Thursday, November 15, 2007

Happy Times in a Seattle Shop

I set out last week hopeful that I might luck into a yarn shop somewhere along the way, and with the Washington State and Oregon pages of the the Knitter's Shop Finder clutched firmly in my hand. I didn't want to eat up all our vacation time looking for one, but you just never know, do you?

Our first night in town, we had dinner at Steelhead Diner (excellent food, definitely recommended) right near the famous Pike Place Market. After all, we know our duty as good law-abiding tourists. Afterwards we set out walking up 1st Ave. toward an address that looked as if it might not be terribly far away. We eventually fetched up, slightly footweary but undaunted, in front of So Much Yarn, in an area called Belltown, as I later learned. Our timing was off; they were closed for the night. It looked inviting, but I could only peer through the glass, admiring the fat bundles of bulky wool in the front and wondering what was beyond. No matter; one day in town and I'd found a shop to gaze upon. I didn't ask more than that.

The next day, there was un-yarn-related sightseeing to do. Car-less, we jumped a tour van to the amazing Boeing facility where they build the big airplanes. For entry, you have to stow away all your stuff, and present yourself innocent of electronics, cameras, purses, knitting bags, and the like, but I did manage to squeeze in some good sock-knitting time on the trip up.

Later, back in town, we hopped a ferry to get out on the water and visit nearby Bainbridge Island. Chilly winds and beautiful views ensued. Arriving at nightfall, we walked up into the town of Winslow and headed for a yarn shop serendipitously spotted in a town directory brochure. I halfway expected it to be closed as well by the time we got there, but light streamed from the windows of Churchmouse Yarns and Teas and there was still one precious hour to go. (No picture; I was too excited to stop and think to take one.) The shop was wonderful, with a table to gather around right up front, and colorful, rich, finely detailed Fair Isle garments displayed in the windows and everywhere. There were lots of yarns to love: Rowan, Debbie Bliss, Blue Moon, locally hand-dyed silks, Handmaiden. I dallied for a while with a Handmaiden Sea Silk in stormy blues, but drifted off inconstantly to a Malabrigo laceweight.

Best of all, for me, there was Jamieson's, in several different weights and a good smattering of its many, many colors. I couldn't tear myself away from the Shetland Spindrift. I'd often thought of ordering it; I'm interested in true, traditional Fair Isle and have spent many hours reading and dreaming over patterns. I hadn't had the opportunity, though, to see the yarn in person at the local yarn shops I frequent. And there it was. I wasn't prepared with a pattern picked out and really don't need another complete sweater in the backlog, but I had to have at least a sample of this yarn. I started plotting about what kind of small, modest project I could do that would give me just a taste.

One of the knowledgeable and pleasant staff members suggested a tam. Wonderful! I pounced on that thought and happily set to work considering colors. Just a couple that I really love. I just want to try it, after all. Plum and a heathery purple mix. Maybe these three. A heathery violet. A teal to pick up some of the flecks in the purple. Four, then. Four are enough for a nice simple Fair Isle pattern. A wine, though, would add a beautiful deep note to the mix. OK, fine. Five. It would be silly to let some arbitrary limit hold me back from a really glowing assortment of colors, varied and harmonious.

A staff member stopped by again, a wisewoman and a diplomat. (She didn't say, your collection of analogous dark colors will be dull and inert, but she thought it. ) She looked at my selection and said, you know, sometimes it's good to include a light color that contrasts, to really bring out the darker colors. Look at this sweater here and how the pale yellow color lights up the center of the motif. She was right, of course; the pale yellow didn't glare but made the whole tapestry of tones luminous. Obviously, a bit of color counterpoint was needed. A pale green? A brighter red? Finally, I settled on a burnished dark gold. Yes, six. You really have to have six colors for any reasonable Fair Isle effect.

OK, never mind that tams generally look ridiculous on me. I wear a smallish hat size and a tam juts out too far on all sides, looking like a lid on my head. I don't care. These colors will make me a gorgeous tam.

And the "tea" part of Churchmouse Yarns and Teas? Sure, it was right there, but I was in another world. I can't really say that I even saw it.

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