Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Yarn Shop Reviews
(wherein I blather about New York City yarn stores)

As an attempt to keep this blog from further irrelevance, and in light of the fact that I am mired in large knitting project land with no finished object photos for the near future, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on yarn stores in NYC. There are also many, many other stores that I have not visited. And, of course, you may have a completely different experience at a store that I did. Some people love stores that I hate, and hate stores I love. That's the way it goes.

(Organized roughly from south to north)

Seaport Yarn
I like this store a lot. I generally go here when I need something specific, because they carry fairly complete lines of many yarns, and they carry a number of yarns that aren't stocked elsewhere in the city. I also come here if I need to just fondle yarns for a half hour. It's a small space for their vast stock, and I sometimes find that annoying--especially when I was looking for a ball of Noro in a particular color. They also do not take credit cards, except for purchases of more than $200. Customer service is there when you need it, but isn't overwhelming. The first time you visit, they generally give you a tour of the shop. It's in an old office suite, scattered among a number of offices, and a tour is helpful. They host knitting nights on Wednesdays, and the store is open until 8.

Downtown Yarns
This is one of the two shops in the city I won't patronize. To be fair, they have a nice selection of yarns and seem helpful, and I have heard glowing reviews from many people. However, I had a bad experience regarding a pattern there, and I won't give them my business.

I've been to Purl twice. Purl is very much in the vein of SoHo itself, I think: luxurious yarns displayed well in an inviting atmosphere. Celebrities reportedly visit, too. They have an amazing array of Manos del Uruguay and custom Lorna's Laces colors, both of which are worth the trip. I've had less than stellar customer service, but I do fine without it. This store seems to be at the top of every visitor's list, and I understand why, but it probably isn't in my top 5.

This is an interesting store, with a large, inviting space--a rarity in NYC yarn stores. Much of the inventory is devoted to Suss Cousins' own line of yarns, which are generally nice and priced fairly. Some of her more novelty-type yarns are particularly nice for what they are. They carry some Brown Sheep and Lorna's Laces, from what I recall. The store also offers handknit items, including a custom sweater service. In my opinion, the biggest draw is the store's inexpensive classes (approximately $40-$60) with free wine. I can't vouch for the quality, but there aren't many places in NYC where one can attend two learn-to-knit classes (2 hours each) for $60. It's not a regular stop for me, but it's a pleasant place to visit.

The Point
The Point is probably my favorite yarn store in Manhattan. It's conveniently located near my subway line, and it offers tables and a cafe for knitting. The store is always well-staffed, and its stock is fairly well thought-out for its clientele. The biggest drawback is that it's often very crowded, especially in the evenings. It's sometimes so crowded that it's difficult to get to the yarn. Of course, it's also open until 8 or later every weeknight, which makes it very convenient.

Knit New York
I've been to this store once, and I won't go back. I've heard mixed reviews of this store, and much of it seems to depend on who is working and/or managing the store. I was looking for a specific yarn, and they were listed as a stockist on the manufacturer's website. Instead of calling (as I should have), I decided to drop by and check out the store. When I asked about the yarn, the clerk and manager both treated me poorly. I didn't get a good feeling from the store/cafe, either, but it is spacious and open, with plenty of seating. If it were closer, I might go to knit and have a coffee, but I wouldn't buy yarn there.

School Products
This is almost the quintessential New York City yarn store to me. It's in the Garment District and offers more cones of yarn than skeins. There's also a good selection of yarn for dyeing. They stock the full line of Karabella, I think. I would go there more often if the prices were better; the coned yarns are not great values.

The Yarn Connection
I have been to this store only twice, both times for their Super Bowl sale. It's a small store with a good variety of yarns, including Jamieson's and Dale. The store seems to cater to an older knitter, and it's been around forever. The sales staff is knowledgeable and helpful, even in the onslaught that is their Super Bowl sale. It has a more "bread and butter" than boutique feel, which I like.

Stitches East
Okay, I lied when I said there were only two stores I wouldn't visit again. This is the third, unless I'm in dire need of needles or a magazine on my lunch break, and it can't wait until I can get downtown to The Point. It's the only yarn store in Midtown. The yarns aren't priced, and the selection is very strange, with moderately priced acrylics, expensive fibers, and not a lot of middle ground. The one time I visited, I stayed about 20 minutes with no acknowledgement by any of the three clerks. Don't go there unless you must.

