As I mentioned in my first post, one of the things I’m really excited about is reviewing Local Yarn Stores (LYS). For years now, I’ve loved to seek out an LYS, any LYS, in cities where we’ve vacationed. I tend to buy a skein of yarn or a book and count it as my trip souvenir. Sometimes it’s just something pretty; other times I try to make it locally significant – like when I bought Warm Knits, Cool Gifts at Wabi-Sabi in Ottawa in 2012 because the authors were from Ottawa. (Not going to do a review on Wabi-Sabi at this point – it was too long ago now for me to do it justice, but I remember they had some CRAZY stuff. I’ll revisit and review if I get back to Ottawa anytime soon.)
Now that I’m back in the U.S. after being in a place without any real LYS for more than a year, I was frantic to get to an LYS. Many LYS, for that matter. And in particular, I wanted to go to The Knitting Boutique in Glen Burnie, MD. Even though I went on their first wonderful retreat weekend on MD’s Eastern Shore in February 2013, I had never actually been to the store. Shameful, I know. So I finally made the trek with my best friend and our three total small children on Sunday, September 28.
Now, before I even set foot in the door, I knew this was a store that was doing a lot of things right. I’d already experienced their amazing retreat, and I knew they’d done lots of market research before ever opening their doors about what customers and students want. They weren’t going to open a yarn store just because they felt like it – it had to have a shot at being viable. Another thing they’ve added recently is their very own yarn line, named for rivers in Maryland, which impresses me to no end. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to walk in and find that roughly half the store has been given over to the Boutique exclusive line of yarns. There’s some truly gorgeous stuff here – including one that made me lose all reason called Potomac, a blend of baby camel, merino, and silk that I plan to use to design a shawl. (When I brought it to the checkout, the store employee said, “Oh, you found the good stuff!”) The Knitting Boutique also runs some yarn clubs where you get yarn and exclusive patterns shipped to you throughout the year. They’ve managed to get several top-notch designers to work with them, which always increases exposure.
The first thing I did was apologize for bringing “three maniac children,” explaining it was either bring them, or don’t come at all… and everyone was very gracious about it. We managed to zombiefy the kids for a bit with my IPad on a comfy and convenient couch, but I would love to visit again without children in tow.
As I said, one half of the store, roughly, is devoted to Boutique exclusive yarns, which you can also order on their website, and the other half is for some lovely commercial yarns, which you can’t. There’s one big table for what appeared to be consultations with an employee, another seating area with a TV and fireplace (and mantle with hand-knit Christmas stocking already hung!), a place to get coffee and tea that they will very bravely let you carry around the store (with a lid on, of course), and a couple of classrooms in the back, with doors. As someone who’s taught knitting before in a shop that didn’t really have a constant, dedicated teaching space, I know this must be a relief for both the instructors and the students.
I went a little nuts, buying three skeins of the Potomac DK in Natural, a skein of Severn Fingering in Robin’s Egg that will be a gift as is for a knitter friend, and two skeins of Anacostia fingering in Spring and Ranch that I plan to use to design some socks. Because I’d been craving making this pilgrimage for so long, I didn’t really hold back and purposely focused on the Boutique exclusive yarn side of the store, because that’s what makes them extra-special.
I did, however, also walk away with a skein of Biscotte & Cie’s Felix self-striping sock yarn in the Poisson Tang colorway from the commercial side of the store. (Hmm. There appears to be a Canadian theme to this post I didn’t anticipate.) It will probably turn into outrageous blue-and-yellow stripey socks for my husband to wear with his suits to work.
Things That Could Be Improved
Not that many actually – I’m having to work hard at this, which is a good sign for the Knitting Boutique!
- Someone brought their maniac small children. 🙂
- The store was very busy on a Sunday, with lots of shoppers, classes, and customers, so I felt a little lost. Again – a sign they’re doing things right! I will say that I was able to get an employee’s attention whenever I needed it.
- The Boutique yarns could be organized better. I picked up a skein of one of the bases, then looked at the test swatch next to it… and it did not compute. The swatch just looked heavier. I got the owner’s attention, asking, “Am I crazy?” and it turns out that the bases come in several different weights each. However, this isn’t very clearly labeled on the shelves, or on the skein labels, for that matter. When I initially drafted this post, I thought the labels didn’t tell you if you’re dealing with sport, DK, worsted, etc. You have to compare the weight-to-yardage ratio on the labels. The more yards per weight, the lighter the yarn. However, when I photographed my purchases above, I realized that the weight is on the price tag sticker which is stuck to the main label, just not on the main label itself. Since the main label DOES have that weight-to-yardage ratio, which logically should differ for different weights, I can’t imagine that they use one main label per yarn base for efficiency, so it would be nice if the weight name (sport, DK, worsted) was right there on the main label, big and bold. Which leads me into my next point…
- The exclusive yarn line is a fairly new venture, so they may still be working out some of the kinks. As I mentioned, I *believe* some of them started as part of the Boutique’s luxury yarn club and only later became individual skeins you could buy in the store. I found evidence that some of the skein sizes had changed in that process. There was a lovely shawl on display that used the same Potomac yarn I bought. Since I also want to design a shawl, I was looking at the size of that one and trying to figure out how many skeins I needed to accomplish what was in my head. After talking to a helpful employee, I found that the skein in the display shawl, which had been part of the luxury club, did not match the yardage of the skein in my hand. However, now that the exclusive line is getting a little more established, I have a feeling this discrepancy will disappear over time – and the yarns really are scrumptious.
The Knitting Boutique is located in a non-descript and empty-feeling office park right off I-97 and just minutes from BWI airport at 910 Cromwell Park Drive, Suite 108 in Glen Burnie, MD. In fact, if you had a long layover at BWI, you could easily catch a cab over for some quick shopping. (Seriously. BWI security check-in is fast. Go for it.)
Finally, apologies for not having pictures of the store itself. When I visited, I was still fighting with myself against creating this blog, so I didn’t take any. Trust me when I tell you the place was hopping, and if you want photos, you can visit the Knitting Boutique website.