it compare to the show you saw in New York?

I really love your podcasts - thanks for all your hard work!

HPNY Knits said...

next time visit Knitty City!! on west 79 street. its nice.
and The Point. also has a cafe.

Jackie said...

Had a great time exploring some of the shops - thanks for the tips

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