Friday, March 20, 2009

It's spring! Let's buy yarn.

We've had steamy jungle temperatures in the forties and fifties this week, but this morning, on the first day of spring, it was twenty-four degrees while I walked the dogs. Nevertheless, I discovered that enough snow and ice had melted to make the brick walkways along the Penobscot passable. We strolled beside the river for the first time since November, the plates of ice cracking and squeaking as they rubbed against each other, completely freaking out the dogs. Ducks sat in streaks of open water. The mud along the path thawed, releasing odors that had been safely encased in ice all winter. In Maine, March is a hopeful, smelly month.

It may soon be too warm to wear knitted hats and mittens, but I'm stockpiling for next Christmas. On this knitting and food blog that has turned into a mostly food blog, I wanted to take a minute to plug Fiberphilia in Orono. I've lived in lots of classy places, but I've never had a better local yarn shop. Their high-quality yarns are thoughtfully selected and neatly arranged, the range of vibrant colors and contrasting textures compelling me to run my hands over the shelves.

The owner lives upstairs with her family and a pack of cats. She and the other ladies at the shop are talented, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about knitting. Unlike the snoots I've encountered in yarn shops in New York and Boston, they are patient and encouraging teachers. I've taken several Saturday classes, learning how to make mittens and cables, and to knit fair isle patterns holding two colors of yarn in different hands like some kind of expert.

I love shopping at businesses like Fiberphilia, where people know your name and love what they do. Big chain craft stores give me a headache; the harried employees aren't familiar with the products and can't teach me anything. I worry for my favorite local businesses, several of which have closed in the last few months. I'm no economist, so I won't spend long on this soap box, but I encourage you to visit the locally-owned yarn shops, cafes, and bookstores that give your community character.

I'm off to sew together the pieces of a top-secret gift for a bridal shower tomorrow. Enjoy the warm weekend, and watch out for mud puddles.

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