Sunday, March 22, 2015


Dipping my toes in...

Having a reason to go to San Diego in February is one of life’s great pleasures.  When my daughter moved out there in late 2014, my first thought was “beaches and nice weather.”  My next thought was, “I wonder how many yarn shops are out there?”

The weather was fine, and there were quite a few yarn shops, so these next two posts will just dip our toes into the water (pun intended) of two of San Diego’s fiber arts establishments.  It won’t be my last trip, I guarantee, so there will be more chances to explore further in the coming months.  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

LaMesa is an area slightly inland of the coast.  This isn't a touristy locale to be sure, but it is a walkable downtown with some rather fun spots along the main route of La Mesa Boulevard.

Every DestiKNITions adventure starts with breakfast and coffee, so pull up to:

Cosmos Coffee
8278 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91941

If it’s nice out, enjoy the patio seating and scope out the stores you want to hit after lunch. Wherever you sit, make sure you try the Mexican Mocha with your breakfast sandwich or bagel. It’s a house speciality. We weren’t there for lunch, but should you need to do lunch here the paninis looked yummy.  Not a huge menu, but nicely done and varied given the 6am - 8pm hours.  Their bread comes from Bread and Cie—a name I heard many times during my travels—and they locally source almost everything.  No big chain write-your-name-on-a-paper-cup here, people—I love that you get your mocha in a real mug.  It always tastes better that way, in my opinion.

Note:  If you want a full breakfast, my sources say to head to Swami’s, but I can’t give you a personal account since I didn’t have the chance to eat there.

Caffeine and carbs fully loaded, head on down the road a bit to our fiber fix for the day:

Yarn & Thread Expressions
7882 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942
619-460-YARN (9276)

Sometimes you walk into a store and you just know you’ll be there a while.  The welcome hits the minute you open the door, and you see the telltale signs:  a cute dog, a table full of chattering knitters, color and texture and alluring projects everywhere.  

Carol and Squeaky
If the yarn-bombed tree outside wasn’t hint enough, each of these elements combines to achieve the inclusive, relaxing atmosphere owner Carol Fuller strives to create.  “There are no attitudes or cliques here—we want everyone to feel comfortable enough to relax and learn,” says Fuller, who left the high-tech world for something with a little more texture and friendships.  

Carol listens to what customers ask for in both selection and value.  “I look for real quality at a price point I know my customers want.”  The store boasts a huge selection of sock yarns because of that weight’s versatility in San Diego’s weather.  And it’s not just knitting; the store enthusiastically welcomes crocheters and weavers as well.  Local yarn companies and notions suppliers fill the shelves with US products whenever possible.   They are known for their Knit-Alongs, but if you can’t commit, Thursday night sit-and-knits should suit the bill beautifully.

Two things catch your eye immediately. One is Squeaky, the shop Malti-poo adored by staff and customers alike.  The other is the pair of knitted sock monkeys who have joined Squeaky as the shop mascots.  The monkeys get a complete range of seasonal outfits, and had a full-scale monkey wedding a while back that people are still talking about.

Some projects to consider:

Basic Dress Socks
The pattern from Unicorn Books and Crafts will take any good sock or fingerling weight yarn and whip up a really novice-friendly pair of socks.  You can never have too many solid, sure-fire sock patterns, and this one is one of Carol’s go-to resources.

Wonderful Wallaby Sweater
I’ve see this Carol Anderson pattern before and marveled at how customizable it is.  With no seaming and fully scalable to a host of sizes from baby to linebacker, this pattern should be in every knitter’s toolbox.  How much yarn you’ll need will depend on your chosen size, but a standard woman’s version requires 12-1400 yards of worsted weight wool.  collar or no collar, pocket or no pocket, hood or no hood, casual chunky or tailored dk—the possibilities are endless!

Flutterby Hooded Blanket
James C. Brett yarns designed this adorable, super soft double moss stitch baby blanket to whip up in two skeins of Flutterby.  I can’t think of a new mom who wouldn’t just love something this soft and cuddly for their new little bundle of joy.

