Saturday, March 17, 2012


Everybody’s brain goes straight to New Orleans when you mention Louisiana.   There’s a whole state to explore, folks, not just beignets at Cafe DuMonde (although I will remember the Bananas Foster I had in New Orleans for the rest of my life!).  Wander up to the northern part of the state and you’ll find the lovely, genteel city of Shreveport and its sister across the river, Bossier.  Home to a few author buddies and the charming NOLAStars Romance Writers, I had the opportunity to spend time in Shreveport and found one of the most engaging, friendly yarn shops ever.  

Line Avenue serves as one of the city’s main byways and is considered by many to be the boutique shopping center of the city.  Start your trip here and you’re bound to come home with good memories.  And any good start--at least for me--includes breakfast.  My pick:

Another Broken Egg Cafe
855 Pierremont Ste. 132  
Shreveport, LA 71106
I’d not encountered this chain before, but the line out front was an indicator that good food was in store.  Quality ingredients and a bit of inventiveness make a breakfast place for me, and I found both here.  I have a spouse who doesn’t do breakfast after breakfast (whereas I’ll eat breakfast any time of day) so it’s always good to find places with a lot of variety.

Not far away is today’s yarn adventure, and you’re going to love it:

Knitting Under the Influence of Nancy
6505 Line Avenue Suite 43
Shreveport, LA  71106
It seems once a year I encounter a store that embodies everything DestiKNITions is about--that instant camaraderie you feel when you walk into a yarn shop that is more community than retail establishment.  The name should have been a dead giveaway, but I didn’t have to get three steps into this charming store filled to the brim with fiber and fun and creativity to know that this was a winner. 

Tucked away in a quaint knob of boutiques along Line Avenue, entering this store feels like you just walked into your favorite aunt’s home.  You just know it’s going to be a wonderful visit.  From the “yarn tree”--a Christmas project happily extended into other holidays, to the photos of group excursions up in the classroom on the second floor, to the coffee machine and the comfy chairs, I felt swept up in an instant family. 

Thanks to good friend of the shop Marcy, nearly every inch of the the place is decorated in a way that makes you feel as though its seeping right into you as you breathe.  

It’s the kind of store that knits lives together, thanks to Nancy--as in “Under the Influence of Nancy”--Gauthier’s master connector skills.  During my visit I watched Nancy introducing customers to one another, matching up moms, suggesting the perfect project to try next--the woman is a veritable tidal wave of friendliness.  I could have stayed all day and come back tomorrow for more.  Here are just a few of the many goodies that caught my eye:

Katy’s Sampler Scarf
If you’re here for an extended stay, graft yourself into the Sampler Scarf class that meets either day or evening on the first Thursday of the month.  This skill-stretching project combines five or six balls of Debbie Bliss Prima into a twelve stitch patterns from Volume 1 of the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary.  The finished product--not to mention your expanded skill set--is worthy of admiration and you’re bound to make loads of new friends.  

Waterfall Scarf
I love a good, versatile pattern.  One that can accommodate any number of yarns for diverse results.  The kind you’ll practically know by memory because you come back to it over and over.  The Waterfall Scarf from Judith Durant’s  101 Designer One-Skein Wonders is just such brilliance.  Take 180 yards of just about anything, and you’ll end up with an eye-catching scarf that will be deliciously different every time you knit it.  I saw three distinct examples--from laceweight to dk--and loved each one for entirely different reasons.

Cabin Fever Alligator Scarf
Need a little whimsy in your life? No trip to Louisiana would be complete without something alligator-ish, and this playful scarf from Morehouse Farm fits the bill.  It looks complicated, but isn’t that hard at all--guaranteed to give you most-favored mom/aunt/grandma status for any little person in your life.  Two skeins of Cascade 220 paints (or any color, because who wouldn’t welcome a purple alligator in their life?) knits up into the nicest reptile you can imagine.  It’s our knit-along from today’s visit.

Stay and chat for hours--I did--but when you’re ready, don’t miss the many lovely shops right around you in Pierremont Common.  My favorites were:

The Village Washstand
6505 Line Ave 
Shreveport, LA 71106-3277
If you are a lover of fine linens and pajamas, here’s your heaven.  A thoughtful, browse-worthy mix of home goods, this place stocks miles of Vera Bradley and a brand of personalized leather goods I’d never seen before: Jon Hart Design out of San Antonio, TX.

