I had to be in Ottawa last week for a work event, and I was tweeting from the train on my way up. Natalie Servant, the designer of such patterns as Weeping Willow (from Knitty!), the very pretty Strand of Pearls shawlette, and her brand new pattern, Shifting Ribs, happened to catch my tweets. She asked if I was going to have any spare time while in the city, and whether I might have any interest in visiting a yarny destination or two. Well, you don’t have to ask me twice! I had already planned to stay over the weekend with my grandmother, so I had a nice chunk of free time available.
Natalie picked me up on Saturday morning, and took me out to “her” LYS, Yarn Forward, in Kanata. (She doesn’t own the place, but she has been known to hang out there, you know, on occasion.) What a sweet shop!
It’s a storefront in a strip mall, and the window is festooned with samples of Natalie’s shawl patterns. Inside, there were long rows of yarn shelves, with sample knits aplenty. At the back there’s a big cheerful table (complete with a tin of cookies).
Did I mention the welcoming atmosphere? I’ve come across three broad kinds of yarn shops, in my (albeit limited) travels.
- There’s the kind that always smells a little bit dusty, stocks mainly workhorse yarns, and looks askance at any knitter under age 70 who enters the shop. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but you know exactly the shops I mean.)
- Then, there’s the super-chic shops, with sleek, highly-designed displays, where they take the knitting-is-the-new-yoga image to the extreme, and the salesgirls look like they’ve stepped out of the pages of Vogue Knitting.
- And finally, there are the places that may be slightly jumbled, but you know that it’s only because there’s a swarm of knitters plucking skeins from the shelves in every corner of the shop. The kettle’s on, the regulars are ensconced with their knitting, and the shop is as much about the knitting community as it is about the yarn that’s on display.
My local LYS, Shall We Knit? in Waterloo, is the perfect embodiment of this kind of shop. Yarn Forward is cut from the same cloth. (They have a Rav fan group, which should tell you something.)
Sarah (Habsgirl on Ravelry) and Francine (PurpleHaze on Ravelry) were both in the shop on Saturday, and between them and Natalie, I was soon settled in at the big table. Francine made me feel like a total ROCK STAR — she had heard that I would be coming (!) and had brought her copy of Jane Austen Knits for me to autograph. That was a first for me, and admittedly, I couldn’t stop grinning!
I think I gave Francine a little smidgen of that same feeling when I picked up one of her lovely shawl pins — this one is black freshwater pearls and silver wire/silver plated pin — to take home for myself. I’m a big fan of shawl pins that are all one piece, so I can’t lose the pin (Romi’s penannular spiral is still my most-used shawl/sweater closure), and how could I resist this? The sweet packaging doesn’t hurt, either… Nor does the price. (Francine, if you’re reading this, you should totally be charging more for these!)
I was also followed home by two skeins of Ecco Cashmere — I swear, I had nothing to do with it, they just hopped into my bag (after delivering my debit card to the cash register)! I have vague but delectable plans for these.
And, in case anyone should think that I didn’t actually do any knitting on my adventure, here’s the Pretty Thing cowl that I cast on during Wednesday’s train ride to Ottawa. I only have about 4 rows plus the binding off to do, then it’ll be done! (Perfect travel knitting — compact, didn’t require additional tools or reams of printed charts.) I would be finished it already, except I was worried about running out of knitting to do, so I restricted my knitting time early in the trip.
Addendum: Natalie has blogged about my visit, too!