Sunday, February 01, 2009

My travel log

Matthew talked me into taking him to see his girlfriend in Charlottesville yesterday. Two weeks ago, I told him he could not go up there and spend the weekend because he did not have a functioning phone, money or a place to stay. I had visions of him being picked up by some creepy old man and vanishing off the face of the Earth. So, even though he was officially 18, I put my foot down and told him no. I also told him as a compromise that I would make a long day trip out of it (since I really love visiting C'ville) and provide the transportation.

It was either that or stay home listening to him rant while I tried to clean house.

Who wouldn't rather be in C'ville?

Anyway, before our trip, I typed "Yarn Shops Charlottesville Virginia" into Google and got maps and directions to several places. I picked out three, added a couple of book stores and a couple of healthfood stores.

So, we left home at 8 a.m. and made it to C'ville at the Fashion Square Mall on Route 29 just before 11 a.m. My first stop was the Whole Foods Market across the street from Fashion Square Mall. Oh my! If you've never been to a Whole Foods Market and you love eclectic food that is organic and whole and wonderfully fresh; find one of these. Even a several hour drive is worth the trip. Because I neglected to bring a cooler, I had to limit myself to shelf food and a couple of hard cheeses. I will bring a cooler next time I'm out this way.

Then I went down the road just a little bit to the first yarn shop. It was called It's a Stitch and is a very nice shop. They were giving beginning knitting lessons when I arrived and greatly enjoyed listening in at the banter. I ended up with seven skeins of laceweight silk yarn, a lace pamphlet and the current issue of Interweave Knits. (I really need to subscribe to that again, now that I'm better at knitting.)

Then I met up with the kids for minute so Matthew could do a costume change (his girlfriend, bless her, talked him into dressing up a bit for their date. He had brought along nice clothes in a backpack but had left it in the car).

From there I headed out to Stony Mountain Fibers out to the west side of town up Route 20 from Pantops Mt. It was a beautiful drive and I could not have asked for nicer weather. It was cold, but clear and crisp. Anyway, you drive quite a ways out on Route 20 until you come to Hammocks Gap Road. Now, I live in the country but I had forgotten about the mountain roads in and around Charlottesville. Hammocks Gap is a one-lane dirt track running along the side of a ridge. To your left, up the hill, are a few houses here and there. To the right down a very steep hill are fensed-in pastures. You drive for a while on this dirt track until you come to Stony Point Fibers. The house number is in the 900s and the numbers just off Route 20 start at something like 1300s. But the driveway is wellmarked. It's also very steep!

My poor little Toyota had a bit of an issue climbing the red clay and gravel drive, but I did get up it. It looks like there are two houses there. The one in the back is the shop. But it's a comfortable place with the yard decorated with an antique truck on blocks and several farm vehicles including an antique tractor.

Barbara Gentry is the owner of Stony Mountain Fibers and also has cormo sheep and I spotted them off to the side just before I went into the shop. I made a note in my mind that the red mountain clay had done a job of settling into the fleeces. I wondered what I would find inside.

And what I found was a fiber festival all by itself. I really should have taken pictures! She had one wall full of beautifully solid colored wool fiber. Another wall was full of weaving yarns. She had samples of just about every kind of fiber you could think of including Buffalo Gold, cashmere, cotton and silks (including silk hankies). She also had a big box/bag of pin drafted roving which was a blend of her own sheep wool (cormo) blended with bamboo. This is some amazing stuff. And there is not a speck of red clay stain in it.

Cormo tends to be a little crisp by itself but is still next to skin soft. The bamboo calms that down to levels that make you wonder if you aren't feeling angora. I bought 14 ounces of it. I would have bought a full pound but I filled a large bag and could not bring myself to pack it down. In any case, she told me I could just call her if I needed more and she would ship it out to me. Barbara said she had this wool processed at Zeilingers.

I also purchased from her Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep, two single posts which I will clamp down for doing card weaving, The Gossamer Webs Design Collection: Three Orenburg Shawls to Knit, and 8 ounces of Wensleydale top.

She had spindles, she had spinning wheels both new and used, looms both new and used and lots of other tools and equipment.

If that wasn't enough, there was a young lady about the age of 7 or 8 who was shopping with her mother. At first I thought mom was the spinner and the little girl was just picking out colors of roving that she liked so mom could spin it for her. But no! The young lady was a student at the local Waldorf school and her teacher had taught the kids to spin and allowed them to work on their handwork when they finished their desk work. She bought lots of roving, hand cards, and seemed quite amazed about us adults raving over her skills. They looked at a drum carder, but it was suggested that they wait to see how long the young lady continued spinning. I told her that I had used only drop spindles, hand combs and hand cards for about a year before I got my first spinning wheel and that now I had two wheels, several drop spindles a drum carder and more fiber than I could spin in a year. It does tend to become a lifestyle.

After I left Stony Mountain Fibers I headed back into town and parked in the parking garage next to the Downtown Mall. It was chilly, perhaps in the 40 degree range), so I was glad I had my mitts and sorry I didn't have my hat.

I must say I was absolutely delighted to see all the handknitted hats, mittens and scarves traveling around on people in that mall. C'ville is, if nothing else, a cultured place.

On the mall I found this absolutely mad house of a knitting shop. It is called The Knitting Lady. It's narrow and deep and packed with yarn, needlepoint work and customers. Don't even try to find anything on your own. This is the kind of place where you walk in knowing what you want and walk up the counter and wait your turn. The staff is perky and cheerful and funny and know exactly where everything is (even though it's scattered all over the place and sometimes hidden away in drawers and cupboards. There are wonderful examples of knitted goods like shawls, sweaters, hats, shirts, scarves, etc. You can look around and fall in love with one of their knitted samples and they will hook you right up with everything you need to make it.

I came in with a desire for the making for a new set of slippers as mine are on their last leg (or sole). They have served me well for many years, but are really grungie and pretty disgusting, so I have decided it's time to replace them. They found me a pattern, pointed me to the yarn, told me how much I would need and even found the leather soles in stock and in my size for finishing. The Needle Lady is a great place but not one of those knitting shops like It's A Stitch where you can just plunk yourself down and visit for a spell and knit.

One thing I have to say is that in all the yarn shops I've visited, there are really only a few selling lace weight yarns. I've not found any gossamer yarns at all and yet the internet is full of options for lace weight. I'm wondering if my own perception about lace is confused (I'm hooked so I assume everyone else is as well) or yarn shops just don't find it profitable to stock laceweight because most serious lace knitters prefer one very long skein (1200 + yards) and it just doesn't pay to sell one skein of yarn for $30 or $40 when a sweater worth of yarn in aran or worsted or bulky weight runs up near or above $100.

My trip to C'ville was expensive but well worth it.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Next time you make the trip to C'ville, check out Pins & Needles just north of the city in Ruckersville. I hear very good things about it. Here's a link -