Saturday, March 22, 2014

Yarn Shopping in Manhattan

Some people collect Swarovski animals. Some people collect stamps. Some people collect spoons.

I collect yarn.

Naturally, once we'd booked our vacation, I started scoping out yarn stores. Fortuitously, there was an article on lesser-known Manhattan yarn shops in the Interweave Knits Spring 2014 issue. I knew I wanted to visit Lion Brand, and I also decided to check out School Products Yarn and Habu Textiles. (The last two are located in the same building, which figured heavily into my decision.)

First up: Lion Brand.

I have mixed feelings about Lion Brand in general. You can buy Lion Brand at places like JoAnns, Michaels, and even possibly at Wal-Mart. It's economical. It's mass produced. When I'm feeling snobby, I turn up my nose at yarn like this and pretend I only knit with yarn blessed by Buddhist monks, handspun by novice Catholic nuns, and dyed with organic dyes in filtered water by a women's cooperative.

Mom and I outside Lion Brand

On the other hand, there are some pretty great yarns in their line (I've knit a lot of projects out of Lion Brand yarns) and knitting can be a prohibitively expensive hobby. There are lots of times when an economical yarn is not only necessary from a budget standpoint, but also is appropriate for the recipient. Some people need knitwear that can be thrown in the washer. Not everyone can handle hand washing in Soak.  

The storefront for Lion Brand is a cute spot in Chelsea. It's appropriately yarn bombed and has a great window display. Inside, even the light fixtures are knitting-related.

There's a Sampling wall so you can see how a yarn behaves on the needles (or hooks).

There's a gnome hidden somewhere in the store, and the first person to find it each day gets $5 off their purchase. Andrew found it. He's extremely useful.

I was most interested in the yarn lines that are only available in this store and online, yarn I couldn't buy locally. I ended up with a skein of Fettuccini, made from remnants of garment manufacturing. If you buy it online, you get random colorways. That makes me twitchy, so I'm glad I got to pick my skein of gray and white.

I also bought two skeins of  Baby Alpaca in a beautiful dark gray.

My last purchase was a bag--the sort that can be wadded up into a pouch and kept in my purse. It came in handy the rest of the day, holding small purchases and maps. The store was really lovely, and so were the people working there. I'm really glad we went.

Next up was 135 W. 29th St., the Haymarket Building.

School Products Yarns is on the 4th floor. It has a big center section and then yarn on shelves around the edges of the room. 

It seems to have a lot of sale yarn--like this:

Despite that, I couldn't find anything I wanted to buy. This is startling, and I can't really explain it. I loved the bright blue in the picture above, but there was only one skein of it and I couldn't think what I'd do with it. Disappointed, I headed up to Habu Textiles on the 8th floor.

It was a little bit difficult to shop. The floor was crowded with baskets, and there was very little walking room around them. The shop also carried a bit of fabric, sold in 1/4 yd.

The Interweave Knits article warned that you'd need to ring a bell to summon an employee, and they were correct.

I bought a beautiful inky-blue bamboo laceweight. It has 574 yd./skein. I'm thinking about making this with it.

My experiences will be different from anyone else's, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised by Lion Brand and felt I wouldn't go to either of the other stores unless I was just in the mood to shop with no definite purchase in mind. I'm not really a shopper, so I can't imagine wanting to poke around on the off chance of finding a great skein.


  1. that's very interesting. very interesting indeed. thanks for sharing!!! :) love the bag. :)

    1. oh yes, and congrats on the gnome find, Andrew!

  2. I read this same article and want a yarn store visit vacation now! I enrolled in Yarnbox six months ago, and am loving it. It keeps my yarn budget in check--but still crave my yarn store fixes, too--your pics/yarn make this look so fun!