A Tale of Two Cities and Three Yarn Shops

I’m not sure anymore if my hobby is knitting or collecting yarn.  Let me explain.

I recently found myself going with my husband on one of his business trips to California.  Because he had to work, I was left unchaperoned in San Francisco – the mecca of DIY artisan craft.

After we parted ways on Monday morning, I made my way to ImagiKnits near The Castro district in San Francisco.  This is the largest yarn shop I’ve ever entered.  I was greeted by a beautiful sample table showcasing the patterns and yarn available for purchase.  The many selections were well organized across the two storerooms.  The staff was courteous and helpful while maintaining a respectful distance allowing me to peruse on my own terms.  I must have done three laps before I settled in on the sock yarns.  Their phone was always ringing, and I was impressed by how quickly the workers could find out what yarn was available in their inventory stored on the computer.

I was disappointed only in how few local yarns were offered and that there weren’t many charming notions to look at.  Still, I had no problem buying two skeins of yarn (one for me and one for the girls), two circular needles, and a book teaching me a new sock technique which I hope to write about here soon!

Pros:  Selection, Kind and Knowledgable Staff, Tidiness

Con:  Slight muskiness in the air

Would I go back?  Yes!

A couple of days later, after an epic hike around the peninsula which is San Francisco, I took the BART across the bay into Berkeley to visit A Verb for Keeping Warm.  This cutely named yarn shop is located right on the edge of Berkeley and Oakland, a very gritty neighborhood.  The yarn shop itself brought me back to the countryside with its lofted ceilings, natural light and open shelves.  While the yarn selection wasn’t as great as I found in the city, I was impressed to find more local yarn and even naturally dyed yarns.  Unfortunately, these skeins were considerably outside my budget (we’re talking about $60 for maybe 300 yards of worsted weight wool yarn dyed with mushrooms).

This shop also had a fabric section which I prohibited myself from entering because it would have been difficult to bring back yards of fabric.  So again, I found myself drawn to the sock yarns and their plentiful notion displays.  After purchasing two small skeins (both for my husband) and a beautiful bag by Jen Hewett, I enjoyed a bite to eat at an Actual Cafe next door.

Pro:  An inviting table for communal crafting

Con:  The drunks passed out on the sidewalk

Would I go back?  No, I would order online.  And I’d have them pack me a BALT (bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich) from next door.

Two hours before I was scheduled to leave the city the next day, I discovered there was still one more yarn shop in San Fracisco I hadn’t been to yet.  Not wanting to disappoint my friend Sarah who was the recipient of many detailed texts about yarn stores and drunkards, I quickly found my way to Atelier Yarns.  Like ImagiKnits, this yarn shop is located in an older building.  Yarn was packed into very tall shelves taking full advantage of the high ceilings.

At first I wasn’t impressed with the yarns, but then I noted quite a few were of European origin.  I decided to purchase another ball of sock yarn.  It was pretty and unlike anything I had seen before.

Pro:  Friendly staff

Con:  Not in a tourist location (Maybe this isn’t a con for a local person)

Would I go back?  Maybe, if it wasn’t out of my way.

I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of quality yarn shops in the Bay area.  There were many popular yarns I’ve read about but never have had the chance to see in person:  Quince & Co., Madeline Tosh, Brooklyn Tweed, etc.  I’m a very tactile crafter, and I enjoyed my unique way of seeing the city.  My husband, however, might prefer to chaperone me the next time I accompany him on a trip.

I think I captured the color scheme of my San Francisco vacation in this ball of sock yarn.

I think I captured the color scheme of my San Francisco vacation in this ball of sock yarn.


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