Rowanettes March In New York For World Peace, Human Rights, Cheap Cashmere
October 4, 2003
Friday was a red-letter R-for-Rowanette day here up North. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I got the good news that not one, but two of our virtual pals from the Rowan International Knitting Circle were coming to town. As it turned out, both Kristine from Stockholm and Benedetta (famed for her bodacious Knitty denim skirt, see entry below) from Plymouth, Massachusetts, were able to meet up with Lis and me for an afternoon of yarn store looting.
Since you don’t get all that many international knitting visitors in the boondocks, let me explain The Procedure:
1. We meet…..at a preordained yarn store, preferably in a scruffy, wholesaley part of town with lots of dirt, near-miss traffic accidents, and crowds of people screaming at each other (I try to give an exciting, Scorcese intro to New York, but sometimes it’s more like Fellini).
2. We greet….
—‘HI!!!! [kiss, hug]’
—‘HELLO!!! SO NICE TO MEET YOU!!! [kiss, hug]’
3. We stare at each other in smiley silence.
4. Enough with the small talk! We fan out, and methodically — robotically—work over the store’s shelves and bins. When somebody finds something nice, she wordlessly holds up a hank and the others come a-running to cop a feel, sniff it, make meaningful eyebrow gestures, and otherwise communicate our opinions on the fiber in question.
5. Ka-ching!! After cashing out with our bundles, we quickly move on to another yarn store. Rinse and repeat! Time’s a-wastin’!
It was a gorgeous fall day. We had agreed to meet at 4 at School Products on 28th and Broadway, in the heart of the cheesy wholesale district. They had a healthy selection of non-Rowan yarn, especially Karabella, and some serious cashmere on cones. After the aforementioned warm greetings, we did some looking around, and we all walked out with some small, minute, really tiny purchases of cashmere and stuff. I had never been to the famous School Products (which, we were told, got its curiously non-yarny name because it started out as a source of materials for students at the Fashion Institute of Technology), and I’m glad to know it. The prices are as high as everywhere else, but they carry a different and interesting range. Including some wacky Japanese nylon tape yarns, glitzy lurexes, and Italian tweeds. They also have a good book and pattern collection and some scary-looking knitting machines and loom equipment.
Here we see Kristine and Ben on the uptown platform of the N train at 28th Street.
Unfortunately, we wanted to go downtown.
Eventually we made it, to a quirky little store on East 7th Street called
Our first clue that we were in the East Village was that to enter the establishment, we had to step over a baby gate spanning the wide-open door.
Why the gate? To contain Magry Yarns’ ferocious yarn-guarding beast:
That would be, Tiki, the Big-Boned Yorky.
[Tiki has a distinguished pedigree. Her ancestor, Ch. Princess Kaffe Brandon Twinklestar, won the Working Dog division of an early Westminster Dog Show.]
Here are some other scenes from Magry Knits [WARNING: EXTREME WRISTLET CONTENT]:
The friendly owner, Renee, who spins and dyes most of the yarns in the store, and designs its patterns, including these
WRISTLETS!!!!! (They were cute, actually. In an East 7th Street, I’m-17-years-old-and-have-several-tattoos kinda way. They are bell-shaped so that one can wear them peeking out from under the sleeves of one’s motorcycle jacket, as Lis demonstrates, to look adorable and keep the tops of one’s hands warm.) (Query: What happens to the rest of your hand? Frostbite? Toasting over a fire in an oil drum? These, obviously, are the questions of a middle-aged frump who has lost touch entirely with Street Fashion.)
A funky crocheted rug! (We love homemade rugs!!!) Made of scraps of acrylics and whatnot.
I was the only one who bought anything. A ball of hand-dyed, handspun, psychedelic funkitude–just enough for a pair of you-know-whats.
We had saved the best for last, and guided our guests a few blocks away to Avenue A and the slammin’ screen door of our favorite LYS,
Downtown Yarns is a jewel box of well-chosen, beautifully arranged wools. The owner, Rita, is nice even when the place is hoppin’ with anxious knitters who are one ball short of finishing their sweater. She always has interesting finished objects hanging here and there. She has a great eye, exemplified by the exquisite still lifes that mark the seasons in her display window. This day was no exception:
This photo, taken through the window in fading light, shows just a portion of a wool throw (lotsa Manos, ya think?) designed and knitted by one of the women who works at Downtown Yarns. It looks like something Kaffe Fassett and Sasha Kagan would come up with on a conference call with Nicki Epstein. It should be hanging in a museum.
In our short time together, we had a blast. Kristine and Benedetta were like old friends, immediately recognizable from their internet personae.
Wish you were here!