The Yarn Co.
This store has, I think, more mixed reviews than any other store in NYC. I've been once and found that both could be true. You could have a wonderful experience there or a terrible one, depending on a number of factors. I went in search of a specific yarn (Blue Sky Cotton), which they apparently only stock in the summer. I was out of luck in November. The clerk who helped me was friendly, courteous, and helpful, even though the store was crowded. But it definitely felt that there was an "in" crowd among their regular customers. I could see someone walking in and getting horrible service as a result. It's not a convenient store for me, so I don't anticipate going back too soon. I would also say that if you do not enjoy their books, you might not enjoy their store. Maybe I resent them because their books are full of bulky, shapeless sweaters?

(Organized roughly north to south, although my Brooklyn geography is bad.)

The Yarn Tree
I love this store, if only because it carries a wide variety of spinning supplies and was the first place I spun on a wheel. The owner is extremely helpful, and she stocks by far the widest variety of spinning fibers in the city. She also stocks Kromski and Schacht wheels. There is a large selection of Koigu, and she has some unique handspun offerings, too. The focus seems to be almost solely on natural fibers, with several organic fibers thrown in. I would go here more often if it were (a) not in Williamsburg and (b) closer to the subway. The store is open until 10 pm on weekdays, which is a definite bonus.

This is a great "bread and butter" store. They carry a very wide variety of yarns, including acrylics. Their basics are particularly good, I think, in both cotton and wool. However, they sometimes have issues with stocking enough of popular colors, and prices are high on some yarns (particularly the acrylics). The needle selection is unparalleled in the city, I think. It may just be that they are displayed well on a side wall. They also have a nice stock of books. I've had mixed customer service experiences, but I generally only go here when I know what I want or need. Or if I'm going to Target (six blocks away) and just want to browse for a bit.

Brooklyn General
Brooklyn General is my new favorite yarn store. It will become even more so if/when they carry more spinning supplies. It combines a great selection of yarns, fabrics, and notions with a wonderful atmosphere. The store would be a wonderful place to sit and knit, and I hope it's an option they will have if they move to a larger space (which is, I'm told, in the works). If I owned a yarn store, I would want it to look like this.

Stitch Therapy
I've gone back and forth on this shop. It's closest to my apartment, so I really want to like it. I've liked it the last two times I've been there. Their selection is a little eclectic, and not necessarily in a good way. I also hate the fact that their needles are not out on display. But the staff is very nice, and it's close. It's not a store I would go out of my way for, but it is nice to have relatively nearby.

The store I most need to visit is Habu, and it will happen soon.


Highland Annie said...

Awwww I wanna come live with you !!

Touchy feely yarn shopping is something that just doesnt happen to me, we have no such thing as a local yarn store other than acrylic heaven in town (99c a ball paradise type place)

We havent even heard of half the stuff your stores stock !

Im drooling just at the descriptions

Karen said...

I really enjoyed Brooklyn General as well. In fact, I was thinking of going soon to pick up some fabric. Let me know when you're planning your trip to Habu, and I'll go with.

Soooo...where on this list can I find the Malabrigo? I've been to all of these stores, except Suss....

Pixiepurls said...

wow ya'll have a lot!

Valerie said...

Yes, we do have a lot of stores, but I have a hard time finding a store I always want to go to. I really love Brooklyn General, though, and it may become that.

Karen, I'm up for a trip to either Brooklyn General or Habu! I have no idea where Habu is, really!

Laura said...

Great reviews. Maybe someday I can go on a yarn store crawl with you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the reviews--I need to go check out Brooklyn General. What happened at Downtown Yarns and your pattern?

Valerie said...

I won't tell the whole Downtown Yarns story, because I don't think it's fair. I never called the store's manager on it, although I should have. It wasn't my pattern, but there was an issue where the clerk offered to do the absolute wrong and unethical thing. I know that's vague, but it was enough that I won't go back.

Iraida said...

Great post! I agree with you on the stores I've been to. Especially Knit NY the most horrible place to go knit. I was once in a costume store in NYC waiting for my BF who was looking around so I was knitting. A staff member came up to me and asked me if I've ever been to knit ny I rolled my eyes and said yeah. Turns out he used to work there and dished all the dirt on them and why he quit lol.