You know that alternative career in the way back of your mind? Mine is local tour guide.
No, really. I’m the friend you call when your relatives load in for a week and you need ideas for entertainment. Thus, I am well qualified to offer you a Knitter’s Weekend in the New Haven, Connecticut, area: AKA My Own Backyard.
City Mouse: Inspiration, History and Yarn
Arrive in New Haven and you are struck by Yale University’s Gothic architecture, dominating the city’s downtown.
Hand-carved stonework embellishes arches and doorways block after block. You’ll think, “Hogwarts!” (Or, maybe, “Gilmore Girls.”)
Even the service entrances got the artisan carving touch. Turkey!
Start your visit on Chapel Street, at the Yale University Art Gallery, for inspiration. It’s a world-class collection, gloriously displayed, and free— free!—six days a week.
The Louis Kahn modernist addition is where you enter, though passages and elegant stairways connect galleries in older stone classic buildings.
Head for Modern Art. Though the paintings rotate, there is always some Josef Albers to view. His colors overlay and change—how does a cold red turn warm and when? How does he always get the proportions so right?
The Rothkos aren’t too shabby, either.
While you’re there:
- more art at the Yale British Art Center, just across the street. Run, anglophiles!
- The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is housed in a breathtaking, translucent white marble structure, well worth a quick visit inside.
- Tours of all kinds. So much history here.
You’re Inspired, Now Go Get Some Yarn
It’s just a few blocks from Yale to Knit New Haven. The yarnbombed sidewalk clues you in. The window displays current trunk shows and new designs. The large table most always has someone knitting at it, or looking through the latest magazines. It’s that kind of knitting shop. Tuesday Knit Nights are an inclusive and raucous experience.
Of course it’s not all yucks and knitchat. There’s an excellent yarn selection, from basics to indie dyers, luxury fibers, and kits. The three owners are friendly. They’ve never lost their passion for sharing knitting skills. A project inspired by Albers easily becomes real. Plop down at the table and cast on.
There’s plenty to see, shop or do downtown, but I’m pointing you to Eco Works at 262 State Street, nearby. It will gladden your maker heart. Or at the very least fill your crafting cabinet. This joint is a mashup of art supply, thrift store and treasure hunt. People and businesses donate surplus materials and supplies, under the big umbrella of making and crafting. It’s priced to help out artists, teachers, and those feeling a squeeze but wanting to create. The shop also carries handmade pieces by customer artists, as a “ReBoutique.”
If you are looking for straight-up bargain yarn, say, for a yarn bomb or to teach a Girl Scout Troop, this is the place, sold by the pound. The pickings lean toward novelty, acrylics and odd lots. Knitting needles, especially metal, are in abundance.
I last visited Eco Works to drop off yarns, but walked out with sparkly markers, vintage wrapping paper and squares of brocade upholstery fabric samples (50¢ apiece!) to make a tote bag. Hours are super limited, Thursdays and Saturdays, but check the website for special events and classes of the craft-activist type.
New Haven is a foodie town, so you don’t need guidance. However, it is requisite to have our legendary pizza.
Head to Wooster Street, to Pepe’s. While it is not a place to sit and knit, you are likely to find yourself on line, so use your “I don’t mind waiting I’m a knitter” skills and whip out that project until you’re seated.
Country Mouse: Art Yarn, Sheep and the Sea
The next day, leave New Haven and head east along the shoreline to a series of small, New Englandy towns, all with the rocky sea coast as their southern borders.
In Guilford, stop by Olympia Farm. You’ll need to keep an eye out for the sign of stacked animals on the north side of the Boston Post Road.
At the end of the long gravel drive is a 10-acre fiber farm run by Anne and Mark Lahners. Anne started out as a knitter who just wanted a couple of sheep.
You know how that goes.
On Saturdays or Sundays, you’ll have a chance to get personal with Anne’s Romney sheep, Alpine goats, and the cows and chickens. Call ahead if you are hoping to spend time with animals, or talk spinning and fiber with Anne. The farm store is always open, however, even when Ann and Mark are busy. Best of all are Woolly Wednesdays, monthly from 7-9 pm. Sept 27 is next!
Yarn, roving, meat, honey, homemade cheese, and sometimes eggs are all for sale.
Continue east to Madison, a starchier Yankee town with a wide Main Street. If you love books (and oh c’mon, you know you love books) check out RJ Julia Booksellers, a two-story indie bookstore. Afterwards, you’ll head to our last yarn destination, Mad Wool. Look for the yarn ball sign and turn into the drive/parking lot that runs along the buildings.
This charming shop is owned by Dayna Manchewski, an art yarn spinner. It is cozy, colorful and stuffed to the gills with well-chosen yarns and spinning fiber.
I inevitably linger by the front counter, with yarn from small dyers, local farms, and one-of-a-kind handspun art yarns.
This is the shop where my ironclad rule against buying random skeins of yarn, because “it’s too beautiful to pass up,” gets broken.
Thanks to the newest maker shop around, Cate’s Sew Modern, I can also use the same “too beautiful” excuse to purchase an indie sewing pattern, and a couple of yards of irresistible fabric to make clothes, in the same outing. Worth a stop, if you are a clothing sewist, quilter or maybe want to stitch a little.
Head to the Waterfront
Finally—we call this the Shoreline for a reason. You can’t leave the area without visiting waterfront.
You are just a stone’s throw from public Hammonasset Beach State Park. There’s a beautiful two-mile stretch of sand, a boardwalk, and ideal beach knitting situations. The far eastern end, Meigs Point, is quiet and more nature-y, with rocks to clamber on, if you prefer that to open beach.
If it’s September through May, or after 5 pm all year, I’m partial to the beach area at the end of West Wharf Road. Just past the spiffy Madison Beach Hotel, with its restaurant veranda overlooking the beach (excellent alternative sit and knit there), is a wharf, two small beaches, a jetty and tidepools. Walk out on the rocks to take in the view. If it’s a sunny day, even in winter, the warmth sitting against the seawall is the place to take it all in, and knit like the locals.
Wait! More Yarncrawling Opportunities
The Yarn Basket in Branford, just east of New Haven, offers an impressive number of options if you favor quality machine washable wools and blends. They also have a strong selection of natural fibers. I’m a sucker for their vintage buttons.
The Yarn Barn, on the western end of New Haven, in Woodbridge. An extensive selection in a large shop, you’ll want to leave yourself time to go through the overstuffed shelves.