Thursday, May 29, 2014


Up and down Marion Street...

There’s a great value to playing tourist in your own town.  Fiber tourist?  All the better.  And so I’ve come to look forward to those times in the DestiKNITions schedule where I get to wander close to home, exploring shops I ought to know but haven’t yet met.  Today and in our next episode, we’ll meet two great shops in Chicago’s near western suburbs.  Lucky for us, we’ll also get to explore two great neighborhoods with lots to offer the curious fiber tourist.

To begin: A DestiKNITions tradition—sugar for breakfast!

Sugar Fixé
119 N. Marion Street
Oak Park, IL  60302

Longtime readers know my passion for French macarons, and Sugar Fixé did not disappoint. Delicate, lushly colored, and perfect, I ate one in every available flavor and would have gone back for more.  They boast a nice selection of “Breakfast pastries,” so they get my morning sugar vibe just fine.  Top it off with Julius Meinl coffee and espresso drinks, and the day is off to a fabulous start.

Lucky you, you’re only steps away from today’s fiber fix:

Knot Just Knits
1107-1109 Westgate St
Oak Park, IL 60301

I had heard about this shop several times, always from devoted fans who raved about the friendly vibe.  Walking in on a rainy weekday morning, I saw that welcoming atmosphere in action.  Owner Ellizabeth Halpern called nearly every customer by name, asking many about their family, their work, or some other personal detail.  “I could never understand knit shops that felt ‘mean.’” Elizabeth offers.  “I sought to ensure Knot Just Knits has a community feel.”

It does.  From the table in the sunny corner inviting “sit and knit” conversations to the generous supply of cookies and chocolate on that table, Elizabeth has created an atmosphere of instant comfort.  As if I didn’t like her enough already, she mentioned she had already been given and had read a copy of Homefront Hero!  If you’re a fan of Malabrigo—their sock yarn or any of their fabulous fibers—this is the store for you.  And Knot Just Knits is just that—not just knitting.  You’ll find supplies for needlepoint and other needle arts here as well.

While many stores rely on a hefty class schedule, Not Just Knits takes a different approach.  “I have a love-hate relationship with classes—I prefer the private lesson model,” Elizabeth says.  “That way you can make whatever you want whenever you can.”  Given today’s busy lifestyles, the idea has real merit.  Still, the store does offer some classes and class-like events.  A store favorite is the “Year Long Afghan Knit Along,” complete with a “Show and Tell” party in December.  How much fun is that?

My favorite quote from the day came from a discussion of knitting perfection and mistakes.  “If someone is close enough to see that mistake, they’re [also] close enough to hit.”  The saying makes me smile every time I drop a stitch—but I’ve no plans to slug anyone in the near future, and I suspect neither does someone as personable as Elizabeth.

The shop is stock-full of great ideas, but here are some specific projects to tempt your needles:

image from Strickmich
The Leftie Shawl
Our Knit-Along from Knot Just Knits, this clever design by Martina Behm utilizes simple garter stitch sections interspersed with leaf-motif stripes that can follow a color scheme or simply eat up all those left-overs sitting in your stash drawer.  For my shawl, Elizabeth gave me Malabrigo Sock and a five color palate of “Cheshire Cat” mini skeins from Wonderland Yarns.

The Fallingwater Hat
Oak Park is an architecture town.  It’s a haven for Frank Lloyd Wright fans, and this hat from the book “Knitting Architecture” takes its inspiration from the master’s famous “Fallingwater” home.  Done up in Tosh Vintage, the clever loop top sets this cap apart from the ordinary.

Watermelon Baby Hat
I’ve made an apple baby hat for years, but this is a new twist on infant fruity headwear.  Taken from the “Spud & Chloe” blog and utilizing their Sweater yarn, this hat would make any tiny head that much sweeter.

Interrupted Cable Cowl
Chicago is home to “The Fiber Friend,” Amy Kaspar, who also makes her Chi-town mark as The Chicago Knitting Examiner.  Aside from stringing together clever sentences, Amy also is an accomplished pattern designer, as this inventive cowl shows.  Malabrigo Rasta has been used in many a cowl pattern, but this is one of my new favorites.  Think of all the fun you can have with those buttons!

Cabled Mitts
Want a small scale project to dip your toes—or in this case your wrists—into the world of cables?  Designer Colleen Powley creates a simple but elegant project for the novice cable knitter.  Choose a bright or light color, and your wrists will be the best dressed and coziest in town.

When you’ve stocked your knitting bag, it’s time to stock your shopping bag.  Marion Street is a perfect little retail experience, with a variety of stores and boutiques to lure you.  Two of my favorites were:

Scratch N Sniff
120 North Marion Street
Oak Park, IL  60301

Homegoods, handbags, and pet accessories together in one store?  Why not? I wanted several of the handbags as badly as I wanted several of the dog collars.  Somehow it feels less guilty to spend money on both me and my dog.

106 N. Marion Street
Oak Park, IL  60301

I especially liked the clothing in this artsy boutique, and the nice conversation I had with the sales staff about how to fit someone of my height.

Once you’re ready for lunch, I have two options.  If you are vegetarian or vegan, head to:

104 N. Marion Street
Oak Park, IL  60301

How can you not love a place where one of the most popular dishes is “The Groovy Plate”? I like that there are deserts offered along with those kale tacos.  The menu changes constantly, so every trip here can be a new experience.  My sources tell me the weekend brunch is fabulous!

You other option:

Marion Street Cheese Market
100 S. Marion Street
Oak Park, IL  60302

I loved this place.  I mean really loved this place.   The service was attentive, the atmosphere lovely, and the food was exquisite.  When I asked to try a particular cheese that the folks from Knot Just Knits recommended, they bought me the artiest little plate with the Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam, a mango sauce thing, some figs, and a little bowl of nuts. I felt such a foodie!  

Then came the sandwich.  Now, I am generally not a sandwich person, and I doubted when my server raved about the Cauliflower Melt because I am also not much of a cauliflower fan.  “Try it,” my server encouraged, “it was just featured on the Food Network and everybody loves it.”  Trust your servers, people, they know their stuff.  It was divine.  The best sandwich I think I’ve ever had, certainly the best one in recent memory. Go eat this.  Truly, you must.

That high note marks the perfect place to wrap up my Oak Park Adventure.  There’s plenty more to enjoy in this lovely town, so come explore.

Next up, we travel just a bit west to another hidden near west gem, Forest Park.

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