Los Angeles Yarn Safari

My extended stay in Los Angeles continues and I didn’t have any specific plans for the weekend, so I decided to go on a yarn safari. I had a rough idea to get some sock yarn to make the Bee’s Knits Ruby hoodie but other than that, it was just an adventure. And it happened to be an odd rainy day as well, so I wasn’t giving up any sun soaking time. My hotel is near LAX, so I mapped out a handful of yarn shops on the west side (Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica) and set out. These are my travel notes:

1) Beach Knitting, Manhattan Beach. A few parking spaces in the back with an entrance through the stock room. Open airy store. Several couches and a big coffee table for a nice knitting nook in the back. Good selection of books. Modest selection of novelty yarns, several hand dyed sock yarns (Lorna’s Laces, maybe Claudia Handpaint), nice wools. Staff introduced themselves to me when I entered.

2) Slipt Stitch, El Segundo. Free 2 hour street parking. Crowded small store with stock to the ceiling, square bins piled with yarn, hard to see full selection. Small knitting table at front for stitch and bitch that greeted me when I entered. Tiny amount of Koigu, a few other handpaints. Nice selection of Cascade. More acrylic and novelty yarn than I would like. Knit samples all over the place. Some books and patterns crowded in near cash wrap. Didn’t look them over as I felt somewhat claustrophobic.

3) Azalia’s Yarn, Culver City. Storefront empty.

4) A Mano Yarn, Mar Vista. Free street parking. Small shop, densely stocked, cluttered feel. Boxes of unpacked stock shipment all around. Large table in front for stitch and bitch that was hosting a sweater class when I was there. Was greeted when I came in. Knitted samples everywhere. Huge selection of Koigu KPPPM, large Cascade selection, lots of Lorna’s Laces (not just sock yarn), Karabella. A wide variety of yarns I’ve never seen before. Good color selections in all carried. I found the sock yarn for Ruby here. And also walked away with some Lorna’s Shepherd Worsted and Karabella Chameleon in an odd purple/pink/lime green mix that I couldn’t put down. Don’t know what I’ll do with it. Got the Lorna’s for another EZ Baby Surprise. Was feeling motivated to start working on it ASAP, so I wound the yarn at the store and started asking around for the pattern at the shops I visited.

5) Yarns Unlimited, Santa Monica. Metered street parking (4 mins per nickel). Well stocked shop, tall walls. Room in back with large knitting table. Tons of novelty yarns. Most other yarns are acrylic blends (Bernat, Patons, Lion Brand). Honestly don’t recall if I saw pure wool at all. Pattern selection seemed to be mostly magazines and leaflets. Didn’t bother asking about EZ pattern.

6) Wild Fiber, Santa Monica. Metered street parking (4 mins/nickel). Large open airy stylish store. Very inviting, space to wander and fantasize about projects. Seemed to be mostly organized by manufacturer. Large island of Manos. Wall of Rowan. Wall of Koigu. Also Karabella, Debbie Bliss. Balls of bright colored roving stored decoratively on tops of shelves. Huge book and pattern area. Knitting/class area in back room behind a curtain. Didn’t see what was going on, clearly not a drop-in kind of thing. Had to interrupt employees at cash wrap to ask about EZ pattern. They didn’t have it.

7) L’Atelier, Santa Monica. Tiny parking lot, street parking. Small store, table filled with stitch and bitch. Store packed with people. Felt somewhat cluttered. The stock was all novelty yarns and luxury cashmere blends. No workhorse yarns at all that I could see (no Cascade or other wools, no simple cottons). I asked about the EZ pattern and the woman had no idea who I was talking about (I had to repeat “Elizabeth Zimmerman”). I visited this store 5ish years ago when I still lived in L.A. I recall they had better stock then and more of it. The table replaced several rows of shelving that they used to have. Shame. Because I found nothing appealing in this store.

8) Knit Knacks Plus, Santa Monica. Address didn’t exist.

9) Stitches from the Heart, Santa Monica. Metered street parking (4 mins/nickel). Small open store, stitch and bitch table at front. Was greeted when I entered. Mostly acrylics. But also tons of Alpaca bulky by several manufacturers. Small amount of interesting handpaint Manos-like yarn. Also had a Noro look-alike. Seemed to be randomly stocked. As it’s a store-front for a non-profit yarn charity, the wealth of acrylics made sense. Lots of discussion about all the charity projects the store had done.

10) Needlepoints West, Westchester. Street parking and large free lot down the block. A small disclaimer. I saved this store for last because I used to frequent it a lot when I lived in L.A. Back before I learned to crochet and knit, when I did a lot of cross-stitch. And it was my mecca. Lots of patterns and supplies. The storefront moved a few doors down while I was there and then the owner sold the shop just before I moved away. So when it popped up on my search for “yarn stores”, I was hesitant. It never had yarn before. Well, it does now. It still focuses mostly on needlepoint and cross-stitching. In fact, I think the supplies and stock for these crafts may be better and more nicely organized than ever. Although I thought the pattern section was less than it used to be. As for yarn, there is a small but respectable stock. What used to be the classroom at the back is now a yarn room. I noted a lot of alternative yarns - soy blends. I almost bought a ball of Tofutsies just because it’s made with chitin (shellfish).

As it was still sort of early, I went back to the first two stores to see if they had the EZ pattern or a solid yarn to match my sock yarn for Ruby. Slipt Stitch had an EZ book, but not the pattern. And they had some solid sock yarns, but none a good match. Beach Knitting had closed at 4pm. On a Saturday.

I’m spoiled.

In Boston, I have several stores I rely on for the basics. And they are well stocked. Wild and Woolly in Lexington satisfies my needs for anything but sock yarn (they never seem to order more than a pair’s worth in any “sock” yarn). I rely on A Good Yarn in Brookline for that. Now, I know that the Los Angeles climate isn’t suited for heavy wools. But no wools at all? And a poor selection if any? (Someone should tell L’Atelier that novelty yarns are out and felting is HOT!) I saw a decent amount of mercerized cottons at most places. But I didn’t even notice lace yarns anywhere.

I saw Artyarns and Malabrigio somewhere. Several places had a variety of Noro yarns. No one had any Dale yarns (and I was really hoping for Dale Baby Ull for my solid Ruby yarn). Most of the baby yarn I saw was DB Baby Cashmerino. That was stocked just about everywhere.

I tried to imagine which stores would serve me if I were to move back to L.A. I think A Mano is up there, despite the cluttered feeling (reminded me a little too much of Woolcott & Company in Cambridge which always puts me off with the clutter and struggle). Although this was the only store that compelled me to really look at things. I picked up a bunch of stuff that I didn’t buy. The owner clearly had a good eye. I think I’d also visit Wild Fiber again. But neither store would be the first place I’d head to when starting a project like Wild & Woolly is. The list of L.A. yarn stores is still quite long, I guess I’d have to keep looking. ;)