Saturday, August 2, 2014

Steel Valley Yarn Crawl Part I

On August 1, Diane and SciFi Chris set off on the Steel Valley Yarn Crawl.  Seven shops are participating, from August 1 to August 10.  Details can be found on Facebook and Ravelry.  I've listed the shops at the end of this post.  At any of the shops, a ‘passport’ can be bought for $10, which includes a tote bag and raffle tickets.  At each shop, you get a stamp on the passport.  If you manage to get to all seven shops, then you are entered for the grand prizes, seven $25 gift certificates – one from every shop.  The runner up prize is $10 gift certificates from every shop.

Every shop also has their own raffle baskets.  The tickets that come with your passport can be used for these raffles.  Also, when you buy a given amount at each shop, you can get extra raffle tickets for that shop.  Each shop also has part of a shawl pattern.  I think that was a neat idea, to have a Yarn Crawl pattern.  The only downside, at least to crocheter me,  is that its a knit pattern.  It would have been nice for them to offer both a knit and a crochet version. 

Diane picked me up at 9:30 and we headed off to the first shop of the day.  Our goal was all five shops in the Pittsburgh area.  The other two shops are in Ligonier and Grove City, which we decided were better as day trips by themselves.  Ultimately, we only managed four shops before we decided we’d had enough driving for the day.

First stop, Yarn By Design in Oakmont.  We weren’t the only ones there waiting for the shop to open.  It was the same at the other shops, according to the folks we talked to in our travels.   I’d only been to YBD once before.  It’s a nice little shop, with a decent selection.  Many samples of knitted items hung on the wall and were displayed throughout the shop.   Several different types of yarn were on clearance sale, but strangely the sale items were cash only.  Regularly priced items could still be paid for with plastic.  Diane picked up some antique gold and olive green fingering weight yarn for a motif sweater.  I picked up a pattern book (Mission Falls Goes Crochet)  by 3RC’s own Robyn Chachula.  I didn’t realize it was Robyn’s designs until Diane pointed it out and showed me the sample that she had crocheted. 

Second shop was Natural Stitches.  I’d been there a few years ago and had not felt particularly welcomed as a crocheter.  There had been very few books, tucked away in a corner, and most of them were of the ‘arts and crafts’ type.  Crochet I was told, when I asked about books on that previous visit, didn’t have very many good patterns for clothes.  Therefore I was not expecting much.

Wow, was I wrong!  Somewhere along the line Natural Stitches figured out that crochet was more than toys and afghans.  There were many crochet books and they were no longer hidden away in the corner.  There were also other yarn arts represented throughout the store, such as spinning and weaving.  The staff was very friendly and eager to be helpful.  There is a huge selection of yarn, including yarn that is very reasonably priced.  The wall of Cascade yarn was amazing.  Another nice feature is the information cards that are posted for all the different types of yarn.  The cards not only describe the yarn, they give approximate amounts needed for various projects.  The amounts are for knitting, but those amounts can still be used to estimate the amounts needed for a crochet project.  By the way, the whole crochet uses 3x the amount as knitting isn’t that accurate.  It just depends on the stitch being used.  Basic double crochet uses just a slight amount more than knitting. 
Diane picked up some very pretty pink yarn and she finally got a copy of The Book - Crochet One Skein Wonders, a favorite of 3RC.  I picked up the book Creating Crochet Fabric by Dora Ohrenstein.  The focus of the book is examining how different yarns create very different looks and textures.  Very informative and useful.


At this point, Diane and I were starting to think about lunch.  Natural Stitches had made a deal with some local restaurants, 10% discounts for yarn crawlers.  On the recommendation of staff at Natural Stitches, we headed to Union Pig and Chicken, a BBQ place.  The food there was fantastic!  Because Diane was doing the driving, I decided to get really wild and have a beer with my ribs. 


Full and well fed, Diane and I headed off to shop number three, Dyed in the Wool.

The trip to Dyed in the Wood didn’t go very smoothly.  My garmin went a bit wacky, recalculating at random and taking us on a bizarre round about route.  At long last, we found our way to Dyed in the Wool.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it was worth that much effort.  The shop is very small and cluttered.  Small doesn’t have to be a bad thing in a local yarn shop, but small does mean that its important to use the space you have wisely.  Placement seemed a bit haphazard.  It also contributed to a grungy feeling, as if the shop needed a good cleaning.  The woman behind the counter seemed far more interested in the knitting project she was working on than us.  Speaking of knitting, this is a knit shop.  Other yarn crafts aren’t really represented.  On a wall of knitting supplies, there were two pegs with just a few crochet hooks.  If there were crochet pattern books, I missed them.   On a positive note, the women who were sitting in the shop working on projects seemed to be regulars, enjoying themselves, chatting and knitting.  Diane bought a few skeins of yarn, I didn’t buy anything.


