Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Yarn Shops

I so wanted to start this post: "It was the best of shops.  It was the worst of shops."  But couldn't.  At first glance, both shops are lovely.

Let me back up a bit.

I got a phone call from my sister, Steph, who lives in Orlando this past Sunday.  One of her best friends (an only child) mom had died suddenly of a massive heart attack.  Steph has always been the social butterfly of the family who can become best friends with someone in practically an instant (she will chat up anyone).  I think of her as the 'Chatty Kathy' (sorry to all the Kate's, Kathy's, Katherine's and Kattie's out there.  My name is Susan (lazy Susan) so I understand but you know how it goes) of the family.  However, even with all of the people she 'friends' she really has a core group of people who are her BFF's and for them she will do anything.  So, when her BFF Vicki called at what has to be one of the worst times in a person's life Steph said she would be here for her.  She was calling me to let me know that she would be flying in to Philly in two days.  Mom & Dad were going to pick her up.

Now, I love my parents dearly faults and all.  But the drive to Philly is 2 hours each way and the PA Turnpike between here and there is hilly and twisty.  The drive out would be in daylight but the return trip would be at night.  My Dad will be 68 in a few months and while his health is generally good (he had a mild stroke a few years ago) he does not have complete use of his left hand and (let's face it) shouldn't be on the highway for 4+ hours when someone else is available.

I was available.  And, since her flight wasn't due to arrive until a little after 5 in the evening there was plenty of time to stop in at a Philly yarn shop.  Maybe two if I left early enough!

Well, the weather yesterday did not match my enthusiasm.  It was dark, grey, cloudy, overcast, foggy, wet, and rainy.  A perfect day to stay in bed with a good book or some warm knitting.  But I was on a mission and taking Max with me.

I contacted Ann (a twitter friend who lives in Philly) for her thoughts on the Philly yarn scene.  I had visited Loop a few years ago.  While I liked that shop I wanted to see others.  There were logistics involved including actual location and also the availability of parking.  All of the shops she recommended that are in Philly she had been to herself and could vouch for the pros and cons of each having experienced them.  There was one other she knew of in the suburbs but she hadn't personally been to...

A Garden of Yarn is in the suburb of Chadd's Ford just outside of West Chester.  This is the "I've got money and am not afraid to prove it" side of the street when it comes to Philly suburbs.  It took us a while to find as some of the roads in PA seem to have been marked and/or numbered by someone's drunk uncle with a math/directional impairment.  But we found it.  To paraphrase a review I found of this place online, "It is a beautiful little shop nestled amongst other beautiful little shops in a quaint shopping village".

First of all, I didn't think this shop was "little".  Not compared to the square footage of most of the other LYS's I have been to where they have to creatively use every square inch for display.

Secondly, It is a gorgeous shop.  They have a very broad selection of yarns, though very little sock yarn and no local indie dyers.  The yarns they do carry were very nicely displayed.  Arranged by color in some interesting ways.  They had some hand painted wool that I would have plunked some serious cash down on except for one little problem....

They were so f***ing rude as to not even say, "Hello" or greet me in ANY way when we walked into the store!!!  I don't walk into business establishments with my head down hoping they don't see me.  Nor, am I a tiny, petite, whisp-of-a-woman.  I wore my Noro February Lady sweater for f*** sake.  They completely ignored me!  It was only after I had wandered around the entire shop that one of the women came over and complemented my sweater.  And then walked away again without so much as asking if I was looking for something in particular!  You can't possibly expect me to spend even a penny in your shop if you value me so little as a customer.  And, just to clarify:  there was not one owner/salesperson manning the shop all by herself during a busy sale...there were three women there.  In fairness, I think one was not employed there but I'm certain the other two had some official business in the shop which should have included TAKING CARE OF THE POTENTIAL SALE OR SALES THAT JUST WALKED IN THE DOOR!

OK, so Max and I got back in the car.  I was angry and disappointed.  Max was hungry.  He's a sixteen year old boy on a weird field trip with Mom and always hungry anyway.  So, we drove on.  I contemplated just going straight to the airport and hanging out (knitting and spinning) there.  But, I had told Max so much about South Street and the wonderful atmosphere and food to be found there that he insisted we at least try it.

Because it turns out that one of the other shops is on South Street as is Loop.  Max was with us the day my Mom and I went there a few years ago.  He had stayed in the car with the men folk but remembered it was on South Street.  Funny that visit was also in February on a cold and dreary day.  Note to self: bring Max back to the South Street neighborhood in the summer when he can really appreciate how special a place it really is.

