Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Chicago.. Chicago... that toddling town!

Part I: Knitting

Trains. I love them. Commuter, subways, Amtrak, in Germany, London, or in New Zealand. That is the way to travel. I never get tired of it. On the 45 minute ride into the city from Downer's Grove (where we stayed with my aunt), I finished the first Fuzzy Foot for my mother-in-law. I started the second, and ran out of yarn. A definite excuse to find a yarn shop in the city. After all of our traveling, and me never getting to a yarn shop, DH insisted that we spend one day in LYSs looking around - to shut me up. I had prepared for this by printing off a list of Chicago yarn shops from Rosemary's site. Big. Mistake.

Chicago Yarn (or supposed yarn) Shop reviews

Off we went, in search of Plymouth Galway Heather. First stop, East Adams Street by way of free trolley. The stop was about 3 buildings away from the Chicago Fabric and Yarn shop. Finally, my moments of waiting for big city yarn shopping would be realized. Unlimited time to poke and ponder future projects. We walked up to 72 E. Adams St. and... WHAT? It was a jewerly store. Not to be put off with a first attempt, I went inside and asked, "Wasn't this a yarn store?". The shop attendant wasn't sure, but one of the women in there (she must have been a fellow knitter) chimed in that it had been. She told me that the shop had moved one block. Off we went. Yes! There it was. Chicago Fabric and Yarn. But what was this? All that could be seen through the window were bolts of fabric. I didn't give up. Inside I went and asked if he had any yarn.

"Of course," he told me. "They are in the back corner."
My youngest daughter scurried back to the corner with me. Waiting there were 5 skeins of some nice alpaca wool. That was it! On the way out, my daughter said, "That yarn shop wasn't very good. They don't like yarn much if they hide it in the corner". I was so proud. Neither of us could understand exactly what the criteria was for being able to call yourself a "yarn shop". Obviously, if you had any yarn, you qualified.

Strike one for yarn shopping.

Next stop. We're in Stitches, located at 5301 N. Clark St. Back on the trolley, we stopped at Daley Plaza. We had been there the day before, but this will be Part II of my Chicago story. We walked the one block to Clark St. I was surprised to find that this was the start of the North side of Clark, I thought it would be the south side. But there was no way to get to the 5300 block on our finances, so that idea was scrubbed.

Strike two.

Definately a time for re-grouping. I looked at the trolley map, and looked at Rosemary's list. Tender Buttons on Rush St. would work. The trolley took us to WaterTower Plaza. I called the shop to make sure they would be open. They would. We walked through the neighborhood. It was beautiful. Not far from the Water Tower, we found Tender Buttons. The shop was exactly that. Buttons. No yarn. Again, I went in and asked about yarn. I asked why this shop would be listed on an Illinois fiber sources list. They were as surprised as I was. They told me that there was a yarn shop just down the street and gave us directions. YIPPEE!

Down Oak St. about a block away was We'll Keep You in Stitches. The name meant YARN!
In we went, up to the fourth floor - and there it was. My first yarn shop on a family trip. I was in heaven. There was floor to ceiling stacks of wool. There were women digging through boxes of recently shipped yarn to get the good stuff before it was gone. There were two women helping the eight or so women who were shopping. There was another yarn husband sitting in the corner, trying to stay out of the way. My husband and he shared a knowing glance right away. They instantly said, without words, "Yes, this is going to be awhile."

I got busy looking for the Galway, but couldn't find it. I asked one of the women if she had Plymouth Galway, and she kind of scoffed at me, saying, "No, we don't have that". Hmmm.... is Galway just some crappy country bumkin yarn? Had I immediately given it away that I wasn't a classy, city knitter? I hunted on my own and found some Plymouth yarn. I sighed with relief, if they carried Plymouth in general, I couldn't have looked too foolish for asking about the Galway. Well, it looked like I wouldn't be able to finish that second Fuzzy Foot on this trip. I started looking for some of the New Zealand baby wool I had used for my friend's grandchildren. I needed more of one of the colors, and the dye lot wouldn't matter. I hunted through the beautiful selection of baby wool, but no match. I started talking to one of the women working there about the project she was working on. It was a garter stitch shawl that she was casting off for a customer that I had seen sitting with her earlier. I commented about how different the yarn looked and, true to my yarn loving self, reached out to feel it. This must have been taboo, because she turned her back to me and kept working. There was a huge selection of novelty yarn, but I'm a more traditional knitter, and there wasn't much out in the open for me. I didn't feel like digging through the new shipment boxes, so we left. My husband gave the other man in the store a look as if to say, "My wife can shop quicker than yours." At least that was a victory for me. I liked the shop overall, but didn't feel at all welcomed there, and it was crammed so full of yarn, that it was difficult to move around. They need to do something about the layout.

Rosemary's list sure was not accurate. I think I may have to e-mail her and ask for her to send me some medicine to help me get better after walking around in the rain and cold most of the day on Friday.

On the last day of our trip, we were heading home, and we must have found the knitting car of the train. Another woman was sitting and knitting away, so of course, we sat in that car. It was great. She was sweet, working on a hat for an 8-year old in a varigated yarn. I worked on a new baby cap with the color I still had. The women on the other side of the train car started talking about knitting. It was a perfect ending to the trip.

On the drive home, we passed the same van about 6 times (not on purpose, it was just the way traffic worked). They had a flip-down television screen and were playing games (side comment: from the very first day these became available in cars, I swore that they wouldn't last long. They are a safety hazard. How can I watch the movie in the car next to me and still keep my eyes on the road. I've tried it. It's impossible. Not to mention, the other people never roll down their windows so we can hear, so we have to work hard to follow the movie). As we passed them on the driver's side, my youngest daughter said, "Hey mom, that lady is knitting in there." We couldn't see her until the 4th time we passed, and sure enough, there she was, knitting away by the light of the overhead light. She looked very cozy sitting there, as the kids next to her nuked each other out on the video game.

Today is my daugther's 12'th birthday. The Chicago trip was really for her (we went to the yarn shops while she stayed at my aunt's house eating chicken dumpling soup to get over a cold... which has how been passed to all of us). DH is taking the girls to his parent's house while I try to get better (asthma is terrible. I can't walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without a coughing and wheezing spell). He is going to the country bumpkin yarn shop to pick up the yarn I need. Isn't he wonderful? All he said was, "Give me those papers that go around the yarn, and I'll ask the women there to find it for me."

When he gets back we are off to Appleton to eat at Noodles & Company, the birthday girl's pick. I'll have all I can do to go along, and tomorrow work is looking doubtful.


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