Saturday, August 3, 2013


KCMO, here we go...

I have not returned to Kansas City since my freshman year in college, when I was an entirely-too-wet-behind-the-ears employee of the Bell Road Barn Playhouse in Parkville.  It was my first professional theater job, and I was pretty awful (both as an employee and a performer).  That summer also served as my introduction to 1) tornadoes and 2) chiggers.

My return to KCMO was a MUCH more pleasant experience, despite the alarm of a May snowstorm during my appearance at the RT Booklovers Convention.  Still, like all good DestiKNITters, I did not let freak weather keep me from getting my fiber fix on.  I visited three delightful--and distinct--shops and have lots of goodies to share with you.  We’ll spend the next three posts getting to know some of what Kansas City has to offer the fiber fan.

If you’re driving into town like I was, chances are you don’t want to go too far afield on your first day.  This is what makes Briarcliff Village such a perfect first stop.  You could call it an open air mall, but it really feels like you’ve just stumbled upon a really great shopping neighborhood.  There’s even a farmer’s market every Thursday afternoon.  Start at perhaps the most famous retailer:

Nell Hill’s
4101 N. Mulberry Drive
Kansas City, MO 64116

Undoubtedly, anyone will advise this store to be your first stop.  Owner Mary Carol Garrity is pretty much a legend in the home decor field.  She’s able to achieve that casual elegant vibe that continually eludes me.  Walking through the place is a one-stop education in what a house could look like were I ever to actually give such pursuits the attention they deserve.  Me, I’m too busy buying yarn to find the perfect wall hanging for that bare spot over the couch, but chances are you’ll love something in here no matter what your taste.

If all that style has you wanting a little substance, head for my very favorite form of substance abuse--the cupcake.  You’ll find awesome ones at:

Sugar Mamma’s
4173 N Mulberry Dr 
Kansas City, MO 64116 

I was well-coached to select the “Hostess with the Mostess” and German Chocolate flavors, and they did not disappoint.  Cupcakes tread a thin line--they have to feel like a sugar rush without taking it over the edge to making you feel just a little bit queasy by the time you reach the end of your second (yes, that’s right, I heartily believe in eating more than one per sitting). The Hostess, as its name implies, nods to the iconic Hostess Cupcake.  If I were a factory-produced Hostess Cupcake (and I enjoy them from time to time, I do), I would want to grow up to become the Sugar Mamma’s version.  Perfection.  Still, my favorite was the German Chocolate.  It was a flat-out splendid combination of tastes and textures; exquisitely moist and with just the right amount of everything.  Truly one of the best cupcakes I’ve had this year.

Luckily for you, you only have steps to go to reach our fiber find for today:

Urban Arts + Crafts
4165 North Mulberry Drive
Kansas City, MO 64116

I particularly admire yarn shops that can make it work in high retail locations.  It takes no small feat of business prowess, and I feel like knitting gets all kinds of new enthusiasts from stores that can hold their own next to mall shops and boutiques in spots like this.  

Urban Arts + Crafts manages to spread the idea of handcrafts to every consumer--just walking through the store inspires you to try something new.  Owner Karen Roark infuses the store with her own vibrant, energetic attitude, offering a little bit of everything to feed “the universal creative impulse” in all of us.  Jewelry making, sewing, quilting, paper crafts, just about any artistic pursuit can find an outlet here, in projects that range from quality basics to high-skill boutique endeavors.  Karen likes to guide new enthusiasts to smaller projects like accessories, knowing they offer a lot of “bang for the buck.”  Smart gal.

Like lots of great yarn shops, Urban Arts + Crafts hosts a mascot, “Annie” the cat, who showed up as a fluffy kitten clinging to a wall on the store’s first anniversary to earn her name.  Here are a few projects Annie and her owners endorse:

Knit wire bracelet or cuff
Given all those crafts to mix, it’s no surprise that cross-discipline projects are a store specialty.  Our knit-along from Karen combines knitting and jewelry-making.  I’ve never knitted with wire and beads before, but Karen assures me if I’ll just stay with it through the awkward first inch (which I’ll probably have to ditch and start over--thanks for the warning), I’ll love the results.  I’m grateful she guided me through my choice of bead styles and colors, as I usually rot at that sort of thing and she loves to help customers get what they need for the best possible outcome.

Soap Scrubbies
I love artisan soap. I love knitting.  Once again, Karen weaves her cross-craft magic to create hemp accessories to enhance my soap experience.  Since I often give soap as a gift, knitting up a mitt or crocheting a scrubbie would make a perfect little set.  What’s not to love?

Knit for the Girls
Longtime DestiKNITions readers will know our family is entirely too friendly with the nemesis of cancer.  Also a cancer survivor (as is my son), Karen wields yarn for good in a set of patterns she calls “Knit for the Girls.”  Three different hat patterns, as well as a clever scarf or mitts, not only let you show your support for those fighting breast cancer, but funds the battle by supporting the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation of Greater Kansas City.  Best use of worsted weight yarn ever!

Hugs and Kisses Baby Blanket and Hat
Aww.  What mom wouldn’t love a simple, sturdy, stylish blanket like this to wrap her bundle of joy inside?  Basic but with border pizazz, this blanket would let even a beginner knitter show her love for the little arrival in her life.  Knit up with 2nd Time Cotton from Knit1Crochet2, you can whip it up in whatever color suits your fancy.

Looking to whip up a small but clever gadget?  Look no further than Karen's ring pins, an easy to assemble helper for the sewing or quilting enthusiast in your life. Or yourself.

Once you’ve scored all your crafting treasures, wander around the rest of the mall as you see fit, but time it so that you hit right here for dinner:

Trezo Mare
4105 N. Mulberry Drive
Kansas City, MO  64116

I’ve said it before--I place a lot of stock in how a restaurant treats a lone diner like myself.  When  a friendly wait staff combines with great food for a terrific experience even if I’m on my own, I take notice.  Owner Michael Lee has done it right:  I had a wonderful meal.  The decor is warm and inviting, with just the right amount of music.  

Vintage Beef?  I’d never heard of it before this night, but while everyone seems to rave about the seafood here, my server steered (pun intended) me toward a steak salad that knocked my hand-knit socks off.  And the house specialty chocolate bars dessert?  Outstanding.

All these combined for a superb afternoon of feeding all of my appetites--yarn, shopping, sugar, and supper.  I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Kansas City.

Next, we head to Overland Park for more adventures.

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