Buying buttons in Barcelona

Merceria_santa_anaOn our way to the City History Museum of Barcelona in the old town, I was able to convince my husband to pop our heads into Merceria Santa Ana to check out a more traditional Spanish craft shop.

We didn’t get very far into the shop before we came across the button counter on the first floor. It quickly dawned on me that I might as well check their stock for something that might work for the Firebirds cardigan.

Many of the buttons were attached to cards that sit in bins on the counter sorted by type/color. There were also stacks of boxes with buttons behind the counter.

Barcelona_buttonLike every late Saturday afternoon, this place (and any other store on this busy pedestrian street) was very busy.  I sifted thorough the cards as quickly as possible, hoping my husbands patience wouldn’t run thin. While they had a really good selection of buttons and several claps, it was soon apparent that finding what I had in mind in a short period of time could be difficult. I finally settled on some buttons that seemed to fit the bill; ones with a dark metal tone.

Since my husband speaks fluent Spanish I had him do the talking.  Apparently, these buttons were not in the boxes behind the counter but had to be delivered from the stock room. As we waited for the buttons to arrive, one of the clerks working in the back room spilled what sounded like a full cannister of buttons on the ground. It got everyone’s attention including many of the clerks in the area who came to her aid. We all watched as many hands helped clean up the spill.

After what seemed like an eternity, my buttons arrived but the alert clerk noticed that they were the wrong color. He then placed another order with the backroom for the correct ones. As we waited for the second delivery, the place seemed to get even more busy with people starting a queue for the next clerk. Finally the long sought after buttons arrived and the clerk handed a hand written ticket to my husband, mentioning that we had to now pay the cashier and collect the buttons with the receipt. This confused my husband until I reminded him of the time we went shopping in Paris at a similar store. Apparently, it was the same system. You to tell a clerk what you want, they get it, write a ticket, you take the ticket to the casher to pay and then you collect the purchase with a receipt from the cashier.

By the time we got the buttons, I was no longer interested in checking out their yarn selection. Normally such experiences wouldn’t frustrate me but I felt bad about dragging my husband into the shop and then not making it to the museum in time before it closed.

Seattle_buttonNot leaving well enough alone, this weekend I went to a few yarn stores here to check out what they had. None had as good a selection as Merceria Santa Ana. I really wanted some clasps but all seemed to either be too big or made in shiny silver. I did however find an alternative.
Don’t tell my husband, but I think I’ll use the ones I found today.


When I started knitting again several years ago I made a point of visiting several yarn stores while on vacation in London and Paris. As a knitter it seemed like an excited thing to do but, for my husband it turned into several diversions that I’m sure weren’t on his list of places to visit. Although he was very patient, I could tell he’d much rather else where.

It was on that trip, after checking out several yarn stores, that I realized that I could buy most of the best yarns from around the world at my local yarn stores or through the Internet. With that being the case, I started to question whether it was really a wise idea to spend time seeking out yarn stores while on vacation.
Well as I mentioned several weeks ago, while on vacation in Tokyo last month, I did happen to stop by Okayada in Shinjuku to pick up  Clover’s new row counter which is called “Mini Kacha-Kacha”. This time I decided it was OK to check out this craft store since it just happened to be within walking distance of our hotel and I knew exactly what I was looking for. I promised that I wouldn’t stay too long.

If you do like searching for yarn stores while you’re on vacation and find yourself in Tokyo I would recommend two sources of information on where to go.
1. Download Pinku’s excellent list of stores that I found thanks to a post on Knitter’s Review. Just find the link to the Excel spreadsheet.
2. Vogue Knitting, Fall 2005 has an article on knitting in Japan that list several stores.

Okayada is a craft store destination that’s in a couple of skinny buildings between Studio Alta and the JR train tracks. To get there just walk out the east exit of the Shinjuku JR station and start heading north towards Studio Alta, a building with a big movie screen (which is just below the JCB Card board in the picture). It’s just a couple of blocks to the left near the train tracks. Somehow we ended up in the building that sells fabric and after climbing several fights of stairs realized that the knitting section was in another building on the fifth floor around the corner.

Since I didn’t need any yarn and my husband had tired feet, I only stayed there long enough for quickly tour around the fifth floor to peek at the yarn and to buy the row counter.  Although I didn’t look too closely, they seemed to carry a good selection of yarn. Unfortunately,  I forgot to check the prices but think Japanese yarns probably are not any cheaper than in the US. At least the row counter wasn’t.

Woodland Woolworks

On my way to the NWRSA conference, I decided to make a brief detour to Woodland Woolworks. I’ve been getting their catalogs for about a year now and several times have been tempted to place an order but end up talking myself out of buying more stuff until I work through my current backlog.

Although it was a worth while detour (especially since my husband was not in tow), it’s definitely off the beaten track. Once off I5 my trip seemed to slow considerably as I wound my way through the 99W suburban mess. The trip got considerably more pleasant once past Sherwood. At this point, the landscape started looking more like the rolling hills of Tuscany. After passing several vineyards, it dawned on me that I  must be in the heart of Oregon wine country.

After winding  through this scenic country side, I was totally underwhelmed to find Woodland Woolworks housed in new-ish warehouse factory on the outside of town. The building wasn’t even worthy of a photo.  I quickly got over the look of the building once inside. Heck, after all I wasn’t there to see the outside of the building.

At first, I was a bit confused by the set up. The entrance guides you straight into their order packing room and I happened to show up just as  a large group of fellow NWRSA members were finishing their purchases. After I figured out that I shouldn’t be picking through the boxes in this room, I finally came upon the overstock/discount room. It was mostly stocked with yarns but also had a few spinning and weaving item. Nothing caught my eye, but I’m sure lots of other knitters would have been thrilled with some of the bargains. I’ve been trying not to buy any more yarns unless I have a specific purpose for it.

