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A Trip to Oz

Dear everybody,
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.




  1. OMG!!! ANNNN!!!! That sweaterrrrr!
    It is beyond perfect. So Japanese looking, with that double collar–Matsuda?
    Exquisite. Can’t think of the word.
    Congratulations on your successful safari.

  2. Hmmmm… Habu!!! One of those yarn places I have on my Knitter’s Pilgrimmage Route. Right along The Rowan Mill and The Shetland Isles. Someday!

  3. Oh wow ! I so desperately want to visit Habu.Surely Issey Miyaki [sp?] buys yarn from there.I want the red linen ‘string’ ! And the impossible to knit silk – ebony needles are a must for that one.Sigh.One day…
    Your cardigan is perfect.I love the little cuffs.Fab with a very simple shift dress,preferably in linen.

  4. i remember one of my favourite authors in high school (i think it may have been Harlan Ellison) writing speculative fiction stories about people walking into THE store and finding just THE thing that they need…
    omigod, omigod, those photos are so inviting. the simple beauty – good thing i live 6 hours away from this store.

  5. kelli ann: was it, perhaps, Lewis Padgetts’ “What You Need”?
    What I need is some of that laceweight denim yarn.

  6. Mary Neal–I just checked the label on the sweater, and I’m seeing Setsuko Torii, which I think means “Liz Claiborne” in Japanese.
    Kelli and Marnie– Here’s the Twilight Zone episode that was based on the Lewis Padgett story. I thought I saw Rod Serling lurking behind the pile of roving at Habu.

  7. Kelli Ann, Stephen King’s “Needfull Things” comes to mind too. The shop had the item you wanted most, but a minute ago sold it to the person you hate most.

  8. As for Setsuko Torii, I found this website
    that shows some of her designs.

  9. Ummm. Thomas, on top of all your other amazing accomplishment, do you actually READ JAPANESE??
    BTW, the shawl was brought to the sewup so we could all touch it and be awestruck.

  10. Looks like you all had a fabulous time. We stopped by there on a “yarn crawl” and we were so packed in that little room, we were sweating. It was so hot. And we would switch spots to look at the various yarns. I loved that sheeny eggplant bamboo but was just beginning an eggplant/purple sweater–so resisted…maybe next summer. 🙂 Have fun.

  11. Amelia and I were there two weeks ago, it felt like church! Worshipful and the need to be quiet! Plus, I spent $400. 🙂 You think I found anything I like?

  12. Mary Neal, I’m learningto. I know a few kanji, but still a far way from the 1945 or so demanded to graduate Japanese high school. The link simply said knit and Setsuko Torii, so when I went there I saw her collection. I like her style. The cut is definitively non-European with those flaring lines. I might actually copy-knit that grey-toned vest for myself.
    I heard about the presentation of the shawl through a comment on my blog by Tish. Was it handed over officially to its Nashville co-owner at the same time?

  13. OMG. I am moving to New York. Been looking at habu on the net, but I figure its not nearly the same as being there in person. Sooooo glad you had the thought to post pictures so I can figure out how to spend more money…..!!!!!

  14. ‘Distressed drabitude’ indeed! That sweater is totally fabulous! As is the rest of Habu by the looks of things. I need to go there. But first I need to pay off some of my credit card balance. Then I’ll be ready. I mean, lace-weight denim. How perfect is that!

  15. A sure sign that I was Under The Weather: I bought NOTHING at Habu. I gazed wanly at the lace-weight denim, not with my usual, robust greed, but with indecision nigh unto death. (Here’s a quote: ‘ohnotheydon’thavethe2shadesilikebest, betternotbuyanysigh/cough’.) I’m tellin’ ya, I was ailin’! Habu, c’est fabu! Ann, the pic of that jacket does not do it justice, in all its ethereal Japaneseness. Liz Claiborne is not worthy touch the near-but-not-ruffles on that thang. Listen to the chorus of enabling Girlfriends: You will wear it INTO THE GROUND. oxxoxo Kay

  16. This is just too much. FIRST you torture all your loyal readers with the party we couldn’t get to and then, THEN, to add insult to injury, you show us THIS?!? I’m…I’m…speechless with envy. (But good thing I can still type.)
    Maybe some yarn will make me feel better.
    By the way, your Chicago contingent, small but determined, met yesterday and attacked the green squares. Guest editorial (with pictures) to follow. I need to shop now.

  17. Speaking of shopping (Evelyn!) the very thought of that lace weight denim was making me crazy, so this morning I searched the price list on the Habu website and I couldn’t find it! Do they have some other name for it? I’m going back later to check everything “cotton” and “indigo.” Kay, honestly, you’ve got me worried. Hope you’re feeling better soon. Our little Chicago sewing bee-ette (beelette?) was fun!

  18. You know what I loved most about this post? The utter poetickness (word? do I care?) of it, and how perfectly in tone it matches the whole Habu experience. Ahhhhhh, now I can go to sleep.

  19. You are the diva of drabitude (can I have that word please ?)! That cardigan is gorgeous – I LOVE it and it’s not even pink ! Habu sounds and looks quite perfect.

  20. Oh My. I can feel my heart thumping a little harder now. Oh… it skipped a beat.
    I have never heard of this place. Have I been living under a rock?? I *must* make a pilgrimage!
    That is such a lovely sweater, too. Good get!

  21. To Ann & Kay.
    Wow! I WON the drawing!!! I was so excited to find a package on my doorstep from NYC containing the most beautiful forest green Jaeger Matchmaker. What a treat. I feel as if I know you both, as well as all the other great people involved with your blog and the afghan project. I will think of you all as I plan, knit, and wear this lovely yarn.
    I almost went to Habu when we were in NYC last spring, but with only a day to tour, I couldn’t convince my hubby to stop at a yarn store. Next trip there will be no excuses.
    Thank you so much for the yarn. Barbara (in Seattle)

  22. Wow that jacket is lovely! The whole experience looks amazing actually, what gorgeous and inspiring yarn….


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