Our final stop of the day was Kid Ewe Knot.  Full disclosure, this is my regular yarn shop.  Its crochet friendly.  For example, they were the only shop so far that had crochet items in their raffle basket.  From my very first visit, I felt welcomed and the staff is knowledgeable and cordial.  Unfortunately, the person who created the unique hand dyed yarn for the shop is no longer doing so.  Kid Ewe Knot is making up for that by bringing in other lines of hand dyed yarn, some of them locally produced.  There is a great selection of yarn, with a nice range of prices.  Its very possible to get lovely yarn for a reasonable price.  There’s also higher end yarns for when you want to splurge a bit.   Despite having just been there last week for their Christmas in July event, I managed to find more yarn to buy.  Diane also found some yarn to add to her stash. 



Tired but pleased with our yarn crawling, Diane and I ended our day.  Four shops down, with three shops left for another day.

Shops are listed in alphabetical order:

Dyed In the Wool
3458 Babcock Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Kathy’s Kreations
141 East Main Street
Ligonier, PA 15658

Kid Ewe Knot
429 Washington Ave
Suite 4
Bridgeville, PA 15017

Natural Stitches
6401 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Yarns by Design
622 Allegheny River Boulevard
Oakmont, PA 15139

Yarns Unlimited
435 Beaver Street
Sewickley, PA

Wolf Creek Yarns
112 Blair Street
Grove City, PA 16127




Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

As a regular knitter, spinner and weaver at Dyed in the Wool, I happened to read your blog and feel I have to write a comment. I think your being lost on the way to Dyed in the Wool and your being tired might have colored your impression of the store. Yes, it is small, but it is cozy. It is not just knitting. It is spinning- did you check out the roving on the wall that you did not photograph? it is weaving- did you notice the scarves that were woven and serve as inspiration to those of us who are weavers? and it is giving- did you notice the hats hanging on the ceiling in your pictures that go to West Penn Hospital for the parents of babies either born or miscarried as remembrances of a child lost? I hope you and others come back to the store, where the owner and her staff have built a community of knitters, spinners and weavers and welcome crocheters.... we will welcome you and have you laughing and enjoying the art of making wonderful objects with our needles, looms, spindles and wheels. My email is if you want to reply.

Anonymous said...

I love Dyed In The Wool! It's my favorite yarn shop in the Pittsburgh area! Maybe I have a clearer perspective on this shop since I didn't visit it right after I ate a hearty rib, cornbread etc lunch at Union Pig & Chicken (their Meaty Mac is so good!) AND a side of Porkslap Ale (there's a reason they call it grog!) and then make a lengthy trek with an irritable navigation system to evaluate Dyed In The Wool. You wrote it was 'just' a small knitting's not just anyplace! Dyed In The Wool offers some of the most beautiful quality yarns locally and internationally...Eco friendly, organic Fair Trade yarns. You evidently missed (I'm blaming this on the Porkslap!) the looms and spinning wheels. Dyed In The Wool has introduced dozens of people to weaving and spinning with weaving and spinning clubs meeting monthly and being motivated by master teachers. It might be a small shop but it's big on professionalism, quality items and exceptional individuals who are always available for you. So...maybe before you have that next big lunch & ale...try Dyed In The Wool again...a small shop that offers BIG possibilities for people who want to indulge in quality fiber arts. (If you want to

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to lie, I had a somewhat similar experience at my one trip to Dyed in the Wool. I was so excited to visit the store and made a special trip to the North Hills, but didn't walk out with anything and haven't been back. I was the only customer in the store at the time other than a regular who was working on her knitting and a young girl who was in the middle of her knitting lesson. Despite hardly being busy, I felt like I was interrupting the two employees when I asked questions about what they carried. One actually scoffed at me when I asked if they carried Noro yarn.. I felt like I should have been embarrassed for asking! They were having a great time with the two they were knitting with, so maybe they're just not as friendly to newcomers as they are their regulars. The attitude and atmosphere didn't make me want to return, however. Maybe I will give it another chance since the other commenters think so highly of it.

I can't wait to read what you have to say after your visit to Yarns Unlimited. I will definitely be checking out Kid Ewe Knot in the near future!

Master Dramallamadingdong said...

Seriously though who eats a good lunch, has a beer, and goes to a yarn store?

Maybe give the store people some insight into what the negative experiences were, how you think they could improve (like being more welcoming to newbs, explaining some of what they do (personally and via use of signs by projects and causes they support).

And maybe tips on giving more elaborate replies when you ask, "Do you have a bathroom?"



Scifi Chris said...

To explain the bathroom comment - when I got to the shop I asked the woman behind the counter if there was a ladies room. She glanced up from her knitting, replied yes, and went back to her project. After an awkward pause, another person in the shop got up and showed me where the bathroom was.

Master Dramallamadingdong said...

What's gonna work? Teeeaamwork!