Sunday, July 25, 2010

ST. LOUIS, MO

Knit Me in St. Louis

This is actually a great fiber and food town. Who knew? You do, now. Come along on my latest adventure...

DAY ONE: Friday
After settling into your lodgings of choice--a downtown hotel with a view of the arch in my case--it’s time to get the first order of business out of the way: no, not yarn, food.

All kinds of culinary goodies got their start (either by invention of popularization) in St. Louis, including the ice cream cone and Dr. Pepper. Both of these got their launch at the 1904 World’s Fair, along with a host of other foods we all know and love. Lots of folks will tell you St. Louis lays claim to toasted ravioli, too. Not that I’d suggest doing the “Very Hungry Caterpillar” approach and combining all three into a psychotic-yet-theme-based meal. We’ve got thee days, so pace yourself.

Sugar fix first, so find your way to:

MacArthur’s Bakery
3055 Lemay Ferry Road
St. Louis, MO 63125
314-894-0900

My sources say the chocolate-strawberry cake is to die for, and very affordably priced. This is the go-to wedding cake establishment, they tell me. You can pick up a light lunch here, too, if you’re the kind of person who has to pretend at nutrition. Me, cake for lunch sounds just fine. Especially since we’re going to do “old school” burger for diner.

Lick your fingers and continue on to our first yarn store:

Hearthstone Knits

11429 Concord Village Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63123-6907
314-849-YARN

hearthstoneknitsonline.com

Sometimes you walk into a yarn store and wonder if you’ll come out with lavender yak lace-weight or some other exotic thing you’ll regret by next week. Other times you know you’re in a store where the staff won’t let you make a mistake like that. Our first stop is definitely in the latter. I had the privilege of watching Hearthstone’s owner Georgia coach several customers into very astute purchases--some against their own impulsive judgement. This woman is a true resource. The fact that the store’s been in business for almost 20 years should tell you something. Knowledgeable and friendly, this is one of those stores where they’ll patiently walk you through how to fix your totally botched entrelac. I heard one customer say, “When I need help, I know this is where I can get it.”

Georgia keeps a well-rounded shop, choosing her yarns for “quality and a satisfying experience. I want things that will look good for a long time.” With fibers to feed beginners to fanatics, I adored that she called her shop “an adult petting zoo.” Georgia wants her customers to be “engaged” with their knitting, to feel inspired to take a new skill step, and she offers a load of classes to do just that.



Our Knit-Along from Hearthstone will be some very kicky socks in one of Georgia’s own patterns (she’s had quite a few things show up in Knit N’ Style, you know). Done up in "Crazy Foot" from Mountain Colors. I’m looking forward to toasting my toes in these this fall.





If you want something a little less basic, try your hand at the stunning Lace Capelet from this past spring’s Vogue Knitting.
I know I was drooling over that one myself, wanting to surround myself in that luxurious Debbie Bliss Prima yarn. Georgia’s going to be a good resource for you as you take this one on; she’s developed a couple of very clever tricks in getting that pattern to completion.









If you want to dip your toes--or is it poke your needles--into another of Georgia’s own published designs, check out the sumptuous Christening Gown and Bonnet from the April 2009 Knit N’ Style. Lucky the little one who starts life with this ensemble of gown and bonnet indeed!





My eye was instantly drawn to the clever Rain Drop Sweater, yet another of Georgia’s designs, done up in Lana D’Oro by Cascade.



As for gadgets? The adorable handmade stitch markers hit the spot for me. I’m a sucker for anything with a sheep on it. There were several months where my ring-tone was a sheep going “baaa,” until it began to get me more stares than I could handle.

After you’ve indulged your fiber fantasies, you won’t have to go far--and you certainly won’t have to dress up.

Next Door:
Concord Grill
11427 Concord Village Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63123-6907

(314) 849-5239
Just steps away is, as Georgia put it, "a really good burger.” Over 28 different varieties, to be exact. I especially love when I get references to fabulous places I’d have completely missed otherwise, and the great-but-basic Concord Grill offers “old school burgers and out of this world hand cut seasoned fries.” Yum.

After dinner, find your way to our next stop:
Crestwood Court
109 Crestwood Plaza
St Louis, MO 63126-1701
(314) 962-2395
Ingenious folk have turned this old mall into a very cool arts space open 5-9 on Friday nights.

Sugar, Fiber, Grease, & Art. Yep, I think that about covers all the bases, don’t you? Head on back to your lodgings and cast on if you like, but remember there’s more tomorrow.