La Bambolina
6505 Line Avenue #20
Shreveport, LA  71106
Shreveport has an upscale, well-mannered southern charm, and this store makes sure the little people in your life can show off that same sense of style.  From teeny-tiny preemie babies to size 16 for girls and 14 for boys, the store’s good selection has a little bit of everything.  Sure, you can make that adorable new niece some hand-knit baby booties, but the smocked dress she needs for her first big day out can be found here.  With a dozen matching hair bows to complete her look.

Tallulah Trading Company
6505 Line Avenue Suite 21
Shreveport LA  71106
I was trying to figure out why this place appeals to me so--I’m not really the decorative housewares type--when I found this slogan on their business card:  “It’s the mix, not the match.”  That says it all.  Stuffed full of stunning floral displays, candles, soaps, figurines, art, and a gazillion other goodies, this place is a potpourri of great accents mixed to perfection.  Owners Donald & Bess Ann Walker were friendly as could be to this wide-eyed northerner, and that only added to the tumble of charm that had me wishing I’d brought along another suitcase.

When you’re ready to eat, there’s really only one place to go if you care about dessert the way I care about dessert, so you’ll need to venture off Line Ave (but not far) to:

Strawn’s Eat Shop
125 Kings Highway & other locations
Shreveport LA  71106
Full disclosure here:  Nancy Gauthier and her husband once owned this restaurant and her children run it now, but the huge consensus of everyone I talked to backed up her praise:  this is pie to die for.  Often voted as Shreveport’s Best Dessert, it’s not hard to see why.  

You simply must not leave town without tasting the strawberry pie, and I believe it’s a state crime to leave the peach untouched if it’s in season.  I loved the chocolate and coconut cream, too--not that I had three slices on one day or anything.  Pair that with just the kind of “good square meal” you’d expect in Louisiana, and life is lovely.  Really lovely.  A bad day could turn around in one meal from here.

If you still need a bit of shopping to round out your visit, continue your exploration of the little clusters of boutique-y shops along Line Avenue.  Some are in strip malls, others in groupings of former houses.  One of my favorites--and not just because it’s next to a Starbucks which I sorely needed once the pie-sugar-high wore off, was:

The Spotted Zebra
4826 Line Avenue  
Shreveport, LA 71106
Were I not of the must-wear-orthopaedic-inserts ilk, I’d be a big fan of TOMS shoes.  I tend to like artsy, comfortable clothing, and while I admit it skewed a bit young for a woman of my years, I found several good purchases as well as loads to like.  I’m also grateful that they didn’t make me feel old or out of place for shopping there, as if often the case with trendy clothiers.

Hint:  the nearby Starbucks has a lovely outside patio just perfect for casting on your new project and taking stock of all your purchased treasures.

When you are all shopped out, you still don’t need to leave Line Avenue.  Find your way back to: 

Superior Grill
6123 Line Avenue
Shreveport, LA 71106
The best Mexican food around according to my sources--one even said “best Mexican food on the planet.”  They’re known as much for food as for their margaritas, which are killer-potent (not that I’d know) so be warned.  The packed parking lot in the middle of a Friday afternoon affirms the local wisdom, so try for an early table or a weeknight if your schedule is tight.   Live music on Friday nights, however, may make the long wait worth it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this trip stands as one of the best DestiKNITions of 2012--warm hospitality, great weather (as opposed to March in Chicago), outstanding food, fab fiber, and oh, the pie.  I’m drooling just thinking about the whole experience.  I’ll probably have to set a book here--or three--just so I can lock in a few return trips.


Linda B said...

You were just an hour away from me! I would have recommended that you have a meal at the Glenwood Tea Room. Glad you enjoyed your visit!

Kimberly and Abby said...

One of my knitter friends loves making alligator scarves. She's done several. Another lady knit a pink alligator scarf.

lindabam said...

Allie, we loved having you visit us at Knitting Under the Influence...of Nancy! You were just one of us, knitting, laughing, sharing, and enjoying the camaraderie! I would love to take credit for the glorious decorations around the shop, but the owner, Nancy, and one of our creative customers, Marcy, deserve all of the credit. We like the idea of setting your next novel in our area! Here's to some great "research" trips in the future? You know you'll always be welcome! Linda B.

Lenora said...

I loved visiting with you while you were in our neck of the woods, Allie. Nothing like Strawn's pie and good conversation. You come back any time, suga!