The thing about yarn stores

I wish I’d started this whole LYS-as-tourism thing sooner, it would have helped me out this time last year when I was in Chicago! All told, though, I feel that searching for yarn stores got me out to different parts of San Francisco and is a perfectly bonafide method of reading a map.

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My first foray was through Pacific Heights/the Marina area, where I knew I could find Greenwich Yarns and Atelier Yarns. I gleefully walked through these upscale neighbourhoods on a brilliantly sunny day (Sun, OMG, I’d almost forgotten what that was), but when I arrived at Greenwich Yarns I found to my dismay that I’d chosen the only day when it was closed. Be ye warned on Wednesdays!

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But from my peeking-in-from-the-windows vantage point, it looked just as cozy and well-stocked as everything I’ve heard. And there was a little sign tacked above the table and chairs reading, “As Ye Shall Knit, So Shall Ye Rip.” This store wins.

I carried on and found Atelier Yarns, which was indeed open. I happily perused their selection, and it is a fine one. They have a wide variety of all the major suppliers, and while I wasn’t drawn to any yarn in particular, I did find some Clover bamboo needles in sizes I haven’t found the last few times I’ve looked at home, so that’s cool. I made my purchase and asked if it would be all right to pull up a chair – there were a few ladies there with their knitting already – and yes, it was all right. The only odd thing I found was that when I asked about this, the woman warned me that this was okay “today”, but not on other days when someone else was on staffing duties. Hm. I’ve never been uninvited-in-advance from knitting in an LYS. So they lose points for that, IMHO, but I did sit with the ladies who were there, and nodded and smiled and eventually chatted a bit. One woman was absolutely lovely, she asked if I knew people in the city and I think was just about ready to give me her number in case I needed someone! I reassured her that as generous as this was, I was attending a conference and would make do just fine. But still – knitters, man, they’re good people.

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The next day I went with my friend J who is also a knitter down to the Mission/Castro area, where we did some walking and eventually found ImagiKnit (pictured above). I don’t mind saying that I think this was my favourite part of my SF yarn crawl – both for the store and the neighbourhoods we walked through. It struck me as a very eclectic and diverse area in every way, and also we ate at a Mexican place that had the best guacamole and tomatillo sauce ever. But anyway, back to the yarn…

This was where I made my one and only yarn purchase – I was trying to be good and mind the stash – and it could not be helped. J and I sort of drifted off in different directions and browsed the store (she deeply contemplated some chunky baby alpaca and my enabling was not successful enough against her willpower), and while I was by this point already convinced that ImagiKnit is quite possibly the best LYS I have ever been in, I hadn’t found anything that jumped out at me. Then, just as I was looking away from the glittery novelty yarn shelves, I turned and saw a tiered basket full of laceweight. And sitting right on top was this:

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It’s 1100 yards of handpainted 100% silk, from Claudia Handpainted yarns. It’s gorgeous. I picked it up and it was so soft and light and beautiful that I knew I absolutely could not put it down. I think light may have shone down upon it. I think I also walked around in a mild daze and just petted it for a little bit. Have I ever knit laceweight before? No. This did not stop me. I’ll find something to make with it, all in good time. But for now, it’s good for my soul. And ImagiKnit wins all points.

On Saturday morning I did walk over to Artfibers Yarn, since it wasn’t far from where I was staying, and I ogled all of their pretty things. They do have some gorgeous products, and if it wasn’t for trepidation over fitting things in my wee suitcase, and general lack of specific project ideas, I would have easily made some purchases. Next time.

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Then later that day my friend L drove us out to Napa for some winery visits (we went to 2, and after some tastings I think i am starting to catch the drift of why a $20 bottle really is very different from a $60 bottle), and even though it was raining it was still great to see some parts of the non-urban. And then she mentioned “I think there’s a yarn store around here somewhere, too…” (she is also a knitter), and lo and behold, we found Muse in St. Helena.

Once again, it was a beautiful store. Nice overall selection of yarns, needles, and books, and some other unique things like ribbons and handcrafted buttons. They have one of the best selections of Cascade 220 and Koigu that I have seen in an LYS (so far), and because they also had a basket filled with Noni patterns, I was finally able to purchase the flower patterns to go with the bag patterns I already own. Of course, when I do finally want to make any of these felted bags, that will require some stash enhancement once again, so I will weigh that option carefully in the meanwhile.