DAY TWO: Saturday

Spend the morning wandering the historic Layafette Square district, taking in the shops and historic buildings. West of Truman Parkway and south of Choteau Avenue, there were dozens of places to shop and wander. Wind your morning up with lunch at:

Lafayette Fire Company No. 1
1801 Park Ave.
St Louis, MO 63104
www.lafayettefirecompany.com
(314) 621-5001

I’m told the fried banana cake is why you’re here, although lots of other things look good on the menu. The cool thing about this place is that they’ll ask you if you’d like to round your bill up to the nearest dollar, and the restaurant donates the difference to several charities. How satisfying is that? Food and philanthropy--not a bad way to start the day


By the way, if you had a great lunch, you can thank the friendly fiber fiends at The Greater St. Louis Knitters’ Guild, one of the oldest and largest guilds in the country boasting over 400 members. My new friends Robyn and Elizabeth gave me the heads up. You’d do well to check the Guild out while in town, as they have lots of pubic events like knit-ins and workshops. Especially right now as they have a spectacular Summer's Last Blast Yarn Crawl July 30 - August 1 featuring all three of the stores we visit for this episode. Check them out--a friendly bunch with talent to spare!

After lunch, pile your well-fed and well shopped self into the car and travel to today’s fiber fix:

Knitorious
3268 Watson Road
St. Louis, MO 63139-2459
www.knitorious.com
314-646-8276
How can you not love a yarn store with a party room? Sandy Kulash’s welcoming personality infuses Knitorious with a contagious energy that makes you think you might actually master the kitcher stitch after all. Organized by vender with a monstrous selection, this store has an artistic, friendly feel. The enormous class space lets you know they take pride in helping knitters take the next step in their craft. They’ve also become a haven for harried parents of nearby children’s hospital, teaching many a stressed out mom what we all know: knitting is the perfect balm for all the sitting and waiting medical trauma brings. It’s just a warm, fuzzy place. Sandy has cool artsy stuff right alongside “utility yarns” for basics or beginners.

Speaking of utility, our Knit-Along from Knitorious is a very useful Market Bag from Plymouth Yarn Company. I especially liked the reinforced square bottom of the bag as well as the cheerful selection of colors (who wants dreary utility?) Fantasy Naturale 100% cotton provides. I hear the farmer’s market calling to me, and I haven’t even cast on yet!




Want a slightly bigger project? Check out Ruth Sorensen’s absolutely stunning Kauni sweater in Denmark’s Kauni Shetland Wool. This one really caught my eye, as it did evidently of the famous Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Her exploits with this gorgeous project are well documented, and because the yarn can be challenging to find, Knitorious is a asset to be sure. When I grow up, I want to knit this sweater.

It’s probably more my speed to take on the Noro Mini Knits baby sweater. Don’t be fooled by how Silk Garden feels at first--it washes up soft and fluffy. Any tiny person in your family would be very fortunate to wrap themselves in this miniature masterpiece.

For gadgets, here’s your chance to pick up the newest model of the Knit Kit, now out in a lovely blue (for those of us who own two of each of the other colors...ahem...not that I’m admitting to anything). Although I have to say, I loved the locking stitch counter and I’m sorry to see that feature go--but I’m thrilled to see the addition of a tapestry needle. How many of us ended up throwing one of our own tapestry needles in that back compartment??


OK now, DestiKNITers, I’m warning you. Tonight is serious food.

Stellina Pasta Cafe
3342 Watson Road
St Louis, MO 63139-2000
314-256-1600
www.stellinapasta.com
Wander father down (or is it up?) Watson Road, keeping your eye out for the unassuming storefront of Stellina Pasta Cafe. I know, it doesn’t look like much from the front, but trust me on this...this place has awesome food. In fact, on a Saturday night, you might well know it from the crowd out front. But if you time it right with the closing of Knitorious at 5, you should be fine. Outstanding homemade pasta awaits you. This was far and away the best meal I had in St. Lous, and one of my very favorite reasons for DestiKNITions--some place I’d have never have found without the wise counsel of Sandy’s recommendation. Take yourself to the edge of carbo coma, but don’t indulge in desert...we’ve big plans for that.


Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
6726 Chippewa
St. Louis, MO 63109
(314) 481-2652
www.teddrewes.com
Go a bit farther on Watson to the famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard--center of the frozen confection universe. The crowd is a dead give-away--no problem finding this place. Our Stellina waitress suggested a "concrete" in some odd concoction of flavors I’d never have put together: raspberry hot fudge, and pistachio. It was absolute heaven. Go there every night you’re in town. No one would blame you and it’d be worth every ounce you pack on. Seriously. Not that I went there twice in one day or anything. 'Cuz I did. And I'm not one bit sorry.


DAY THREE: Sunday

Ah, the Sunday caffein fix...staple in any DestiKNITions itinerary. We’ll spend today in Kirkwood, so begin your day at the delicious:

Kaldi’s Coffee
120 S. Kirkwood Road

Kirkwood, MO 63122
(314)821.0087
www.kaldiscoffee.com
My first impression of this place was my favorite: I walked in the door to find someone knitting. Hard to beat that, but the friendly barista, when asked for a suggestion, introduced me to “gooey butter cake.” Oh my. Now, it’s hard to get my attention with something that isn’t chocolate, but this thick, sugary, coffee-cakish concoction did the trick. The place has an energetic, friendly vibe...not the “you might not be cool enough to hang out here” vibe some coffeebars can give off. I felt welcomed and clever for having sought it out. Of course, the real whipped cream on my mocha went far sight toward fetching my favor, too.

