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25 May 2006 @ 01:52 pm
City Knitting  
this is a piece i wrote about my favorite yarn store: City Knitting. the piece appeared in SEE Magazine, which i think is an internal magazine at Herman Miller (yes, the furniture people).

City Knitting, 423 Norwood SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
616 454-9276

I'll admit it. I walked into my LYS (Local Yarn Store) a few days ago with my new mittens in hopes of someone noticing them; I flopped them onto the counter while I paid for more yarn, and Lorilee snatched them up before she took my money.

"Marilyn," she called out to someone knitting on the couch, "Come over here and look at these mittens." She tried them on without asking, which pleased me a great deal. It meant she was focusing on the mittens and not on me, a fine compliment from one knitter to another. "I've never thought to use a double rib," she said, turning her hands to see my mittens from both sides. "What a good idea."

There's a tacit understanding about things one makes with string. The rules are changed, like when the world has permission to reach out and touch a pregnant woman's belly. In a yarn shop like this, if you're wearing something you've knitted, expect to be noticed, praised, and maybe pawed a bit. Some of us go to the yarn shop for precisely that.

Lorilee, I'm surprised to discover, is the owner of City Knitting. I'd have thought this a part time job for her, something a good friend asked her to do because she's knitted for years, might appreciate a discount on yarn, and is outgoing and friendly. Since I work retail in a book store, I recognize that Lorilee and I are the same breed. Our passion lies in what we sell; otherwise, we wouldn't be there at all. Her love for yarn lends her an enthusiasm that makes her good at her job. I appreciate this. She asks if she can take a picture of me and my mittens for the "Wall of Fame." I hate having my picture taken, but my mittens don't. They win.

Yarn is all about imagining the things it can be. Hanging on hooks are scarfs, sweaters, ponchos in orange, blue and green. Little square samples hang on hooks to give the imagination a nudge. The place smells faintly of dye, a metallic and earthy smell.

The main room is not overwhelmed with yarn; rather, yarn surrounds it in black wooden cubbies that reach just over my head. In the center are two sofas facing each other with two more chairs on each end, the "living room" of the knitting store. Tonight, two women are sitting there, their faces blank with concentration.

I feel perfectly at home here--a working mother among other working mothers overbusy in the first decade of a new century. We share a passion for a domestic art previously associated with our grandmothers. It might be a secret women have always known and we're just rediscovering it: knitting is about combining quiet time with productivity. Magic!

Of course, it's more than that. There's a genuine love of yarn and knitting in a place like this. This is what draws me here even though I could get the same yarn a bit cheaper on Ebay. I couldn't get a strong sense of place and community anywhere else. In a culture where on-line community is often the only sort of community most people experience, the LYS is a refreshing embrace of good old fashioned sharing of something many people love.

Night falls early in Michigan December. The streetlights flash on. My family will be expecting me home and wondering what's for dinner, though I wish I could stay here a little longer. A folk mitten class is about to start, and the women arrive alone or in pairs. Not one of them is hard or cold or distant. This class is like a retreat for them, and each woman knows she's among her kind. They smile.
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Amelie Soundtrack
Lynnlynnb on May 25th, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
That was just wonderful. It's exactly how I feel whenever I go to my local yarn store. In fact, last week I attended a class given by Judith Swartz (Hip to Knit, Hip to Crochet). She was so friendly, and showed us some great ways to use crochet edging on knitted garments. And congratulations on your mittens recognition!
xinedivahag on May 25th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
thanks! the class with judith swartz sounds great--i love hip to knit (i based my open mittens on the pattern in that book).
this writing assignment was to create a piece about place and community. my lys was the first place to pop in my head. i was glad for the chance to write it down.
The First Evilasta77 on May 26th, 2006 12:07 am (UTC)
I know nothing about yarn or knitting, but I certainly admire how you were able to convey the feel of the place (I've been in there ;) and write so succinctly (I need some work on that according to my beta :p).
xinedivahag on May 26th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
yes, i know you've been in there :->. the gift certificate you got me was a favorite gift. i spent it well.

and you. you have nothing to fear regarding your writing. i read your comments every week with much pleasure.
(Anonymous) on July 8th, 2006 03:56 am (UTC)
See Magazine
I read this in See magazine and it made me want to go to City Knitting even before I finished. I didn't want to go into this shop for a long time, I was expecting to be let down, as I am every time I get my hopes up about a business in this area. I expect great things, wait for an empty Saturday and walk in waiting to feel refreshed, inspired, or a sense of belonging. There are many times that I don't feel this in the slightest and slowly I start to avoid places because I get tired of being let down.

I finally went into the shop after a client talked for almost 20 minutes straight about how great it was. I felt instantly comfortable, inspired, refreshed by City Knitting. I've only been knitting seriously for about a year, but I feel like I'm part of something greater when I'm there. I made seven hats for the Red Thread Project last month, granted they were all the same pattern, but I felt like I could make a difference by knitting! Like I have something in common with others, productive, creative.

You've captured this in your article beautifully. Bravo Xine.
xinedivahag on July 8th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
Re: See Magazine
thank you! i feel the same way about that place. glad to spread the good word.
(Anonymous) on November 24th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)
City Knitting review for Fiber Femmes

please, would you consider writing a review of your favorite LYS for Fiber Femmes? www.fiberfemmes.com encourages, supports, promotes fiber folks involved the world over in the fiber industry and arts. We'd love to have you feature your LYS, City Knitting, in our Jan/Feb 07 issue. Deadline is Dec 15th.

Thanks for your consideration,

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xinedivahag on August 26th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank You for site
my pleasure--thanks for looking.

i hope to return to knitting projects as the weather turns cooler.........