I visited two of the three yarns store I know of in Austin for the first time and was thrilled with both of them! The three independents in Austin are Hill Country Weavers, the Knitting Nest, and Gauge. If there are any more, I don’t know about them yet.
Everyone knows Hill Country Weavers – it’s Austin’s big name independent yarn store, in an old house on South Congress. It’s fun, but a bit overwhelming. My past visits to HCW have left me reeling – yarn stuffed into every nook and cranny, twists and turns through small rooms and hallways, and ladies (some of them hefty) trying to pass by in a narrow aisle while you try to calmly compare yarn of one weight and fiber against another that you found on the other side of the store in a completely different area. In a word, I would call it chaotic.
The Knitting Nest
The feel at the Knitting Nest is completely different and I was much more comfortable at this store than at HCW. The Knitting Nest is Central Texas’ biggest distributor of Cascade yarns. I bought several skeins of Cascade 128 superwash in a cheery yellow so that I can make the Big Montana Tunic (found in IK Fall 2009). First thing when I walked in the door, the lady helped me by explaining the difference between the 128 superwash and 128 bulky. I don’t have much experience with wool yet, but she knew exactly what I needed and also very helpfully explained that the yarn I chose would definitely stretch and get bigger after washing. The Montana Tunic is supposed to be knit with negative ease, so that’s good to know!
The Knitting Nest had big, clear windows letting in lots of natural light and several couches arranged in a lounge area perfect for group knitting. The yarn was arranged by brand and somewhat by weight. There was plenty of open space and there was both two-dimensional (mural) and three dimensional (felted yarn) art on display. I also bought some Cascade Ultra Pima in Syrah to make a bonnet for my daughter. She’s hating hats at the moment, but I have hopes that a light bonnet for winter will go over with her. In total, the service was great and the selection, while maybe a bit short on variety, was great with regards to quantity. I had a great time chatting about the deceptive habits of wives buying yarn and hiding it from their husbands.
I won’t be able to visit the Knitting Nest all that often, unfortunately. It’s located in far south Austin, on South Congress. This isn’t the more central part of South Congress Avenue where HCW is located – it’s 6 miles further south on the same road. I live on the other side of town, but I’ll try to make it over there as often as I can!
Saturday started with a trip to what I thought was a yarn store… the Needle Works, near central Austin, is housed in a building that I watched come up over several months on my commute home. How exciting, I thought, a yarn store on my way home from work! So Oli and I trekked over to see the newly open store – and found out that it’s just for needlepoint arts. I also found out that it’s a store that has been around for a long time and relocated recently. The person I spoke with suggested that I try stopping by Gauge, located close by. I followed the route she outlined for me and found a quiet little shopping center in a wealthy area of west Austin. Gauge had an inviting porch out front with iron lawn furniture arranged casually near the front door. When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was color! There was a wonderful selection of yarns and lots of colors on the walls. Karly, the proprietor, was helping a young man figure out the best yarn for a pattern that he wanted to knit for a girl. I couldn’t figure out whether it was a girlfriend or a girl he wanted to impress. I think knitting is the way to go in either scenario.
I came in with a shopping list of needs – size 11 24″ circulars for my Montana Tunic and size 2 dpts for some slippers I want to work up for Oli (she outgrew her shoes a couple of weeks ago, and I think I can make do with some well-fitting slippers for a while since I have sock yarn in stash). Everything was out on display and easy to find. I picked up some Noro Furisode as well, since I’ve heard about Noro for years but never tried it as a knitter. Technically, my trip was done within about 5 minutes, but it was so nice to just wander around and look at the yarn! Karley had the yarns arranged in sections by stitches per inch – 1-3 had a set of shelving, 3-4, 4-5, and so on. I thought it was a great method, since I’m always substituting yarns and I hardly ever purchase the yarn recommended for a pattern.
Beyond the seating on the front porch, Karly also had a back room with a fireplace (knitted socks were hung with care), a table for pattern browsing, more seating, and a two-bookcase library. The whole store made it obvious that I was welcome as a knitter, not just as a customer. This impression was furthered by the fact that Karly was actively helping the young man the whole time I was there – checking websites for recommended yarn substitutions, making suggestions for color, etc.
While I appreciate the variety and vivacity of HCW, I think that I’ll be visiting the Knitting Nest and Gauge Knits much more often. They are open, airy, quieter places and that appeals to me since I don’t really do as well in crowded areas as I used to. I don’t feel like I need to hurry up and make my decision or that I need to know every single detail of what I want before asking a question. The people at both places just plain had time for me. I’m also at a point in my life where I tend to be a bit more isolated. When I go to a place like HCW, it just exacerbates that feeling because everyone seems to know everyone else and I feel like I’m not a part of the club. The ladies at the Knitting Nest and at Gauge definitely made me feel like I could (and should) come back to get to know them and their spaces better!
* the images used in this blog entry are copyrighted property of the Knitting Nest and Gauge Knits, respectively. I’m hoping they don’t get mad that I didn’t ask to use them first before posting this entry.