I did mention that we visited some local yarn shops while in Wisconsin. In these economically tough times, I know many people are bargain shopping at the big box stores. Still, if you can afford to, I definitely encourage you to support your local yarn shops. These are the people who will be there to help you figure out a pattern, who schedule classes and workshops and book signings, who will order just the right color when it is out of stock. And let's face it, you can't perfectly check yarn softness or match colors with an outfit without having the yarn in person.
In Fish Creek I visited Red Sock Yarns. This is a relatively new shop but the owner has already made some wonderful and smart choices. In addition to a nice selection of good yarns, she has a sitting area for knitters or non-knitters who need to wait. Here I bought six skeins of elsebeth lavold Hempathy in a lovely spring green shade. My thought is to make a top to go with a certain silk skirt. I'd been looking for an excuse to buy some of this, anyway. I am thinking of maybe a summer shell with some lace or openwork details.
Up the street a little farther was the Interfibers summer studio. There were some really beautiful woven wall hangings. I'd love to come up with some clever ideas for knitted artwork for the local annual South Cobb Arts Alliance member show. Seeing this work was good motivation and inspiration. There was also some nice handwoven clothing. And there was just a little yarn, so I purchased a couple skeins of New England Shetland. I later saw more of this in some of the other shops I visited. It isn't something you are likely to find easily in Atlanta, but is obviously well-suited for traditional Northern Fair Isle knitting. And the contrast between this pretty blue (which has a subtle heather to it) and this golden yellow is just delightful.
As we headed down out of Door County we also stopped in Sturgeon Bay at Spin. This is another good yarn shop -- friendly people and a good selection. I bought a skein of Noro Silk Garden sock yarn that will probably become a test sample. And they had a thorough selection of books. I purchased Wire Knits by Heather Kingsley-Heath and Pet Projects by Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne. Wire Knits has lots of interesting knitted and beaded projects. The book has the expected jewelry projects, but it also has several variations of wire knitted flowers, a wire ruffle as a barrette, wire knitted collars, and even a spiral scarf. Some of these small projects would be very nice gift projects for the holiday season.
Pet Projects is similarly clever. Yes, it has dog coats and cat beds. In fact, it has a dang fine pet beanbag that would be an excellent stash buster project. But it also has a carrot curtain (for a rabbit), a water lily (for the goldfish/koi pond), a horse blanket, a hamster house, a parakeet blanket, a tortoise hibernation tent, and a wire bird feeder. There is a rosette pattern that is useful for anyone who needs a blue ribbon. (Could you imagine a knitting contest with knitted 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-place ribbons?) And toward the back is a chapter of knitted pets -- larger scale amigurumi. Those choices include a fox terrier, a ferret, a guinea pig (perfect for the research scientist in your life), and a nicely-textured tortoise. I think I was seduced into both of these purchases by the sheer cleverness of the authors. And be aware that Pet Projects has several charts that might be adaptable to other circumstances. For example, I think the baroque cat cushion would make a mighty fine cushion for the humans, or maybe a stylish starting point for a handbag.
When we got down to the Madison area, I found two more shops of interest. I visited Lakeside Fibers which is in Madison and right on the lake. It also has an adjoining cafe, so you can knit and enjoy a proper cup of coffee. I bought Knitting Art by Karen Searle. The profiles included some knitters I'd heard of, such as Kathryn Alexander and Debbie New, but the other sixteen are new to me. If you are looking to "think outside the box," this book will definitely take you in that direction. No boxes here. I also bought a skein of Filatura di Crosa Timo. I've been looking for a flame-colored ribbon yarn that might make a good antenna ornament. I'd even looked in the STITCHES South market back in April. So I was happy to find this. Now I need to decide if I should knit something, or if I should just tie on the ribbons.
The last place I visited was in Verona, just to the west of Madison. The Sow's Ear is another first-rate yarn shop, and it is also combined with a coffee shop. In fact, there was a nice group of knitters sitting at a table and just knitting away. They immediately made me just a little homesick for my own local knit night. One of the ladies was nearing the end of the second sleeve and almost ready to steek a gorgeous Fair Isle sweater. If we'd had more time, I would have been tempted to pull up a chair and wait for the excitement. The shop ladies were also very nice, and one of them helped me order Making Mathematics with Needlework and Knitted Lace Designs of Herbert Niebling directly from Schoolhouse Press. I also bought a skein of Poems Sock yarn and a Sow's Ear commuter cup. (The cup was to keep Cuddly Hubby from spilling any diet Coke in my zippy sippy.) I'm not sure why I don't see Poems in more stores here in Atlanta, as is it made by Universal Yarns, who are located just up the expressway in North Carolina. I'm looking forward to playing with it, as I think it will make a good alternative to Noro Silk Garden Sock. The colors are pretty and the superwash wool seems to me to be softer and loftier than Silk Garden Sock.
Hmmm. I guess now it makes more sense why I'm not doing the Atlanta-area shop hop this year. I think I made my own Wisconsin shop hop.