When traveling, whether in real life or in an armchair, wouldn’t it be nice to have a knitter tell you where the good spots are?
That’s the idea behind this series. We’re kicking off A Knitter’s Weekend (on a Monday, as it happens), with this piece by Gale Zucker. A professional photographer, Gale documents “Real People in Real Places.” She’s been everywhere, and knit everywhere, especially on the east coast of the United States. Today she’ll show us a good time in midcoast Maine.
Kay and Ann
Maine is a magical, fog-bound, wool-wearing place, stretching out of the northeast corner of the USA. There’s a long rocky coast. There are islands, piney forests, and north Atlantic winds that call for handknits, pretty much year round. Maine is home to knitwear designers, yarn makers, and sheep farms. There’s an appreciation of making by hand, and use of natural materials. It’s my kind of place. For this short visit, I’m mid-coast, with knitting on the horizon.
Nature here on the coast, untouched or intersecting with humans, gets me jonesing for local color combinations. The blue/green/steely gray of the water itself draws me, then there’s the bright ping of lobster traps, or the acid-colored seaweed on gray rocks.
The color combos of sun-bleached lobster pot markers! Seaweed and lichen! The yarn I brought with me seems too tame and citified. I want a new project, and I want some Maine-inspired wool.
Midcoast Maine means driving along Route 1, twisting through villages, over bridges and by coves. I start in Bath. My first stop is Halcyon Yarns, just before crossing the bridge northward.
The shop is large, the vast selection is well organized, the staff friendly.
Halcyon Yarn is a haven for hand spinners, weavers and felters, not just knitters.
Or knittahs, as a Mainer would say.
Best of all, Halcyon stocks earthy Maine and New England yarns in seemingly every color way, on cones and in skeins. Bartlett Yarns, Peace Fleece, Harrisville Designs and Romney Ridge are all present. Great hearty sweater samples tempt a locally inspired cast on.
While You’re in Bath
Visit the Maine Maritime Museum to learn all about the ship building, sailing and lobstering history.
243 Washington Street
Sit. Knit. Eat Lobster.
One bridge and a short drive north is Wiscasset. Signs claim that it’s the prettiest village in Maine—which seems kind of braggy—but maybe it’s true. Shops and historic homes line Main Street, inviting me to stroll by, or peep in. But I am not here to peep or stroll! I am here to eat lobster, and knit for a while.
On the north end of Main Street, on the tidal Sheepscot River, is Reds Eats. Reds has famous lobster rolls and equally famous long lines. My choice, instead, is lobster on the dock, at a picnic table, at Spragues, across the street. I knit while watching the tide roll in, soaking up the local vibes, along with the butter.
22 Main Street
41 Water Street
Next day, north to Rockland, the artsy town on the south side of Penobscot Bay. It’s got plenty to keep me busy.
I spy the sign that, in four letters, plainly signals I am amongst my people. It is on the side of the building housing Over the Rainbow Yarns.
18 School Street
Next, I head to Clementine, on Main Street, and surrender to Making. That’s right, with a capital M. Owner Leah Ondra greets all with her infectious smile.
There’s no doubt you’ll find a wonderful project in this apparel fabric boutique and modern haberdashery. There’s a good chance it will be a sewing project, but it could just possibly be wool felt, or embroidery, or oil cloth tote bags or fabric-covered journals. All are displayed in a way so irresistible, so well chosen and presented, that you must make it. Leah’s Pinterest boards are lovingly filled with ideas for making and crafting, as well as tutorials and resources.
Hot tip: Clementine sells sewing patterns from indie designers often found only online, and has sewn samples to try on. I slip some on, to figure out if the pattern works for me. Brilliant!
(Editors’ note: the mittens pictured above are the Kanagawa Mittens by Kirsten Kapur.)
But I am not here to make clothes, or totes, or cool looking aprons, though sorely tempted. I am here because Clementine is the only retail outlet for Starcroft Yarn, spun in a tiny mill owned by Jani Estell, Leah’s mom. The yarn is springy soft and dyed beautiful colors. It’s all from sheep that live on Nash Island, according to a Maine tradition. The only decision left is choosing between Nash Light (worsted weight), Tide (sport/dk- very Shetland/colorwork friendly) or Fog–a fluffy fingering/sport weight with a bit of angora blended in.
428 Main Street
Inspiration and Shopping Supporting a Good Cause
Next, a short walk to the Island Institute, a nonprofit that “works to sustain Maine’s island and remote coastal communities.”
Archipelago is the Island Institute’s double storefront showcasing island artists and makers.
The art gallery is on the left side. This being Maine, the art is as likely felted wool as oils and canvas. Nature plays a big role, in theme and in media.
To the right is a fine crafts shop. I linger over smooth sea stone buttons and earrings, cuff bracelets from tidal maps, and modern glasswork. There’s a section of traditional handknit children’s sweaters: perfect gifts. No one needs to know I didn’t knit them myself . . . oh, I’m sorry, did I say that out loud?
If you can’t get to Rockland in person, Archipelago has an impressively well-indexed website for online shopping.
386 Main Street
Island View Knitting
This trip is too short for a windjammer cruise, though Rockland is the largest port for the graceful schooners. Still, it would be wrong to leave without some time on the water.
A bag of Fog skeins in hand, I jump aboard a ferry leaving Rockland for the islands of Matinicus, Vinalhaven and/or North Haven. Excursion fares offer a roundtrip boat ride on Penobscot Bay—perfect for winding yarn and casting on—with time allowed to hop off and walk around an island until the next ferry.