I’ve traveled to the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, KY for about five years now, having set five books in the region. Every year I cross the bridge into Kentucky and wave at Louisville as a head east to the state capitol. This year, I decided that DestiKNITions wouldn’t just wave as it passes by. This year, I thought I’d look west during my off hours of the fair and discover what fiber finds awaited me in a city I’d formerly only associated with baseball bats.
I was glad I did.
In college, I had a friend who told me that the closer you get to pronouncing Louisville in one syllable, swallowing all applicable vowels, the more like a local you sound. While some locals were impressed with my pronunciation (which was something in the neighborhood of “luvull”--and trust me, I’ll save you the mp3 file of my performance), they also informed me that the first question out of any Louisville local’s mouth MUST be “Where’d you go to school?” This does not refer to your college education by the way. Evidently the entire of Louisville classifies itself by where you went to high school. Now you, too, can be in the know when you travel to this city of neighborhoods. Impress your friends and colleagues!
The first of our two stops is a neighborhood known as “the Highlands.” Sort of a cross between a hip small city and a college-artsy feel, this stretch of Bardstown Road will hit just about every note.
If it’s morning, and your first note needs to be caffeine, you’re in the right place. Next to our first fiber fix is the highly recommended
Highland Coffee Company
1140 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204-1359
There’s a giant cup outside the store just in case you can’t read well before you’ve had your cuppa (and I’ve had mornings like that). Sure, you can have a pannini or a smoothie if you’d like to play at actual nutrition, but I followed advice and went straight for the cheesecake brownie. Yum. Someone told me to get a “banana chocolate chip” something, but I forgot to write down a banana chocolate chip WHAT, and I was too shy to ask--but you don’t have to be! Should you not need caffeine (huh?), rumor has it this place makes the best hot chocolate around. And when’s the last time someone offered you a full menu of whipped cream choices???
Duly fortified, you need only wander a few steps next door where you will most certainly be bombarded by a wave of “Hello”s at:
1140 Bardstown Rd # B
Louisville, KY 40204-1359
This is exactly the kind of store DestiKNITions loves to feature--you’ve got to go looking for it, but you’re a welcome “regular” from the moment you walk in the door. The clues are all here: a big table filled with chatting regulars in the middle of the room, stuffed couches and chairs, packed wall-to-wall with great product. I always know I’m in a good place when an interview that supposed to be with the store’s owner ends up an opinionated free-for-all with everyone in the store. That’s my definition of a good time in knittingland. Sure, you can plan ahead to attend the Thursday night Stitch N Bitch or drag an as-of-yet-uninitiated buddy to the “Learn to Knit” class every Saturday from 12-2, but Knit Nook is the kind of place where you’ll find help, encouragement, and someone to help you master that knitted praying mantis you thought was a good idea when you started it six weeks ago (really).
One of the things I like about this store is that it’s brimming with project examples. These caught my eye:
Done up in Brown Sheep Burly Spun on big hunking size 19 needles, this is a quick fix ideal for gift giving. I like the edges on this one, and the color “Electric” gives you quite a lot of pop for your money.
If you live within two miles of any American teenager, you know that hoodies are the must-have clothing item. This one’s got a bit of elegance to it, so that even if you’re over thirty, you’ll be allowed to wear it. You can’t beat Cascade 220 for wearability on something as basic and lovable as this cardigan.
Felting eludes me. I’m too much of a control freak to do something with so much guess-work, but don’t let that stop you from stitching these up in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky or two strands of good ol’ Cascade 220 held together. Someone’s toasty toes (maybe even yours) will thank you.
Take one ball of Frog Tree Meriboo MW, add some spiffy beaded felt balls and a whole bunch of cuteness, and you get this episode’s knit-along. Forget those cheesy cardboard holiday gift-card holders--this is the way to go. And sooo much fun to say!
Everyone here had six ideas as to where I should visit next, so our travel path is as easy as it is varied: head down Bardstown Road and stop when you run out of time. Really, this one is wide open with possibilities, so rather than direct you, I’ll just “walk” you down the street in geographic order and let you decide how to take it from there. Keep in mind, this just a smattering of what’s out there, but these are my favorite stops:
1295 Bardstown Road
One of those great old, couldn’t-be-farther-from-the-big-chain type stores where you can bet those behind the counter actually READ. The website lists staff picks and book clubs
1315 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204-1319
A nifty little boutique where I bought a very unique ring made from some kind of polished nut shell. The kind of store where you look at the stylish, artsy person behind the counter and you want to be her. Now. They wrap up every purchase like a little gift--even if it’s for you--and I always love that.
1321 Bardstown Road
They feature a fab brunch and are also known for being open very late (2am on the weekends), but THE thing to have here--by unanimous vote--is the green chili won-ton appetizer. Since this is Kentucky, after all, the bourbon tasting flights could be considered a tourist attraction. An excellent outdoor patio to take in the intense character of the Highlands neighborhood.
