I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain the Yarn Safari concept to my coworkers last week. Perhaps understandably, the uninitiated find it strange to wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday, in order to get on a bus and ride two+ hours to a yarn shop in the company of 30 strangers.
Although when I was explaining the Safari to my coworker Awesome Meredith (who understands), another coworker looked over and said "Are you talking about yarn?" When I said "Yeah, why?", he said "I could tell by the look on your face."
He's starting to get it, I think.
And the knitters, they definitely understand. They know that behind this unassuming facade...
...lies a yarn shop usually spoken of in reverent whispers.
Despite the reverent whispers, I've resisted Webs for a while now. I knew they were cheap, but I thought of them as the big box retailer of knitting, menacing mom 'n pop yarn shops far and wide with their sheer size and ability to provide steep discounts.
What I found instead was a wonderful shop, with a warm, welcoming and knowledgable staff and, yes, very cheap yarn. They had set aside a room for us, knowing we would probably want a place to sit down with patterns and calculations. They gave us tape measures and Eucalan samples and mentioned that our room had a mirror if we wanted to see how a particular colorway looked against our faces.
One of the other knitters came in with a Lion Brand pattern that didn't specify the yardage per skein, so one of the staff members went online to the Lion site to check the yardage on the recommended yarn before helping her pick a substitute yarn for the project. They were that nice.
And the shop is very, very nice too.
Great yarns, great sample projects, an excellent selection of books, magazines and patterns. Not only do they have just about every yarn I've ever heard of (including many I had only read about), but they also have their own line, Valley Yarns, comparable to KnitPicks in variety and affordability.
But the real reason people go to Webs is the yarn warehouse. That's right, people. Yarn. Warehouse.
When the Yarn Harlot visited, she had been warned that Webs was overwhelming, and she had scoffed. Before visiting, she said "I'm sure it will be big. I bet it will be good, but it will not floor me. I am a Yarn Harlot. That means something." By the end of her sojourn, it was "When I am old, I shall live in the backroom at Webs and make myself a wool and mohair nest with a silk lining. It will be green and gold and soft." Does anyone else really wish they could be the Harlot when they grow up?
I actually had to leave my basket aside at several points to go outside and take deep breaths before resuming my shopping. It's amazing. They have Rowan, and Debbie Bliss and Auracaunia Nature Wool, and Alchemy Yarns, and many, many, many more yarns, all at fire sale prices. And almost all non-sale yarn is 20% off if you buy $60 or more. The discount knocked the price of Rowan yarn straight down from apalling to just barely an indulgence.
This is definitely the place to go if you're buying in sweater volume, as I was...
I got a sweater's worth of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed in the most intriguing orangey-brown, with gold and pink flecks, and another sweater's worth of Classic Elite Skye Tweed in an orange and blue-flecked raspberry. And, well, possibly another sweater's worth of Rowan Felted Tweed in a heathery blue-speckled purple.
Do you notice a theme? When I decide I like something, I do not mess around.
As if that wasn't enough...The first stop on the safari (the "mystery" part) was Wonderful Things, a perfectly nice yarn shop in Great Barrington. Even though I was going to Webs, I thought it would be rude to leave without buying anything (yeah, that's it). I limited myself to these two skeins from their truly impressive wall of sock yarn:
Superwash Me Light Sock from J. Knits, in colors Reno and Colorado. Because sock yarn doesn't count.
As we were driving back to Boston, people's yarn kept popping out of their bulging bags in the overhead bins. As yet another skein leapt out into the aisle, one of the knitters commented dryly "wow, it's an actual yarn-over."
And those are exactly the moments the Muggles will never understand.
Special thanks to the Yarn Safari ladies for being charming, funny, well-organized, and playing Wallace and Gromit shorts on the bus ride home. They're also organizing trips to Mass. Sheep and Wool, NH Sheep and Wool AND Rhinebeck. Carless Bostonians (or Bostonians that would just prefer to knit, rather than drive) should definitely check them out.