Monday, April 25, 2005


In Germany, Schlaraffenland is "an imaginary land of great luxury and ease."* I don't remember all the details of the wonderful luxury and ease one was to be able to expect in Schlaraffenland, but it was the sort of a place where you could just lay about being lazy all day, and Bier and Wurst would practically float into your mouth. No beautiful spirtual enlightenment of nirvana this -- oh no, Schlaraffenland is all about wild indulgence, streets flowing with milk and honey, culinary pleasures and delights beyond your wildest dreams.

I have been to Yarn Schlaraffenland, and it is good. True, all the blissful, tactile pleasure that is to be had there is not free, but I can report that yarn virtually floats off the shelves and into your waiting arms, the aisles burst with untold beauties that lead you round and round in a seemingly uneneding maze of skein upon skein, and the comfortable couches and tables invite hours of abandonment into the throes of yarn lust and gluttony. Oh, and the coffee and donuts were actually free, come to think of it.

In the face of an unusual winter storm warning for Michigan, I decided to thumb my nose at danger and heed the siren call of a lot of good fiber, and I drove up to Lansing, Michigan from Dayton, Ohio for the weekend. (I am still in Dayton on the same loooong business trip. Can I go home yet?? I mean, c'mon -- I came, I saw, I bought yarn. What more can there be left to accomplish?)

Threadbear did not disappoint. I've been knitting for about three and a half years now, and I always make it a point to try to visit at least one yarn store each time I travel, so I've been in many a fine yarn store all over the country. And through all my travels, I have never found a yarn store that I thought could hold a candle to my beloved LYS, The Needlepoint Joint. But I must confess -- Threadbear wins hands-down when it comes to sheer, unadulterated, good old-fashioned yarn porn. Unending and towering displays of fibery goodness surround you on all sides, and the majority of their yarn stock is on display, practically spilling out of the shelves. It is dazzling and disorienting, and it is impossible not to spend more money than you really ought to. (For the record, in my opinion, The Needlepoint Joint is still queen of all the yarn shops I've seen when it comes to its incredible selection of books, its beautiful and warm atmosphere, and its dedication to offering excellent supplies and support for even "archaic" things like tatting and bobbin lace. And it really does have a kick-ass yarn assortment too.)

It's hard to imagine what awaits you inside as you approach the unassuming storefront in a small row of shops, and I knew it would be impossible to photograph the magnitude of what was inside, but Matt and Rob have really outdone themselves -- I mean, take a gander at the listing of yarns that they carry. It just goes on and on!

Then, as if all that yarn weren't enough, when I proceeded to check out with my purchases and met Matt and Rob at the front desk, they were both so friendly and gracious that they really made my road trip complete. I mean, it's not like I expected them to chase me out of the store with sticks or anything, but they were both so welcoming that it was truly a delight to be there. They were even quite genuinely enthusiastic about my Charlotte's Web shawl that I'd brought in to show them, since I bought the yarn to make it from them last year -- but of course I really have Matt's eye for color selection to thank for the beautiful outcome.

They even graciously posed for pictures with me (and my Charlotte, of course):

After wandering and filling my basket with what some might call restraint (well, okay, those "some" including, perhaps, the very wealthy and The Yarn Harlot), I grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut, kicked back in a comfy chair, and knitted for a couple of hours. As is normal in most every yarn shop I've ever been to (with a few very notable and unpleasant exceptions), I had a number of relaxed and enjoyable conversations with people of unusually varied backgrounds. And I knit, of course. Yes, it doesn't get much better than that, really. Oh, okay, it gets a little better, when closing time is coming, and you decide to buy a few last items. Well, really, it would be a crying shame to clock about 500 cumulative total miles of driving on a rental car and not come away with some serious yarn spoils, no?

"So, what did she buy," you are no doubt asking yourselves with baited breath.

Here is the yarn, lying in repose on the bed at the Sheraton in Lansing, in the state of comfort and dignity that such a haul undoubtedly deserves. (Lest at this point you begin to wonder if I'm a millionaire in disguise, remember that I'm forced to be in this neck of the woods on a business trip and therefore have a per diem allowance for hotel and food - so I just had to kick in a bit extra and got myself a nice room as a treat. And, no, don't worry -- I got a personal rental car, and your tax dollars didn't pay for any yarn. Well, technically they paid for all the yarn, inasmuch as your tax dollars pay my salary, but only in a truly perfect world would travel per diem include a yarn budget, and alas, we do not live in that world...)

This next pic is a bit closer. The pile here includes some lovely 100% wool Diakeito Diamusee from Japan (at the front bottom) in subtle shades of browns, pinks, burgundy, and even cream and an almost blue-ish grey. I think I'll probably use it to make one of those Multidirectional Diagonal Scarves that everyone was making on the knitblogs last year (including Theresa).

Clockwise from the Diakeito is some 100% new wool hand spun Naturwolle from the Black Forest in the Rosenholz colourway, which is full of browns and creams and pinks -- I was really quite taken with it the moment I saw it. I think it is destined to become a scarf and hat set as well.

At the top of the picture you can see three skeins of Rio de la Plata -- hand-spun, kettle dyed 100% pure new wool from Uruguay -- and just look at that irresistable 80s combination of black and fuschia! This may also be a scarf and hat, but I'm not sure.

Incidentally, it is a testament to the beauty of all this yarn that I am thinking of making scarves and hats, because I've been sort of "off" scarves and hats for a while now, having grown sick of them, but this stuff is making me feel inspired again.

Finally, on the right-hand side of the picture you can see a monster pile of Bouton d'Or Dandy. It's 70% wool/30% silk, and the color is Nocturne, a navy blue. This yarn has that lovely sheen that silk provides, and I'm hoping to make a sweater of some sort out of it.

The pile does contain a few other goodies, but I'm not going to reveal them, as they may become gifts.

So, in summary, it is fully worth a 4.5 hour drive to Lansing to visit Threadbear. The winter storm warning luckily brought only a manageable amount of snow, and I made it back to Dayton without mishap despite some snow, sleet, rain, and wind. I can now heartily recommend the Sheraton -- the bed was seriously more comfortable than my bed at home. And I even came away with yarn from three continents - none of them my own. Yes, it was a good weekend indeed.

Oh, and there was actual knitting. Here's my Son of Charlotte sock, preparing to get a good night's sleep on the Sweet Sleeper bed (TM, no doubt) at the hotel. I'm a good bit further along than this by now, but I'm too tired to take another picture.

*with thanks to LEO, which is an online free German-English dictionary from the Technische Universitaet in Munich, and Merriam-Webster online dictionary for the definition of the English equivalent word - Cockaigne. I had never heard of Cockaigne, but there you have it.