Monday, September 10, 2007

In Boston No One Knows My Name

I find that song ironic if only due to the theme song of Cheers (was that intentional?). But anyway, yes, I spent a good part of Friday and Saturday in Boston, that most hated of cities. I was even forced to drive past Fenway Park on numerous occasions (boo! hiss!) but luckily, was able to tune into 660AM WFAN while I was there and get some quality NY sports.

I was there ostensibly for a wedding (which was meh) but my real goal was to hit some of the premiere yarn shops. This went better than the wedding (apparently the groom's family and friends hate the bride. I wonder if any of them conveyed this to the groom prior to the nuptials?). I stayed at the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, which was awesome if only for the leopard print bathrobes and security guards on segways in the park outside.

leopard print... hot!

Hey look! It's G.O.B!

On Saturday, I first drove around a lot which is saying quite a bit since Bostonians are horrible drivers and apparently enjoy living in a city that doesn't believe in street signage, let alone street signage that is coherent/legible/accurate. I got to see Beacon Hill (from my car). Drove around Boston Common and the Public Garden and then down Newbury Street looking for for a parking spot.

And I thought "Boston Common" was just a really bad TV show ;)

I wound up parking in the theater district close to Windsor Button, the first stop on my yarn shop tour of Boston. There were several knitters in here when I arrived. One of the shopkeepers mentioned that Norah Gaughan was coming in next week for a book signing. I restrained myself from exclaiming "She is BRILLIANT!"

I thought one of the things I might look for on this trip was another skein of the Malabrigo Lace I got from my Secret Pal. This is quite possibly one of the most lovely yarns I've ever seen or felt and I am so excited to make something with it.

The people at Windsor Button were great, I really should've spent more money there now that I reflect back on my spending activities. ;) When asked what I was looking for, I indicated the Malabrigo lace. I only saw it in the worsted and their posted price list didn't have the lace weight listed so I wasn't very hopeful, but sure enough in two baskets on the counter were a bunch of different skeins! Such pretty colors, but I was really looking for this one colorway and preferably the same dye lot. I wasn't going to hold my breath and, unfortunately, it wasn't in the baskets. "Oh, well" I thought. Then the man who was helping me checked the display in the front of the store. Sure enough, there it was! The same dye lot and everything! I couldn't believe it, but I was sooo excited and gladly bought it.

I also bought two more buttons to add to the Tilted Duster (the place is called Windsor BUTTON for a reason, afterall). I want to have it completely done for Tuesday when a group will be meeting at Yarntopia for a sit n' knit.

So with that task accomplished, I set to work on two of my other goals: 1) see a little bit of Boston and 2) get some fun stuff for MY secret pal. Now, my downstream is from the Boston area, but currently resides in more hostile territory, so I figured some reminders of home may be in order, but more specifically, some fun yarns from some fun Boston yarn stores.

I took a walk across Boston Common and stopped at the cemetery that's located along Boyleston Street (where Gilbert Stuart is buried, among other notable and not-so-notable New Englanders). You'd think I'd be sick of being in cemeteries, but, really, they have some of the most beautiful early American artwork you will ever see. I have a bit of a fixation on the iconography that was used on the earliest gravestones and this cemetery had some really beautiful examples of soul effigies from the 1790s and early 1800s.

Great hair!

After that morbid little detour I strolled through the Public Gardens and saw the Swan Boats, which I will always associate with one of my favorite books when I was young, The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. *sigh*

I walked down Newbury Street (past Chanel and Burberry and all that nonsense) and hit my second yarn store, Knit & Needlepoint by Mary Jo Cole. Unlike Windsor Button, this store was small and I probably spent more than I should have. But I really liked the colorways they had in the Cherry Tree Hill yarns even though the saleswoman made them out to be a bit more precious than they actually are. She may have been more on the needlepoint side of things, but what can you do?

I continued walking through the heat and humidity and at one point remembered I was carrying around my gift from the wedding in my bag ( a pink chinese food take out carton full of chocolates). I guess it was better than leaving them in the car?

I reached the third leg of the tour: Newbury Yarns. It's on the first floor in the back of one of the lovely buildings on Newbury Street, and WOW. It was a really lovely little store. One other woman was in when I arrived and she was apparently a regular. Once she left, the owner turned her attention to me.

So the owner at Newbury Yarns was incredibly nice. I asked if there was anything she had that was unique to her store and she quite reasonably replied that she really didn't visit the other stores so she couldn't say what she had that was different or unique (although she did notice my bag from the previous store and noted that I probably overpaid considerably. This I acknowledged, but luckily I was selective in my purchases there.) She showed me some really nice stuff that is dyed only for her (there was some mohair in particular that was lovely, but definitely out of my price range).

So she asked me what I knit and I told her about the Tilted Duster and showed her my Lady Eleanor WIP. I am really in awe of this project and she was too. This got us talking about yarn stores and knitting and in the end it was quite possibly the nicest experience I've had in a yarn shop.

And I have to say this for the Boston stores, they really do know a thing or ten about customer service. I don't know if the NY LYS have taken the New York City attitude to heart or what, but I generally get a colder feeling from them. Almost like I need to really prove myself as the *right kind of knitter* when I walk in the door. So many feel like secret clubby places where you need to know the password and know the secret handshake. The Boston stores were the complete opposite IMO which was really nice. I don't know if maybe I was just being chatty b/c I was a tourist, or if it was b/c none of them seemed to have a cliquey group of knitters sitting front and center as if challenging your worthiness to set foot in their domain, but I felt completely comfortable and knowledgeable and in my element for quite possibly the first time.

Newbury Yarns was really beautifully organized in a really lovely light-filled space. She mentioned some stores she wants to look at when she goes to NY and I told her, much to her surprise, that she would probably find that Purl SoHo is about a third the size of her store (but I will say that they certainly make good use of their tiny space. Maybe that's what makes it feel smaller?). I gave her some more recommendations that I think are fairly universal in their praise among NYC knitters and visiting knitters (Knitty City, School Products, Seaport Yarns). She also mentioned she will be going to see the Habu showroom, mainly so that she can stock her store. I bought two skeins of a really lovely color of Debbi Bliss SoHo and a nice neutral/pink mohair from her and then stopped and got myself a half and half (iced tea/lemonade) from Tealuxe on the corner. All in all a very productive shopping excursion.

On my way back to the car, I passed Trinity Church and then the Arlington Street Unitarian Church with a sign inviting visitors to see their Tiffany Windows. Having worked on several Tiffany interiors, I was intrigued and gladly paid the suggested donation price to see these really beautiful examples (Although, I wonder how heavily they've been repaired). I happened to be there when the light was particularly good which made it even more rewarding.

A few knicknacks for my SP rounded out my spendfest, but I definitely think it was worth it. I even got to Jersey in time to watch the Irish lose pitifully to Penn State with my dad. Oh well.