Jan 232012

Don’t you hate it when your source for a favorite item disappears, or worse yet, when the store that carries it goes out of business? That’s what happened two-and-a-half years ago in June 2009, when Creative Corner, known to locals as the Pink House because it was painted a hot pink, closed its doors after 36 years of business in the historic downtown shopping district of West Des Moines, Iowa known as Valley Junction. Despite its garish exterior, the shop that was likely someone’s house at some point was charming on the inside. Most of the yarn products—many them quite unique—were found downstairs, while specialty threads and stitchery tools were found upstairs in the attic. I was dismayed when the shop closed, since I couldn’t easily find elsewhere locally one of my favorite yarns, a worsted weight blend of silk and wool that I used for felting projects.

One day when I was reading the newspaper, however, I latched onto an article about the octogenarian owner of Rose Tree Fiber Shop, Rosemary Heideman, who opened a yarn shop near the University of Iowa in Ames in 1988 at the age of 60. She sold yarn, patterns and stitchery tools, taught classes, spun her own wool, and even designed her own patterns. I was delighted to discover that she carried a full line of the silk wool yarn I could no longer get at the closed Pink House. Every time we were in Ames, I dove into the apple basket carrying my favorite yarn to restock my inventory. Sadly, Rosemary retired last year, and the new owner decided to let that same yarn retire. The last time I visited the shop, only a few skeins were left in the dullest colors. Although I couldn’t believe it, I was told that “people weren’t buying that yarn anymore.”  To be fair, I was offered the opportunity to do a special order by purchasing 10 skeins in the same color from the manufacturer, but that wasn’t a very appealing offer. I was accustomed to smaller lots in a wider range of colors, spending more than $100 each visit. Time to scavenge again!

It wasn’t until this January, when we were driving home from a visit to our son who lives in the Chicago area, that I found a jewel of a yarn shop in St. Charles, Illinois. That shop is called Wool & Company, and though it does not carry my favorite silk wool yarn, it does carry fantastic substitutes in a rainbow of colors. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the shop is filled in every corner with fiber, patterns, tools and inspiration. Wool & Company describes itself as a full service knitting and crochet store. “Our mission is to spread our love of knitting in a fun, creative and informative way,” states their Web site. “We have the largest selection of knitting and crochet supplies in Chicago and Illinois. Whether yarn, books, patterns, classes and workshops, needles or craft themed gifts, we’ve got them. Both at our store and online we are always adding new items for the knitter, crocheter and needle arts fan.” The business supports Project Heartstrings, a scarf project that aims to show young girls with eating disorders that handmade scarves are like their bodies: imperfect but of great value. Wool & Company also has plenty of charity yarn that is available, just for the asking. They do ask that you complete a form describing your cause, and that you supply photos of the completed project, so they can inform those who donate the yarn how it is being used. One of the unique online services that Wool & Company offers is a Chicken Auction, which involves bidding on clearanced yarns. If you win the bid, the yarn is shipped to you.

Here are some of the wonderful yarns I purchased. What great yarn sources, especially online, have you discovered?

 © 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Mar 302010

Like the question about what came first, the chicken or the egg, Vicki of DizzyDragonflies’ addiction to yarn has led to dyeing, weaving and knitting—or did these activities lead to the love of yarn? In any event, Vicki says, “I have always loved creating items. My main love has always been yarn, knitting and crocheting. By accident I started selling my hand knit items, people offering to pay for me to make them something that I had on or had given to a friend . . . Now I have tried my hand at spinning and hand dyeing yarn, and love them both.” She is thrilled that she can sell things she truly loves to make.

Vicki uses Kool Aid and/or Jacquard yarn dyes in her work, resulting in wonderfully rich colors such as the yarns shown below. She can custom dye as many skeins as you wish if you contact her through her shop.

Likewise, when you see an item in Vicki’s shop that she has sold to someone else, she can duplicate it for you in a color you choose. Her cable knit scarves are especially attractive.

If you are interested in seeing how Vicki dyes her yarn in a kettle, you can see the step-by-step process in the Bright yarn tutorial on her blog.

Vicki’s love of “all things yarn” has been fed by the yarn community, a closely knit group (pardon the pun!) that loves to exchange ideas and tips. Another Etsy seller, Spin, Knit and Life, introduced Vicki to spinning, which led to the purchase of a spinning wheel. The first item she dyed was spun from that wheel and incorporated into a lovely sweater.

Through another friend on Ravelry, a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to gather and exchange ideas and information, Vicki learned how to spin yarn onto a core.

If you love yarn as much as I do, you’ll want to visit Vicki’s shop and blog. You’ll also find her on the Web in these additional locations:

Ravelry (you will need to join this site to view Vicki’s page): http://www.ravelry.com/people/knitdragonflies
Plurk: http://www.plurk.com/knittingdragonflies
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/knittingdragonflies

© 2010 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artist and may not be used without permission.