So, we headed south on 95.  That's an experience in and of itself.  I got lucky and found a parking spot at the corner of South and 9th.    The shop was less than a block away.  We slogged the short distance through the rain that had been with us all morning.  We were looking for a shop called Nangellini.  I almost missed the door to the unassuming little shop.  Stepping through that door was like walking into a warm and sunny retreat.  We were instantaneously and warmly greeted by the owner, Nancy (Ravelry name Nangellini); one of her customers that was getting some one-on-one assistance from Nancy; and from Mandie (Ravelry name moderndaygypsy), the shopgirl.  I use that term lovingly.  An employee is someone who just works for someone.  Some are good, some are not.  A shopgirl is essential to a good and well run shop that takes care of its customers.  Mandie was that and more.  She showed us around, asked about my interests, showed me various products, and made suggestions.  You could tell that she cares about Nancy, the shop, and the customers.

Here are some pictures of the shop:

Nancy also sells pop art made by her and a friend of hers as well as some lovely finished knitted items.

Everything is beautifully displayed.

Lots of color everywhere!

These pictures are all of the downstairs of the shop.  Most of the yarn is upstairs.  I, however, am lazy and when I remembered I had my camera I had already come back down.  Plus, I think Max would have gnawed my arm off if he thought I wasn't about to go out the door in search of food for him.

Through Mandie's suggestions, I finally got the answer to my how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-bead-this-lace-weight-yarn-I'm-spinning dilemma.  The answer is string the teeny tiny seed beads on a teeny tiny iridescent thread.  At $.04/yd I was going to spend $20 and get 500 yards.  But this stuff is so teeny tiny that it was impossible to measure that many yards without ruining the thread and/or driving the person trying to measure it insane.  So, Nancy graciously offered to sell the cone for $15.  I have no idea how much is on the cone nor do I think anyone will ever know.  But I think it was probably a good deal for both of us.  And, I greatly appreciated it.  

The thread under natural light.

How it sparkles when it catches the light!

In addition to the thread, I also got these...

That, my dear friends, is just over a pound of silk!

Offered for sale by this company and available at Nangellini.

One of the coolest things about this yarn is that it is recycled scraps from the weaving mills in India that is then handspun by a women's cooperative.  So buying this helps the environment, the women who create it, and the communities in which they live.

And, the colors are amazing!

Reminds me of a peacock's tail.

The solid colors are in hanks of 100 g/100 yds and sell for $14.  Nancy has an orange and a bright green that I am kicking myself for not buying but as is I spent more than I probably should have...isn't that always the case?  My yarn appetite is always bigger than the budget.  Oh, well, I LOVE what I did get.

The multi-color skeins are a great deal though.  Each is 200 g/180 yds and sells for just $16.

When I was done drooling over and petting all of the lovelies in Nancy's shop I asked for a pizza recommendation.  Max was getting ready to start chowing down on whatever he could catch and wrestle to the ground and I didn't think that kind of behaviour would make a favorable impression on the ladies in the shop.  They heartily suggested Little Italy, a relatively new (opened in 2008) pizza shop less than a block away.  Let me tell you, these women know their pizza in addition to their fiber!

He went from snarling to purring!

Amazingly, I even got him to take the thing away from his face for a split second for this shot.

With yarn in car and pizza in stomach we were finally ready to do what we came here to do and headed for the airport.  Surprisingly, it only took 15 minutes.  We got a close parking space and went in to hang out and wait for Steph.

Just chillin'

The view.  Driving home in this was a blast.

Steph's flight left Orlando 30 minutes late yet arrived on time.  How the hell do they manage that?  But I have to say, she said the flight was uneventful.  So, way to go US Air.  It's not very often that you hear anything good about the airline industry so I kind of figure they at least deserve a quick shout-out on an obscure fiber arts blog.  It's the least I can do.  All of the people Max and I came into contact in the airport were also very helpful and courteous.  I had never been to the Philadelphia International Airport before but would not hesitate to fly in or out of there in the future.  They were great.  (I had to get directions to the gate and where we should wait from two different people near two of the security check areas and they were awesome).

The drive home sucked.  The Surekill Expressway was as bad as ever.  But I'm glad we had the chance to take a little road trip.  I got to see my sister during what is going to be a very short and hectic visit.  And, it kept Mom and Dad from having to deal with an ugly drive.

Most importantly, I can check off two more PA Yarn shops that I have visited.  And, look forward to visiting Nangellini again in the future.  If you are in the Philadelphia area or want to get some of this gorgeous silk for yourself, stop in or call or e-mail Nangellini.  Here's her card.

Tell her that Ann and Sue sent you.


  1. Enjoyed your take on the two yarn shops. You are SO right! A welcoming attitude and friendly interaction with customers can make all the difference in making a sale AND building up loyal clientele. When I sense a shop is snooty, I just walk out.

  2. I visited Nangellini a couple of weeks before you did and I agree in every way. It is a very special, vibrant shop with great energy and wonderful yarns. In fact I bought the same recycled sari silk yarn that you did! The thing to know is that these yarns are usually rather stiff and need to be broken in to soften--but not this brand. It is soft when you buy it and is a pleasure to use.

  3. my husband and i have been fans of Nangellini for over two years. our kids even like to go there! (and that's really saying something about a 12 y/o boy). we also agree about your opinion of the other shop you visited. thanks for a great review!