Now it's time to pretend we’re care about nutrition by sauntering over to:
Kirkwood Farmer’s Market
150 E Argonne (Taylor & Argonne)
Kirkwood, MO 63122
822-0084
http://www.downtownkirkwood.com/kirkwood-farmers-market.asp
Sunday hours can be iffy and vary by vendor, so if you’re really into farmer’s markets do this on Saturday when everything is sure to be open. There are several lovely stores within eyesight if there aren’t many vendors open or fruits and veggies aren’t your thing. Actually, this is a full-time farmers market so you can visit any day...even with special seasonal focuses like a Christmas market and a fall pumpkin patch. Stock up on garden goodies to take home, but once high noon hits, ditch the nutrition and head straight for:


Tropical Moose Shaved Ice
www.tropicalmoose.com
While I was not stout enough to trying the intriguing “Monkey Snot” flavor, I did go for “Tiger Blood” and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Now, I’m generally not a popsicle/icee/shaved ice fan, but this stuff locals call “TroMo” is far more enjoyable than I expected. Like Ted Drewes, the line tells you it’s worth the wait. Absolutely the most refreshing thing you can imagine on hot summer’s afternoon. Even the $2 small buys you the biggest brain freeze in the county, near as I can tell. I wouldn’t risk the large without a neurologist present!

If you need some actual food, double back to the recommended
La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill
140 S Kirkwood Rd
Kirkwood, MO 63122
(314) 821-8890
lasalsastl.com
My sources tell me the Stuffed Fajita Quesadilla is the thing to order here, but the charming outdoor seating looked like it would make anything taste good. Actually, this downtown and the adjacent farmers market were the recommendations for one of the favorite places to knit in public.


Whatever you do, make sure you leave yourself enough time to devote to today’s Yarn shop, because it closes at 4pm on Sundays:


Kirkwood Knittery
10724 Manchester Rd.
Kirkwood/St. Louis, MO 63122
314-822-7222
www.kirkwoodknittery.com

Some yarn shops just take things a notch higher. You walk in and the place not only oozes “craft,” it oozes “artistry” and even “mastery.” Kirkwood Knittery is one of those places, but not to the point where you feel you aren’t qualified to walk in the door. At Kirkwood Knittery, it’s more like inspiration than anyone looking down their needles at you. You want to hang around and hope the talent rubs off. Master designer Brooke Nico--you must have been drooling over her stunning beach coverup on page 65 of the Spring/Summer Vogue Knitting like I was--makes you want to be a better knitter, and believe me, Brooke and her partner Susie Kinsella are eager to empower you. The shop is a friendly riot of color, pulling you in with lots of locally distinct yarns and inspiring examples. “I’m not going to cast on for you...you’re going to be independent and think for yourself,” claims Susie, and you believe her. You’ll come away from your visit to Kirkwood Knittery a better knitter. With a full class schedule from basics to a serious 8-week design seminar (complete with a load of homework!), you’ll find what you need to be a self-sufficient knitter here. A fanatic’s paradise. But not so much that if you flub up, they won’t let you back. Oh, and don’t miss the way-cool clear tote bags for your goodies, complete with pockets for all your gadgets.


Our Knit-Along from Kirkwood Knittery is this stunning Elizabethan Collar, done up in Diacosta acrylic/rayon blend for fabulous drape. It’s the perfect thing to turn an ordinary shirt into an eye-catcher, especially with the elegant colors Diacosta offers. You’ll need a button for this, so make sure you check out Kirkwood’s truly awe-inspiring collection.



Got a stash filled with odds and ends? The Rolling Hills Shawl is the perfect place to use up a load of like-colored solitary worsted skeins. It’s a customer favorite, and is one of those designs that makes you look like a knitting ninja even if you’re not...yet.

If you’re new to the craft, check out the Giotto Scarf for an impressive offering done up in the ribbony Colinette Giotto yarn of the same name. The vibrant color selections make it easy to whip up a dramatic statement with some pretty basic stitching.

Feeling artsy? Opt for the Origami Shawl in Blue Heron Rayon Loop. Ask the staff to show you all the ways you can wear this shawl, and enjoy its near-liquid drape on your own shoulders once you’re done.

Want to have the coolest stitch-marker/row counter in town? Check out the Lacis Lace Knitting Chain Row stitch marker. It’s sort of like a stitch-marker abacus. A bit of a learning curve, but think how impressed your friends will be when you try to explain it to them. Anything that makes me look smart is always a hit with me.



There’s your three fiber-fab days in St. Louis. Really, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this city...there’s more out there worth finding. If you’ve got a favorite store we missed, a desert we didn’t cite, or anything else worth suggesting, comment away!

Next up: I cast on the Farmers’ Market bag from Knitorious.
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