A Trip to Oz
September 18, 2004
One of the highlights of my visit to New York was our pilgrimage to Habu Textiles, one of the most serene places in all Manhattan. You come down West 30th Street, pass through a crowd of people standing in front of a doorway looking like they’re waiting for somebody to hand them money, take a freight elevator up eight floors, and suddenly you’re in a pale room with what surely must be bamboo floors. It’s empty except for three lengths of very beautiful cloth hanging from poles on the wall. Anybody home?
A small and lovely woman comes through a doorway and says, “You here for yarn? This way,” and she leads us to the yarn store: a space four feet wide and fifteen feet long. It is the smallest yarn store in the world, but it is the most fantastic collection of yarns I have ever seen.
The yarns are shown in sample skeins threaded through long poles, at least a hundred different varieties. Lumpy silk that looks like dreadlocks, impossibly thin silk, sheeny eggplant bamboo, crimped cotton that looks like packing material. Ruffled yarn, yarn that has already been knitted into strips, linen that looks like paper, paper that looks like raffia.
Lis and Polly meet Kay and me there. We lose Polly for a while in a pile of linen, and I worry about Lis once she discovers the rack of garments for sale which were made with these fantastic yarns. It is clear that one particular cardigan needs to be adopted, and it is clear that I have the lowest resistance of the group, so I make off with this airy, glum item made from teeny weeny linen. I’m looking forward to finding the perfect dress to continue the distressed drabitude.
One yarn they don’t advertise enough is the Yarn Too Difficult to Knit. This Tussar Knitted Silk (it’s a knitted cord) has a lush drape to it, but unless I get out the number 2s, it will not behave. It doesn’t matter; it’s like a pair of party shoes.
Other delights: red linen-that-looks-like-raffia doubled with what may be burlap. Lace-weight denim in five shades of indigo.
While the lovely woman winds our yarn into skeins, we peek into the workroom. Three women work silently, winding yarn, packing boxes to take to the Stitches show in Atlantic City, all amid spinning swifts, shelves stuffed with yarn, and boxes filled surely with treasure. You want to stay there a day or two. Amid the careless stacks of cones, we see the sole discordant note: a small bag of riotous Koigu. Somebody there has hit the limit on quiet, peaceful yarns.