Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I have my husband well-trained.

When he knew he needed to dry-run some back-roads driving excursions for his Windy City Z Club, he knew the best way to lure me along was, “Hey, here’s a list of the yarn stores in the area.”  Smart, guy, my spouse.

This meant that after a pleasant afternoon navigating Green County’s backroads in search of automotive paradise, we pulled into the charming town of New Glarus.

New Glarus pretty much transplants a bit of Switzerland right down in Wisconsin.  It’s a genuine community--not a Swiss theme park or Epcot version, but a grounded, culturally strong community that feels very nice to visit.

After settling in at The Chalet Landhaus Inn (our friendly lodgings for the night) , we wandered over in search of dinner at:

Glarner Stube
518 1st St
New Glarus, WI 53574
(608) 527-2216
I can’t even remember what my husband had, I was so immersed in our wonderful fondue and my French onion soup.  Cheese heaven.  The place was packed, so make sure to get here early, as they don’t do reservations on the weekends.

The next morning I had an early appointment at our yarn fix--good thing they serve coffee as well at:

The Sow’s Ear
125 S. Main St.
Verona, WI 53593

A warm, friendly place that’s as much about the coffee as it is about the yarn.  This is the only yarn shop I’ve ever seen where people don’t just come for the fiber!  Owner Debra Wheeler, who began here as a high school employee and bought it from the owners in 2000, has done a remarkable job of crafting a perfect mix of fiber and coffee community.  “As a suburb of Madison, we have a huge espresso scene here,” Debra says, and she delivers to both audiences.  You know an owner is loved when her customers secretly yarn bomb the shop with knitted hearts for Valentine’s Day!

Boasting several classroom areas and a twelve-page list of available classes (most with wait lists!),  Debra is committed to moving people up the skill chain. “Scarf to hat to mittens and beyond.”  The store is packed with inspiration in the form of diverse finished projects and lots of great yarn in each weight.  Like the other places we’ve been, Sow’s Ear actively connects to the local fiber arts community.

Here are some projects to consider:

Designed by Debra’s beloved late father David Helgesen, this artful can and bottle cozy utilizes Dale of Norway yarn (Sow’s Ear is the only area shop to carry this iconic yarn!) to create a colorwork piece that will cuddle your Wisconsin brew in style.

Sipsey’s Folly Sweater
The whimsical squirrel yolk on this sweater would be a huge hit with women from my Alpha Gamma Delta college sorrority days (the squirrel is AGD’s mascot).  Done up in Brown Sheep Company's Nature Spun sport weight, this design by Amy Detjen welcomes the fall weather in artsy style.

Balm to the Soul Shawl
Some of you may know KnitcircusJaala Spiro--I met her for the first time at Chicago’s recent YarnCon--from her wonderful podcast.  Her marvelous handpainted yarn and this Ravelry pattern combine for a lovely shawl that any shoulder would love to display.

Owl Sweater
Sporting another artful neckline and some really lovely shaping, this Ravelry pattern wields Lamb's Pride bulky to fantastic results.  Thanks to the cable-crafted owls, this one looks as good in a neutral as it would in a bright color to catch the eye.

While I admit our Sunday morning visit didn’t allow us to sample the local business fare, peering in the windows did allow us to take confidence in Debra’s local suggestions:

Purple Goose Boutique
400 W. Verona Ave
Verona, Wisconsin

I was really sorry this shop wasn’t open--but my husband and my checkbook sighed with relief.  This looks like the place to find wonderfully unique, artistic clothing--the socks alone made me drool with envy. With nifty jewelry, cards made by local artists, artisan bath products (my personal indulgence of choice!), I could have spent happy hours--and hoards of dollars--in here.

Edelweiss Cheese Shop
202 West Verona Ave.
Verona, WI 53953

This is Wisconsin, after all.  You’ve got to shop for cheese.  According to Debra, this is the go-to spot in Verona.  They’ve got cheese, cheese accessories, cow items, utensils, fondue pots...the whole dairy done up right.  And--also because this is Wisconsin--beer (more on that later).

If you’re ready to eat, Debra suggests:

Jordanal Farms Cookhouse
600 West Verona Ave 
Verona, WI 53953

It’s not often I get to recommend a take-out place, but this one seems exceptional.  Locally sourced meat (from the nearby Jordanal Farm), this place boasts “good, wholesome, affordable, homecooked local food fast!!”  They even make their own pickles!  Personally, I found myself craving the sweet potato bacon salad, while my husband found the Friday night BBQ pork ribs quite compelling.

With Chicago calling us back home, we had time for one more stop to honor the one Wisconsin product we’ve not yet showcased:  beer.

New Glarus Brewing Company
2400 State Hwy 69
New Glarus, WI 53574

Even I, who do not drink beer, was fascinated and entertained by our tour of the brewery and the wide selection of brews.  Okay, yes, it also had a lovely gift shop.  As beer destinations go, I was impressed.  You get a strong sense of a creative, innovative company that went far beyond the bottle of brew.  After all, craft people recognize fine craft in all kinds of endeavors, don’t we?  Based on the number of awards I saw, these people know their stuff.  I had to have something to fill my Sow’s Ear cozy, right?

All in all, these three adventures made for a fun, memorable time in Wisconsin that can suit your appetites no matter what the season--warm or cold.

Next up, we play with all that spiffy sheep yarn for a trio of quick projects.

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