My old Kentucky roam...
When you write a series of five books set in Kentucky, you tend to spend some time there. Until recently, I’ve not had the luxury of time to go hunt down the local yarn stores, but my November 2009 trip to the Kentucky Book Fair afforded me the chance to take in one of Lexington KY’s most charming neighborhoods known as the Woodland Triangle. This installment represents a perfectly spent afternoon working my way around a triangular block with interesting stores, restaurants, businesses, and the particular charm of a Kentucky fall.
Of course, it’s January, but the theory still holds. It just might not be a pleasant wandering of colorful leaf-swifled streets. Then again, there’s four inches of snow in Chicago as I write this, so even a Kentucky January’s looking good.
First stop, as always, is the yarn store:
513 East High Street
Lexington KY 40502
I’m always on the lookout for stores that are as much about community as fiber. You know a yarn shop is good when there are always people sitting around knitting, calling each other by name, laughing, etc. This is definitely one of those places. A sunny, clean-lined store with tables and comfy chairs begging for casting on and chatting. Owner Jane Homeyer has thoughtfully crafted a selection of “natural fiber yarns for handknitters” that lay themselves out before you by colors like a fresh inviting box of crayons. “Simple classic stuff you can play with,” offers Jane, and boy, do I want to come play. Okay, some of that might be due to the drool-worthy collection of Namaste and dellaQ bags she carries. But Jane’s passion for teaching and mentoring comes through in the store. She gets the thing most of us know internally about knitting--even if we’ve not articulated it: it’s an affordable luxury treat. “Like lipstick” she says, and instantly you know what she means. You may not be able to pull off a 30-day Caribbean cruise, but a skein of stunning cream cashmere--that you can manage!
For our Knit-Along, Jane’s chosen her own Traveling Vine Scarf, done up in Tilli Thomas’ Disco Lights. I’m happier just looking at the wine-colored fiber (technically, the color is "black cherry") with its dashing sparkles. This scarf is its own party, but not so much that you can’t wear it running to the market. Snazzy but not overdone. I like that in an accessory. The twelve-row repeat is just enough to be challenging without tangling your synapses. I’m looking forward to this project to add a little life to my cold Chicago January.
Other projects that caught my eye include:
You can never have enough clever stash-buster patterns, and this piece from Jane Ellison’s Knitting Noro done in either two Noro colorways or whatever cool stuff you’ve got laying around is a prime example. Our Jane is particularly gifted at helping you play with colors, so you’re guaranteed a flattering adventure. Without such guidance, I’d probably end up with something salmon-colored that made me look ill.
I adore the artistic drama of these. They caught my eye the moment I walked in the store. Throw these on over the drabbest of shirts and you have all the style you’ll ever need. Done up with a ball or two of sumptuous sock yarn or superwash merino, they’re the perfect project to treat yourself to something wonderful.
Having scored my fiber goodies, I set off on my way around the Triangle. I didn’t have to go far to find something funky and fab:
516 East High Street
Lexington, KY 40502-6443
Right across the street from Magpie Yarn is the oh-so-cool clothing and accessory store that also offers really nifty vintage finds. The kind of place that made me wish I didn’t have to wear sensible shoes. My teenage daughter could spend an hour (and a fortune) in here effortlessly. And they’ve got stuff for sale on e-bay, so you can cyber shop if KY isn’t in your current itinerary! If you’re like me, you want to bring home something unique when you travel. This spot is one place to find it.
Even if you’re not in the market for a new computer, walk down the street and stop into
507 East High Street
Lexington, KY 40502
“Natural, organic technology.” Nope, it’s not an oxymoron, it’s their slogan. Owner Jason Collins and his hip staff custom-create eco-friendly computers that use less energy, utilize no heavy metals, and run on a Linux base with open software. And they come in the happiest colors you’ve ever seen. They won’t charge you to whip up an estimate, so if your current computer makes you want to see red, they can build you one in royal blue that just might restore your faith in technology.
It wouldn’t be a DestiKNITions without the sugar fix, right? Absolutely...
496 E. High Street
Lexington, KY 40508
Smack-dab on the corner of High and Woodland is one of those down-home places I associate with Kentucky. Order the “hot brown,” the area’s traditional open-faced sandwich. This is pure meat-and-starch eating at it’s finest, but they assure me a veggie version is also available. Their menu is simple: choose a meat, choose a veggie, done. Or, get all spiffy and go for sandwiches or salads, too. It doesn’t matter so long as you end your meal at/with:
219 Woodland Avenue
Lexington, KY 40502
You can order with your meal at Ramsey’s (the businesses are linked), or you can walk in and indulge right off the street. Either way, my-oh-my this is pie heaven. Just inhaling in here is bliss. I love anyplace that has a “cheesecake of the day.” Fans of my Kentucky Corners novel “Bluegrass Courtship” should know that the Mayday Pie comes the closest thing to the fictional “milk and cookies pie” I’ve experienced in real life. In short, what’s good? Everything!
Once you’ve come down off the sugar high, wander down the triangle’s other corner to:
Black Swan Books
505 East Maxwell Street
Lexington, KY 40502-6433
You’ve heard me go on and on about the value of the nation’s really good independent book stores. Black Swan is one of those highly interesting places where you just know you’ll find something you couldn’t find anywhere else. I just love how one of the tabs on their website says “Search Our Very Incomplete Database.” These folks know who they are and don’t pretend otherwise. Kentucky is filled with literary talent, and you’re likely not only to read some here, you’re just as likely to hear one at their many readings. This is a book collector’s book store, and the world just doesn’t have enough of these.
Down along the bottom point of the triangle, looking out into Woodland Park, you’ll find the posh/charming/stuffed-to-the-gills shop called:
195 Kentucky Avenue
Lexington, KY 40502
If they don’t have the Christmas tree ornament you’re looking for, it doesn’t exist. My house will never come close to the decorative excellence of this place...but I want it to. Antiques, soaps, lotions, and a charming house cat to round out the experience.
Heading back up the original side, make sure you stop at:
Lucia’s World Friendly Boutique
523 East High Street
Lexington, KY 40502
This is one of those exotic stores where you want to buy six bags (oh, the recycled silk!) and twelve sets of earrings--not only because they’re so cute, but because they support worthy causes and important cultures. I came away with nifty glass earrings and a couple of gifts for my host during my visit here. The knitter in me craved the booties, while the hand-carved candlesticks called to me, too. The butterfly pants are unique but look best on a shorter woman than me (I wanted them anyway).
There it is, your lap around the triangle. But wait, you’re not done. Don’t be like me...don’t miss our last stop farther up High street off the Triangle:
Common Grounds Coffee House
343 East High Street
Lexington, KY, 40507
(859) 233 - 9761
Don’t make the same mistake I did--take the time to stop by this wonderful community java joint. It has all the good stuff--open mike nights, comfy seating, wi-fi, and a poetry group. They even honor a volunteer of the week! Really, it’s your civic duty to down a cup in this place (I’m highly annoyed I ran out of time to do so!).
Lexington is a really wonderful small city--the kind too often missed on travel itineraries. I’ve been here four times for book research and the Kentucky Book Fair in nearby Frankfort. If you’re anywhere in the area, it’s worth an afternoon to explore.
Join me next as we dive into the Traveling Vine Scarf.