1341 Bardstown Road
I wanted everything in the store. Really. Everything. I would have moved in on the spot if they let me. I wanted the rugs, the bedding, the sweaters, the cookware, all of it. And oh, the pottery. This is what the Anthropologie store chain is trying to be, only it’s the real deal. Complete with Derby Hats. What more can you ask for?
1514 Bardstown Road
How can you not love a place with free deserts on Monday? Ribs seem to be the fare of choice here, although the locals were raving about their potato salad (not my thing, so I can’t verify). Third generation barbecue masters--and who’d want to argue with them?--serve up the “cue” that made the region famous. I love that you can buy “picnic packages” for your family...or 50 of your closest friends.
1567 Bardstown Road
A complete 180-degree turn from Clay and Cotton, this is a place to indulge your wild side. Most of the regulars sport tattoos, would be my guess, and have seriously independent taste in music. Featuring--and this is a direct quote--”an abundance of ridiculously fantastic kitsch.” I particularly liked the handbags and wallets.
You could actually keep going--or make two dozen other cool stops along the way. Knock yourself out. Or just knit yourself out.
Today we get a bit more down-home and sedate. And that’s a good thing. Today is suburban to yesterday’s urban. It’s like we’re exploring both sides of Louisville’s hip-but-down-home character.
It’s important to know people take their knitting seriously here. You can win state fair ribbons in knitting, and believe me, people take those awards very seriously. But seriousness is only as good as your encouragement to achieve such greatness. If you’re looking for a warm, fuzzy, friendly place to hang out, have I got the yarn store for you:
Sophie’s Fine Yarn Shoppe
10482 Shelbyville Road
Louisville, KY 40223-3120
Barbara Franc, owner of Sophie’s (aww, Sophie’s her mom!) lives to inspire you. Seriously. The woman is so warm and encouraging you find yourself exhaling just talking to her. This is the place to get “sucked in and hugged on.” The world would be a better, more peaceful place if that happened to everyone. Barbara, who’s helper skills occupational therapy background shines through her every word, “dearly loves” beginners. She takes her education of knitters like a life’s work, encouraging folks to expand their knowledge base to go forth and tackle new things. “We want to hold your hand,” she says with a smile on her face. The “couch time” offered by the store is essentially knitting “office hours” where you can plop down with your gazillion dropped stitches and find your way back to productivity. One on one help is easy to find here, but so are great classes, Wednesday night pot lucks, Friday night knit-ins, and a killer dish cloth swap.
Some projects I was itching to get on my needles:
Just open enough to be airy, substantial enough not to be fussy, I liked this shawl’s ability to go from hip to elegant depending on the yarn and color choice. It’s done up in Gedifra's "Barina" yarn, which gives it the kind of drape and drama we all want in a shawl.
If you want to take it up a notch, this stunning triangular shawl is a customer favorite--and it’s easy to see why. Mini Moochi’s awesome colorways get the platform they deserve in this project.
Don’t make that grandson endure a sweater he’ll only resent. It’s not too late to get this one ready for holiday giving--Barb assures me it knits up really quickly. Of course, if you’re truly pressed for time, they have a miniaturized version for “decorative use. That's Barb holding her horses, by the way.
Remember Alpaca with a Twist from our last episode? Here’s another of their wonderful fibers, Fino, wound into two balls with two strands held together. Soft and substantial yet feminine, too. This is our Knit-Along, and I couldn't be happier.
Now, in a DestiKNITions first, there is only ONE stop I’m going to recommend here. Because believe me, this is all you need. Drive directly down Shelbyville Road until you reach down-home gastronomic heaven:
12531 Shelbyville Road
Louisville, KY 40243
Oh. My. Gosh. I had this thing, this delectable heaven of a pie that was cherry pie underneath and chocolate fudge on top. I had a yellow cupcake dipped in caramel frosting, not just frosted on top--the first non-chocolate baked good I have ever truly adored. And a great sandwich. With excellent soup. And a massive mug of really good coffee. Not latte, honest-to-goodness-coffee. I made an idiot of myself moaning over the food and I didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day. There are several locations around the area, and only some of them have a deli attached to them, but I was glad to have been directed to one because the food was as fab as the pie. I strongly suspect this will go down as the year’s best desert. If you shopped yourself into a stupor yesterday in the Highlands, all you need to do is slide into a booth here and end your visit in food heaven.
BUT WAIT...I can’t just leave you like this. We need a give-away to round out this adventure! Leave a comment on any Louisville episode installment--here or either of the knit-alongs--and win a spiffy prize package from Sophie's Fine Yarn Shoppe. You’ll receive this roomy project bag, a handy needle and hook gauge, and Ann Budd’s invaluable “Yarn Requirements” yardage guide. Like last time, you’ll receive an entry for every comment (but only one entry per day, so play nice).