Saturday, May 27, 2006

New York Yarn Shop Adventures

Made a quick business trip to New York Friday and managed to get a couple of yarn shops in, Habu Textiles and School Products. I've seen them on many blogs, most recently on the Knitting Doctor's blog and had to see them myself. Would like to have gone to the other shops she mentioned, but didn't have time.

Wanted to go to Habu first on 29th on the East Side, wasn't sure I was going to make it. My meeting was over about 4:30, which a nice New Yorker walking a yorkie told me was taxi witching hour, i.e. the time they change shifts and don't pick up anyone. After about 30 minutes on the corner of 52nd and 5th on the East Side, a cabbie took pity on me and said he'd take me to 29th, but if there was lots of traffic I'd have to hoof it to the West side. Better than nothin' I guess, and my bad back could use the walk.

I got lucky. Not much traffic, so he dropped me off at 29th and Broadway on the east side and walked to 135 West 29th Street about halfway down the block. Kind of a dumpy area, lots of wholesale shops, but hey, I love New York, so what did I care? I came to the address and there's no store, just the tiniest reception area with a doorman's station and no doorman. I squinted at the directory hanging behind the station and finally saw "Habu - 804" and took the elevator up.

The door to the suite was cracked about 5 inches, a tiny "Habu" sign next to it. Thought I'd made a mistake. I saw a young woman rummaging through boxes and decided to knock. I showed her my internet page print out and told her I was looking for a yarn store. She warmly threw the door open and I entered the most unusual yarn store I've ever been in.

The entry opens directly upon a small room with cloth hangings on the wall. Some of the hangings had skeins of representative yarn beneath them on a low shelf that runs the length of the wall. A collection of baskets filled with cones, skeins, and hanks of yarn were arranged in the center of the room.

The woman showed me the baskets containing sale yarns and then showed me to a tiny back room - actually a narrow hallway - with hanks of yarn hanging on one side and skeins in boxes and finished sweaters on the other.

I was immediately struck by how different Habu yarns are: linen "paper" yarns, silk and cashmere spun in different shapes and textures, wire yarns, alpaca, mohair, hemp, and wool of course. The colors seemed unusual too, maybe I've gotten so used to looking at bright variagated sock yarns lately, that muted earth tones and greys have become a novelty. That's not to say they are boring, in fact, they are among the most beautiful yarn collections I've ever seen.

Here's what I bought:

On the cone is 3oz. of cotton, which feels and looks linen tape, bottom left is 3.5 oz of the same, on the bottom right is 130 yds of silk.

Don't know what I'm going to do with any of it yet, I just bought enough to play with. Got to swatch and wash first. Since so few of my current projects lend themselves to commuting projects, I will knit swatches instead. There were no Japanese knitting books that so many of you love.

I was overwhelmed by possibilities I'd never considered.

My next stop was School Products around the corner on Broadway, where I picked up a couple of deals. Again, no storefront, instead a suite on the third floor, glass front so you can see in, but the door was locked, so I had to be buzzed in. I can see why knitters love School Products. Lots of sale items! Some left over yarn from the big design houses like Armani and Donna Karan in the garment district. The owner's husband told me that sometimes samples are big enough to make a sweater, others times just enough to make a scarf or gloves or something else small. Lots of cashmere, silk and wool on cones at discounted prices and yarn ready to dye too. There were two full walls of Karabella. Yow! I think she must carry the full line. I love Karabella. Can't afford it though. I know, I know! Stop buying so much small stuff and save for the bigger, more expensive projects. The owner's husband look alarmed when I said aloud, "I could camp out here!"

I bought 8 skeins of cashmere and silk in pale olive for $6.99 each, a one pound skein of cashmere for $25 (approx. 1200 yards, I hope this was a deal), and the Debbie Bliss' Baby Knits for Beginners. Yeah, I know I can get patterns off the internet, but I wanted it.

I'm going to be doing lots of swatching. Pray for finished objects!


  1. Oooo..your pictures are so pretty it seems like I can feel the texture of the yarn through my monitor.

    Have fun dreaming up what you're going to make.

  2. Wow, great writeup! The cashmere cone *does* seem like a deal!

  3. Awww Ava, I'm sorry I missed you! I wasn't busy over the weekend. I'm glad you went to Habu! Isn't it beautiful? Variegated yarn needs to slow down.

    You certainly got a bargain at School Products; if the cone was 100% cashmere, at 1200yds, $25 was nothing! That's usually how much a single skein costs at most yarn shops. Oh lord, and I'm going to be downtown today. Please pray that I don't go in there.

  4. This was such a great post to read! A friend and I are planning to visit both of these stores and this helped alot!

    Did you start on anything yet with the yarn you bought?



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