Ah, the drive-away weekend...
Icon of American recreation, those mini-breaks we all think we’ll get to but hardly ever manage. For me, the ideal long weekend away consists of no more than a three hour drive, and there had better be chocolate, yarn, and coffee when I get there.
Yep, that’d be Galena, Illinois.
Even in chilly February, this is one of those postcard-perfect resort towns that is just busy enough to feel entertaining, just sleepy enough to feel relaxing. From the moment you drive through the big green floodgates (which reminded me of the Emerald City for some reason), happiness beckons.
This Main Street looks like a main street, feels like a main street, and walks like a main street. It’s marvelously simple on just about the perfect scale. As such, there’s no real science to how you take the place in. It’s just a matter of wandering and exploring. So, I’m going to take a novel approach here and show you my favorites by type rather than a specific route. And rather than hand you one long blog entry, I'm going to break it up into smaller, topical installments.
Starting, of course, with the yarn store:
304 S. Main Street
Galena, IL 60136
815-777-3550 or 888-848-KNIT
How can you not love a store with an exclamation point? This really thoughtful establishment boasts a massive inventory and a collection of exclusive kits that will amaze you. Despite its tourism base, FiberWild! manages that instant community we all seek in a yarn store through go-the-extra-mile customer service and encouraging personal support. While I was there, I watched co-owner Amy Loberg (she owns the store with her husband Sean but longtime fans will tell you store cat Scout probably rounds out the executive branch) nudge a reluctant knitter into her first entrelac. Brilliant. That’s the kind of store owner I like--one that encourages me to expand my skills.
They’ve done a great job of replicating the store’s high-quality atmosphere in their on-line experience, too. If you saw something and talked yourself out of it (the horror!), you’ll be able to go back and get in online for sure. Something truly unique to FiberWild! is their selection of fine finished knitwear. This isn’t only a yarn shop, this is a hand-knit apparel and accessories store. Walking in to the shop virtually guarantees a case of the “gimmies,” even if you’ve just mastered the purl stitch.
Projects that caught my eye include:
Winter Wonder Cap and Mittens
You’re going to hear a bit more about the yarn I’m using to make these (they are one of our knit alongs), but Amy also suggests Classic Elite Yarn’s Fresco wool, alpaca, and angora mix. FiberWild! sells these as a kit since Amy created the patterns, but the mitten pattern can be also downloaded free from the Classic Elite website. If you’re looking for a place to show off your mad colorwork skills (or an elegant place to learn them), these are for you. Impressive, and sure to make fellow knitters bow to your superiority.
Want something a little more basic but with a local twist? Opt for the Stockton Socks done up in locally produced Suzy the Shepherdess Yarn from neighboring Stockton. Good husband, dad, or boyfriend knitting (but you know what they say...knitting your boyfriend something has jinxed many a relationship!). Then again, it comes in women's sizes, and what woman doesn’t want cozy toes?
If you want to go for the gold, break out your ninja knitting skills and tackle what I’m going to tackle, the Arched Gusset Sock. An exquisite design of Amy’s, this kit is the black diamond ski slope of knitting. I’m more than a little nervous, I’ll admit. But can you imagine the looks I’ll get when I show these masterpieces off? Done up in Soxx Appeal Superwash Merino, these guarantee some first-class footwork to be sure.
Next? Why, food of course! Stay tuned.