I really wanted to do a rush job for my sister's cat. And I learned that Borealis does not carry the Big Kureyon, or any close substitutes. And all of the yarn stores in the city no longer carry the full Noro line (yes, it is the IDK distribution issues). If I wanted the Big Kureyon, it was a trip out the 'burbs. And if I were going to spend all that time and gas money, I really should check out a couple stores, right?
First stop was Amazing Threads. They were having a sale that weekend, which I learned about from pumpkinseed456 on the Knittyboard. Supposedly it was on fall / winter bulky yarn, but it seemed to be mostly novelty yarn to me. I know I can't expect the staples to go on sale -- the profit margins are too small -- but I had a faint hope that the Big Kureyon would be on sale, which of course was dashed. (In fact, some of the colorways were marked the most expensive price I had seen -- $20.50 -- though most were the typical $16 - $17). The layout of the store is very awkward -- it is a U shape, with the counter facing the door, which leaves almost all of the shop out of view. I can see why it is difficult to strike the right balance of being attentive (and watching the stock) without being obvious or overbearing, which is the experience some of the members on the Knitty board have had. There is also no knitting table or area downstairs, a first among the stores I've been in. Apparently there is a classroom upstairs, but I don't know if it is also used for general knitting -- there was no sign indicating people were welcome to go upstairs. As far as yarn, there wasn't really much that caught my eye; however, I was very focused on the Big Kureyon, and the novelty yarn for sale was spilling out everywhere, so that might not be a very fair assessment. Also, with the shop setup (and perhaps with the sale), it seems difficult to display well. There is a good selection of books and accessories, but there are no needle returns (perhaps this is because their clientelle mostly knits shorter projects?). The class listing looks very good, and some of their best yarns appear to be part of large kits on the wall near the entrance.
Next on the list was Yarn Cafe, which just opened this month. The yarn portion is open on one side to the cafe, which has about five small tables, and serves soup, desserts, coffee type things, and apparently wine and beer (knitting while drunk! whee!). There is also a nice knitting area in the yarn portion of the store -- two couches facing each other with a table in the middle. They stock a lot of very nice yarns, some that I hadn't seen before, like the recycled sari silk (I think from Mango Moon, Manos del Uruguay (apparently Amazing Threads carries this too, and I didn't see it -- sorry AT!), South West Trading Company Bamboo Silk, and my new favorite friend, Schaefer Helene (half wool, half silk, and colors and sheen like you wouldn't believe). They don't skimp on the basics, either, with a comprehensive selection of old standbys like Cascade 220. (Though I am a bit puzzled why they have Jamieson's DK, and not Spindrift and/or Shetland, which are more popular). I'm not sure if they have all of their stock out, or whether they are not sure who their client base is, but the book section and needles / accessories section were both decidedly skimpy. They were very busy, with many people apparently picking up knitting for the first time (YC also just held classes for making Martha's Poncho in crochet and knit; they are building their client base, so I am not going to sit in judgement). Since there is little sound absorption, it was pretty noisy. Their big ace in the hole: they are open until 9pm on Friday, I think the only yarn store in the entire metro area open Friday evening. I almost went out into a blizzard Friday night to pick up the Big Kureyon immediately (such a junkie, I know!), but then thought better of it. It is just as well, since I did not like their Noro Big Kureyon colorways as well as the ones at AT and Yarnzilla.
Last on the stop was Yarnzilla, which I believe is primarily an internet / mail-order company. They are located in an industrial park, and have very abbreviated store hours (typically 10am - 3pm). The shop is a nice setup, a large room with a big table in the middle for projects and good natural light. I don't see how they can stuff all of their internet stock into the store (or even whether they try). There was the largest batch of Manos I had seen -- pretty stuff. I also got to see my first set of Denise needles. Unfortunately I did not like the colorways that were on sale (fugly!), but found two colorways that I liked that matched the fun fur I had bought from the Amazing Threads sale. I went on Saturday, so I did not get to meet the owner. There appeared to be some regulars in there, and some people from out of state (internet customers?) came while I was there.
So how did I end up with a ball winder? Since I always (til now) bought from Borealis Yarns, they would wind it up on the swift / ball winder. And I had no idea of how to deal with the yarn otherwise. Even though Borealis Yarns and Yarnzilla are friendly -- I was refered there for the Big Kureyon -- I couldn't very well go in and expect them to wind their competitor's yarn! And I did feel a bit guilty, galavanting around and petting the yarn from other stores. So I decided to make up for it by purchasing a ball winder -- it's an investment, right? Plus now they won't know when I'm being unfaithful.