Visiting Yarns Untangled

Last week, I found myself walking about Toronto with a little spare time on my hands. It was a toss-up between visiting the ROM or AGO, or going to a yarn shop. Not overly interested in either special exhibit being offered at the museums (but I’m sure they are wonderfully curated and exciting to visit!), I walked over to Kensington Market and visited Yarns Untangled.

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Thanks to a newly created Heritage Minute, I learned earlier that week about the history of Kensington Market and how it grew and evolved to the niche neighbourhood it is today. Unfamiliar with Heritage Minutes? You must not be Canadian (“Dr. Penfield, I smell burnt toast!). Want to see the newest addition to the Heritage Minute collection? Head over to Historica Canada’s YouTube channel for new and classic parts of our heritage.

Yarns Untangled opened in 2015, in the former home of Lettuce Knit. It was a cozy shop, with a table full of lovely yarn and beautiful finished objects greeting you as you walk in.  The staff who was working that afternoon was friendly and happy to offer assistance as I asked for a specific circular needle for a project.

And, of course, I bought yarn.  They carried a wide selection with many indie dyers being profiled, including Riverside, based in Quebec, Ontario’s Blue Brick, and Lichen and Lace from Nova Scotia.

I bought a lovely skein of DK yarn from Mineville Wool Project.  As YU describes on their website: “Part of the joy of the Mineville yarns is getting to name the colourways ourselves, and this time we chose the theme of Toronto landmarks and neighbourhoods.”  The ON Science Centre colourway came home with me.

For one year, between 2010 and 2011, I worked at the Ontario Science Centre as a Host. I walked around the Science Centre wearing a white lab coat talking to visitors and sharing cool science-y facts with them. My science knowledge wasn’t huge when I started; I was hired more for my strong customer service background. The science could be taught. It really was a fantastic year where I got to meet new people, share some of my enthusiasm, and the team of Hosts were some of the smartest, kindest, most awesome people I have been fortunate to work with.

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When I saw that this skein was named after a place I will forever have wonderful memories of, there was no way I was leaving the store without it. It will make a beautiful cowl, one with a fun tie to a special place for me.

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Loving Local Yarn Shops

Over the six plus years I’ve been a knitter, my habits have changed greatly.  Besides the obvious growth in skills and techniques I’ve learned, my speed is greater, I am more fluent in reading patterns, my preferred needles and yarns have changed preference, and where I shop is drastically different from where I first bought a skein of yarn and needles.  There is nothing wrong with supporting a large ‘big box’ craft store ( or BBCS as I’ll be abbreviating), which is where I went when I first decided to give knitting a try – they have affordable supplies and helpful staff.  However, now that I think about it, I cannot remember the last time I purchased supplies from a BBCS, preferring to shop and support Local Yarn Shops (LYS).

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I am quick to sing the praises of LYSs, and rightly so, in my humble opinion. There are so many reasons to love a LYS, and here are mine:

Unique Offerings

Walking through a BBCS, you’ll see the same products. Lots of Red Heart, Lion’s Brand, Patons, and the shop’s own brand. Rows after rows, colour after colour. The same time and time again. Walking into a LYS is almost like a treasure hunt – many LYSs have brands they always carry, and every so often, they will discover a new company or indie dyer and will have new surprises for customers.  There is also no arguing about the quality of the product being offered, that what you can usually find at a LYS is superior to BBCS. There is nothing wrong with the products listed above – good, solid, reliable products they are – but my own preference through they years have turned to favouring other offerings, like Cascade, Berocco, Sweet Georgia, Manos, and more. If you’re looking for diversity and uniqueness is products, you’re best bet is head to a LYS.

Friendly Staff

LYS owners are some of the friendliest people you would have the honour to meet. People who own LYSs are knitters or crafters themselves. They love the craft, they love yarn, and if you’re in a bind, they are there to help. I’m lucky to have four awesome LYSs within 20 minutes of driving, and I’m on first name basis with three of them (I’ll get there with the fourth!). Once you get to know the wonderful staff at a LYS, you become more than a customer – you become part of the crafting community.

Shop Local & Support Local

And speaking about community, when you shop at a LYS, you are supporting a local business and small business owner. You are supporting your neighbour and your community at large. I’m a big fan of small businesses and try to frequent them when I can. Is there anything better than supporting your community, making it a more vibrant place to live?

 

Why do you like shopping at your Local Yarn Shop?

 

Yarn and the City

I love living close to a big city.  In just over an hour’s time, I can travel from my home town to Toronto, and while sitting on the train, I make the trip and don’t even break a sweat.  I happily use the time to keep my fingers busy, and socks make the best travel project!  I began a very simple sock pattern using yarn I bought months back, Bernat Sox yarn in a fun Desert Storm colourway – it’s khakis, greens and browns and knitting up in a camouflage-esque pattern.  When I stashed this yarn, I always knew it would end up being socks.

While in TO, I was able to visit two yarn shops.  The first was The Knit Cafe on Roncesvalles.  My sister discovered this shop in her neighbourhood a few months back, and she didn’t wait to text me to say ‘you need to come visit and check out this shop!’  Well, I finally checked it out on Saturday, and it was a lovely shop with very friendly staff and an interesting selection of yarn.  I was very excited to leave the shop with new needles (I have a thing for knitting needles… I just love them and adding to my collection), and two hanks of sock yarn from Turtlepurl Yarns, an ‘indie’ Canadian yarn dyer.  The yarn is their Striped Turtle Toes, and when they are complete, they will be two identically striped socks.  This makes me happy.  They are already wound – any excuse really to use my swift – and they are ready for casting on whenever I am ready for them.

Turtlepurl Yarns, Mystic Topaz Striped Turtle Toes Yarn
Turtlepurl Yarns, Mystic Topaz Striped Turtle Toes Yarn

The other shop I visited was Romni Wools on Queen West.  I once saw this places described as ‘an Aladdin’s cave for knitters,’ and whoever came up with this apt description wasn’t wrong!  A huge shop with great selection, rows and rows of yarn.

After I left Romni, without making a purchase (this time), I’ve realized that I have a hard time buying yarn for the sake of buying it.  I have a hard time justifying buying yarn unless I know that I can use it for something.  Sock yarn is one exception, because it has an obvious project that can be completed with it.  However, buying the odd ball or two, or more even, just to buy it, I just can’t do it.  So I left Romni without making a purchase, but the next time I go back, I’ll have a project in mind and I’ll find the perfect yarn there.  Really, half the fun is in the discovery.