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The only place I feel they lost points was when the woman asked me if my (Canadian bank) credit card was ‘a debit card or a credit card?’. Um. It says ‘VISA’ on it – even the trainee Victoria’s Secret clerk figured that one out. 😉 [EDIT: In the comments Kemma explains this may just be a difference in the way the US and Canada use credit cards – who’da thunk it.] But all told, an excellent stop. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

So, while I technically did not get to plink a toonie ($2) into my stash-busting jar last week according to my new rules, I feel quite at home with this. And since Poppy’s 2nd sleeve got finished along the way, I’m in striking distance of finishing that sweater this week, which will mean more stash-busting cash in the jar.

::phew:: that was quite a post. Have a fantastic day!

(More photos of the trip here, for anyone interested.) 🙂


  1. Great post from SF – am hoping to go back again this winter so this is like my own Lonely Planet guide – fancy a new career?Admirable restraint and I can see why the chocolate cherries got you – can’t wait to see what loveliness it becomes.

    Hope the elbow strategy continues to work well and that it gets better soon.

  2. There seems to be a gulf of difference between the yarn stores in Canada/the US and here in the UK (although I do live in the middle of nowhere!). I’m salivating reading about, and seeing the photos of, the SF yarn stores! Sitting and knitting in yarn stores? Do we do this in the UK? I’ve never seen it other than a major London John Lewis store a few years back… The Chocolate Cherries yarn is gorgeous – the colour will really suit you!

  3. About the debit/credit thingy…
    My debit card has a Visa logo, too. And you can use it as either, and some people prefer to do one or the other (whether you want to type in a PIN number, or want to sign a chit). Oddly enough, when I use it in Canada, I’m not given a choice, and am required to use it as Credit Only. Odd.
    And I have not been to ANY of these stores, and must now plan a little day trip (or two)

  4. I am so pleased that you had good visit to our fair city! I second what Kemma says about the Visa logo/debit card situation. A few years ago banks in the US started to do this, I am not sure why. They always ask at Imagiknit, I think because if it is debit then they are not charged as much by the bank. I have to say I am surprised that there was anyone sitting and knitting at Atelier. In my years of yarn store trolling, groups knitting in the shop is a bit of a rarity. I am glad that you happened upon it!

  5. Ah… the old credit debit issue. You can’t really tell in the US from looking at a debit card if it’s credit only or debit/credit. They’re really great because you can buy stuff where you need a credit card (car rental places) by using it as a credit card and it still comes out of your checking account.

    I’m really jealous about all the great yarn stores you’re hitting. I have WEBS as my LYS but not a whole lot of other choices.

  6. Wow I so wanna swop places, just long enough for a chocolate cherries moment.

  7. I’m playing ‘catch up’ with your blog…what a fabulous sounding trip/yarn crawl…what’s up with a store not being open on a ‘Wednesday’? Sunday and Monday is fairly common, but Wednesday?
    As for lys that welcome people to come in and just knit? I know of only one here, it’s downtown, not tons of yarn but the owner is one lovely woman! Another lys sent out a flyer this past week, (they closed their old lys down and moved, reopened down the street with new name) they have a Knitter’s Choice time, 1.5 hours of sitting and knitting and making new friends…for 15.00 per session! The ladies and I had a good chuckle about this at our knitnight at the library! which of course doesn’t cost us anything outside the usual taxes we pay anyway.

  8. […] I head to San Francisco for a wedding. Taking a lesson from Glenna, I’m going to do a little LYS-Tourism post-festivities. Any recommendations for yarn shops in the City by the Bay? […]

  9. Lady O · ·

    That lace weight is AWESOME!!! And great yardage in one skein, I can’t wait to see what that eventually becomes. (I think lace has eaten my brain… or what is left over from the socks.. and possibly even stolen my heart from socks.. though that might just be the weather.)

    I think debit cards are the one of the few technologies (well actually banking tech in general) that we are far and away head of our neighbours down south.

    The one that was closed looks a bit like the Knit Cafe (which was also closed when we arrived… coincidence….?)

  10. You have mean knitting stores up where you are if you can never sit and knit in them. You should plan a trip to NYC and go to The Point, Knit NY, Knitty City or Annie’s and you can pull up a chair and sit all day. The first two places have small cafes where you can buy coffee and a snack. There are definitely stores you can’t knit in but in many cases it’s more a space issue than anything else.

    I’m leaving for SF on Sat. so I’m glad to hear about all these knitting shops! I’m taking notes.

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