Besides the bargain room there were three other show rooms in the building; one with spinning wheels and tools; another with weaving stuff and a third with knitting tools, yarns, books and fibers. Since I’m not a weaver, I really didn’t give that room a second look.

I spent a bit of time in the room with the spinning wheels, debating on whether I should purchase a pair of Forsyth mini combs.  Since I already have a wheel I didn’t look closely at them but I can tell you that they have just about every brand on the market. I also thought about getting a "Spinner’s Control Card" but wasn’t sure I really needed it. After later hearing Rita mention that this tool couldn’t be an accurate way to find substitute yarns, I sure glad I didn’t get it. I’ll save details about why for a later post.

Since I really didn’t need anymore spinning tools, I spent most of my time wondering through the yarn and fiber sections. My main justification for going to Woodland Woolworks was to purchase 1.5 pounds of plum merino for my current project. (Yes, I’m still considering whether I’ll stick to the pattern or deviate a bit.) Anyways, I quickly found what I was looking for. They definitely had one of the most comprehensive selections of fibers, yarns, books and tools that I’ve ever seen. I just wish it didn’t take four hours to get there.

I was a bit tired and hungry after the long drive so I only browsed for 1/2 hour and managed to get out with only buying what I came to get. While I usually buy most of my yarn and books at local shops, I’ll still consider Woodland Woolworks when  I can’t find what I’m looking for locally. Since they have a wide range of fibers and spinning tools, it’s more than likely that as I use up my fiber stock that I’ll place an order through their website in the future.

By the way, despite advertising in NWRSA’s Loose Threads, they did not have a booth at the conference. Someone mentioned that they haven’t shown up at conferences for awhile now, but nobody knew for sure why.

Seattle Yarn Stores

Not only does Seattle have the Space Needle, it also has six yarn stores within its city limits. Truly a yarn paradise compared to London or Paris.

weavingworks.jpg I spend most of my yarn shopping time and money at The Weaving Works since I’m usually drawn to their excellent selection of textile books, which almost always includes the very latest knitting titles. They have a good selection of all types of yarns, from traditional Shetland to trendy eyelash and it’s the only place in town that carries Koigu. If you are looking for spinning supplies, then this is the place to go. I plan on taking their beginning wheel spinning class in March.

hilltop.jpg My other favorite yarn store is Hilltop Yarn. Although, they have a much smaller selection of yarn and books, the staff is very friendly and helpful. Just beware that it is a very popular place in a very trendy neighborhood so it can get quite busy on the weekends. It’s a very cozy, but comfortable place to take classes.

If I can’t find what I’m looking for at these two stores then I visit the following stores.

Acorn Street Shop

Yarn Gallery

Full Circle

More on La Droguerie in Paris


Here’s a photo of the tweed that I bought while shopping at La Droguerie. A beautiful swatch was displayed along with the hanks, which showed how this yarn looks when knitted with two strands in graduating shades. I would have loved to buy more to make a sweater based on the swatch but didn’t have time to contemplate yardage since I was feeling a little guilty about making my husband wait while I browsed.

I also purchased this alpaca and some funky pins. Hopefully there is enough to knit gloves or a scarf. Too bad I didn’t buy more. Just this weekend I found the perfect sweater for this alpaca. It’s in a new book called A Garden Stroll by Lori Ihnen (she’s wearing it in the photo on the publisher’s website). If you like Poetry in Stitches by Solveig Hisdal then you might like this book. Don’t judge it by the sweaters on the publisher’s web site, they aren’t the best ones in the book.

To tell you the truth, I’m not a good yarn stash shopper. I usually find yarn perplexing when I don’t have a specific pattern in mind and I didn’t bring any sweater ideas with me to Paris. Actually I do find it much easier to buy yarn then actually knitting a sweater. Lately I’ve been stalling on my current sweater project since I still need to calculate additional increases around the waist.

Yarn Stores in Paris & London


My remedy for jet lag is four shots of espresso in the morning and then a good night’s sleep.

I was so busy sight seeing that I only managed to knit during the three-hour train ride from London to Paris. I’m still a little peeved at British Airways for not allowing knitting needles in the cabin of their aircraft. I could have finished a pair of socks during each nine hour flight. It’s odd that the TSA allows them but not BA. Although I could have attempted to bring them on in my carry on bag, I decide it wasn’t worth the potential hassle.

While in London I stopped into John Lewis and Liberty department stores to check out their yarn stock. Liberty has a small stock of Rowan yarns and patterns. Not really worth the trip since I can get Rowan yarn here. John Lewis has a better selection of various brands but still very unsatisfying compared to any one of my five local yarn stores.

While in Paris I quickly popped into La Samaritaine, Le Bon Marche and La Droguerie. La Samaritaine has a small yarn section (about the same size as Liberty’s) tucked into a corner on the top floor that only includes Phildar yarn. Le Bon Marche’s yarn section (also tucked into a corner on the top floor) is three times bigger than La Samaritaine’s. They carry Rowan, Phildar and Bouton D’ Or.

I was most impressed with La Droguerie. They have a small selection of yarn but I love how it is displayed. Hanks are hung on the wall by yarn type in a rainbow fashion. The picture below gives you a small hint of the display. There is more yarn hanging on the opposite wall to the left.

ladroguerie.jpgI don’t know who makes their yarn but it appears to be of good quality natural fibers such as wool, alpaca, cotton, silk and etc. I purchased several hanks of tweed wool and a ball of alpaca.

Besides yarn, they also carry a dizzying array of buttons, ribbons and beads. Most shoppers seemed to be more interested in these items. I picked up some cool old looking safety pins that can be used as a closure for a shawl or wrap type sweater.