Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Good Yarn

My deferred birthday present this year (rescheduled because of inclement weather last month) was an Audubon-sponsored eagle-watching tour of the Connecticut River, leaving from Haddam, Connecticut.

On our drive from Rhode Island to the point of embarkation (opposite that Victorian jewel-box, the Goodspeed Opera House), we fortuitously passed another charming nineteenth-century building (also in Haddam) featuring the unmistakable sign of the sheep, and all my antennae were a-quiver. Except for it being 8.20 a.m. and that we had to tour at 9 a.m. and that the Connecticut Yarn and Wool Company ( wasn't open so early anyway, I would have demanded an immediate halt to our progress. However, H genially agreed to chauffeur me there ex post facto, much to my delight.

Readers, I could scarce concentrate on viewing the magnificent bald eagles, nesting, perching, and flying along the beautiful stretch of Connecticut River between Haddam and Essex, nor the mute swans, red-tailed hawks, black ducks, goldeneye ducks, mallards, mergansers, cormorants, turkey vultures, black vultures, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, and various gulls that were sighted during the two-hour cruise, consumed as I was by thoughts of exploring another LYS in the immediate future! What I will say, however, is if the only bald eagle you've ever seen is that depicted on the one-dollar bill, I highly recommend a trip like this, to develop a personal acquaintance with the majestic creature. (Info at

By 11.20 we were on our way into the Connecticut Yarn and Wool Company (CYWC), housed in a ca. 1832

The establishment makes an excellent first impression on the knitting aficionada, as its front door, painted an alluring vermillion, is flanked on one side (not visible in photo) by a cadre of porch rockers, where knitters may sit in pleasant weather, and on the other by brimming shelves of yarn. The business is self-described, on its website, as

a collectively owned and operated store with locations in Haddam and Madison...founded and operated by local knitters.

(My heart thrills at these last six words!)

The CYWC specializes in Farmhouse Yarns . These yarns are perhaps the most distinctive hand-dyed yarns I've yet encountered. Their inspired colorways invite deep contemplation as well as project visioning. The yarn textures, regardless of weight and ply, are lovely to touch, and full of character. (One of them is instructively called "Lumpy Bumpy," but not all the yarns have that thick-and-thin quality. Many are smooth and elastic, such as the 80% merino-20% nylon "Fannie's Fingering" yarn--Fannie is a sheep-- a 400-yard skein of which I purchased for $24.) The skeins of most of the yarns I saw tended to be at least double the size of most standard commercial brands.

Apart from the very special and individual character of the local yarns at CYWC (the shop also sells a small selection of non-local yarns, including a nice Peruvian alpaca), there's another distinguishing characteristic. The collective sponsors free workshops on specific projects or techniques, and general knitting help every day of the week. (A calendar of these is on the homepage of the website.) My readers know how I feel about the practice of charging for knitting help. Whenever I find a LYS that promotes positive energy through the charitable sharing of knitting knowledge, I am both delighted and reassured. So bravo to the Connecticut Yarn and Wool Company, 85 Bridge Road, Haddam CT 06438. (860) 345-9300.

There's a sister store in Madison, Connecticut that I plan to visit in the not-too-distant future. Billy, the genial young man who showed me around the Haddam store, says it's very small and features discounted/odd lot yarns. Even so, it's also a venue for knitting workshops and free advice.

On the right, a wall of beautiful color at the Connecticut Yarn and Wool Company!

And here is Rufus, posing with some of the first crocuses and our skein of Fannie's Fingering yarn.

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