Tuesday, November 19, 2002

LA Tour, or should that be la tour since we're going to La Knitterie Parisienne. Taking over the magic bus from Kristi, our intreprid tour director, this is Knitdad (Larry).

Since we're taking a magic bus, we will be able to avoid the traffic congestion on the 134 Freeway and 101 Freeway. But we'll miss seeing ABC/Disney Studios and Forest Lawn Memorial Park, not to mention beautiful Downtown Burbank. La Knitterie Parisienne is located at 12642 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. If you're in the movie or television business Studio City is pretty near the center of the world and Ventura Blvd. is where most of what happens, happens. Trying to avoid all the drivers who have their own agendas we manoeuver our way into the parking lot. LKP is in the Coldwater Curve Shops.( We would normally call this a strip mall but the shops are too chic and the parking is too limited.) The shop opens at 10AM so we're just on time. (Actually we may have to wait a few minutes since Edith and Merrill usually stop at their warehouse on the way.)

If you're the least bit claustrophobic you might want to take a few deep breaths before we go in. Did you notice all the cute kids sweaters in the window as we waited? We enter through a Dutch door and the first thing we see are all the baby yarns, unless UPS has been there, in which case the view will be blocked and access to the baby yarns nearly impossible. The shop is basically two large rooms. The first room has more yarn than most of us have ever seen in one place. And buttons for almost any imaginable project. Space is at a premium. You have to be very careful not to trip on the big baskets sitting on the floor. They're filled with lots of bulky yarn and miscellaneous fibers from seasons past. This is also the room where all the Anny Blatt angora yarns are kept, way up high so you have to ask for help if you want to see them. In the back of the room, past the cashier's desk, are lots of old yarns as well as some "basic" stuff. There are racks of needles and notions.

Merrill, husband of the more famous Edith, runs the money part of the operation from behind a counter that is laden with books and magazines. There's usually a line of people waiting for Merrill to either ring up their purchase or to give them the price of some yarn. Oh yes, nothing is marked with the price. So if you want to know you have to ask.

Squeezing past the waiting people we go into the other room, The Bulky Room. As we enter we see Edith, knitting guru to the stars, holding court with her group of students. The din is amazing as each one tries for attention. In a space designed for maybe eight people there are perhaps twelve, or more if you count all the doggie carriers and occasional upscale stroller. (If you listen closely you might get some pointers on where to get a good massage or what school you should send your kids to.) We nod to Edith and go on into the Bulky Room. This is where it really gets good. The perimeter of the room is literally floor to ceiling yarn. The center gondolas are also full but stop about three feet from the ceiling. Never mind, we can get a ladder. Every new yarn that I've heard of is stacked in this room. Most of it is of the oversize, bulky ilk. Baskets line the fronts of all the shelves holding the latest yarns, or the ones that couldn't be jammed into their own cubbyhole. There's the most complete selection of Trendsetter Eyelash I've ever seen. Shelves of Noro Silk Garden and all their other fine stuff. Mixed in with all this are more of the old yarns.

What's with the old yarns? Be careful what you fall in love with. It may no longer be available. The manufacturer may not even be available anymore. But if you're looking for one or two skeins of a discontinued yarn, give Merrill a call (1-800 2 BUY YARN). He may just have it.

Now, for those of you who are too claustrophobic or whatever, there's Belwood Bakery a couple of doors down. They have all the latest coffee drinks, some beautiful pastries and a killer chicken/rosemary sandwich. Or you could cross the street and perhaps bowl a few games at the Sports Center, where I bowl on Thursday night. Or go a little west and dine at the Sportsman's Lodge. Ventura Blvd. has something for everyone.

I love going to LKP. You just have to be prepared to spend a lot of time. There's an incredible amount to see. They carry all the major brands as well as some of the lesser known ones like Hannah Silks, Prism and Great Adirondack. If you know what you want it's probably best to ask where it is. There's no real rhyme or reason to how yarns are displayed, at least not that I was ever able to figure out. Okay, back on the bus.

We're going to the other extreme, i.e., the other side of LA and to the opposite in yarn shop decor. Just before we get there we'll stop at Paco's for a little lunch. Better than average Mexican and great margaritas. I'll have a Diet Coke myself.

Skein is where I spend my time on weekends and occasionally some other days. Ann Mary Chow, the owner, opened the shop just a little over three years ago. It's been exciting to see it thrive and grow. The interior was designed by her daughter, Desiree, an architecture student at Berkley. When the shop first opened the space was spare beyond belief. Partly because Desiree wanted it that way and partly because Ann Mary started out small. Compared to most other yarn shops Skein is still pretty severe. But, take your time, and you'll discover lots of different yarns from many of the leading manufacturers. And there's always the "I can order for you" line.

I am so familiar with this shop that it's difficult to describe in a very enthusiastic way. The two outer walls hold all the yarn. Ann Mary keeps every yarn neatly stacked. Except for the baby yarn and the Encore display, all the yarns are moved around frequently. It keeps the stock looking new and attracts attention to yarns that might have been overlooked for a while. In the back of the shop, near the register, is a bookshelf holding lots of samples. There's also a shelf of scarves and shawls near the front of the store. When Ann Mary finds a simple to make pattern that works up quickly, she really pushes it. (Currently we're selling a long shawl using Karabella's Gossamer. We can't keep it in stock. And a garter stitch scarf using Berroco's multicolored Chinchilla with matching Glace fringe.)

Skein offers drop in classes, which I teach on weekends and Joanne teaches on Tuesday. There are also two organized classes, one on Wednesday night and another on Thursday morning. There are also lots of patterns and books to choose from. If you make one of the famous scarves you'll get the pattern for free, not that you'd actually need it.

It's been a long day. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you're ever in Arcadia be sure to stop by and say hello. I'm going back to Paco's for one of those margaritas. Be sure to check back for the next episode when Emma will take us to the far away British Isles.

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