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf
Our Knit-Along from Yarn & Thread Expressions is this exclusive shop pattern.  If you want an eye-catching set, get the matching hat (a separate pattern) and a third skein of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, but two will be enough to craft this pretty scarf.  As with most cable projects, make sure you stick with light or bright colors and just a hint of variegation if not a solid.

With all your fiber goodies firmly in hand, it’s time for lunch.  Head just down the street to:

Tamarind Thai
7970 University Ave 
(at the corner of LaMesa Blvd)
LaMesa, CA  92942

This cozy little place offers a neighborhood atmosphere with a touch of the exotic.  For a small shop, they offer a large menu—and my favorite is that they’ll tailor the spice level to your preference.  You tell them on a scale of 1-10 how much you want your tongue to burn.  Spice wuss that I am, I truly appreciate that ability to say “0, if you can go that low.”  I asked for a recommendation of the house specialities, and was very pleased with my crispy duck salad.  If you need dessert, go for the mango with sweet sticky rice—a unique treat.

After lunch, let yourself wander farther down La Mesa Blvd until you reach the town’s center—called La Mesa Village.  Look around, and you’ll spy a collection of thrift stores like I have never seen before.  If you’re into thrift shops, this is the place to have fun.  If not (I’m not), there are plenty of other places to get your commerce on.  My favorites were:

8219 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91942

I loved everything about this charming studio of card and book creator Chris Shea—most especially that it is “closed on Tuesdays for inspiration gathering.”  A selection of thoughtful little gift books, and gift cards for many occasions can be found both here, at the website, and a nation-wide collection of retailers.  It thrills me when artists like this succeed!

Maxwell's House of Books
8285 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942

Because independent book stores always deserve your patronage!  As in most great bookstores, this one has a cozy attic/library feeling, thoughts, recommendations, and quotes tacked to the walls and shelves—and a charismatic owner. Evidently Craig Maxwell is as much appreciated as the stock. This quote I found on Yelp summed it up:  “The owner is like Mr. Rogers meets boot camp. A patriot of reading and community!”

Handful of Wildflowers
8323 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942

Little artsy gift shops are a personal favorite of mine.  When I’m looking for a gift, I’m extra-pleased to find something no one else has.  Fresh and friendly, this store has unique items including lots of artisan glass.  I became a fan of Trapp Candles during my visit to Kansas City—nothing else smells as good—and you can get them here.  The shop hosts classes, too.  My favorite touch?  The website counts the days SINCE Christmas!

Volunteer Walk
How can you not love a town that gives its volunteers their own walk of fame?  Spend a few minutes in this cozy little streetside garden appreciating all the good people who give of themselves to make the world a better place.

Mostly Mission
8360 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91942

I’ve long been a collector of mission furnishings—the arts and crafts style championed by Frank Lloyd Wright.   There wasn’t a single thing in this store I wouldn’t take home immediately.  Stunning , quality pieces of furniture and artwork, home accessories and even textiles.  The clocks alone had me salivating.  Tiles, teapots, prints, lamps…it’s all here.  

Shopping at Mostly Mission, we kept hearing all this loud chatter, and asked what was going on.  Here’s what we heard:

The AubreyRose Tea Room
8362 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa CA  91942

There was so much laughter and fun being had in this room!  I would have loved to stay and have an elegant high tea, but there wasn’t an empty table in the place—you may want to call ahead.  Delicate, delectable goodies, oodles of china worthy of Downton Abbey, linen napkins, doilies—the whole atmosphere perfectly combines fun and frill.  It would be the perfect place to cap off your trip to La Mesa.

Hop in your car and drive the twenty minutes or so to downtown San Diego for rest of your day.  You’ll have a chance to walk off those scones and clotted cream as you wander: 

San Diego's Embarcadero
Stretching down toward the Broadway Pier, this waterside walkway houses several museums, restaurants, and a lovely view.  Spend an hour in the various ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego or the USS Midway Museum, sip a cocktail as you watch the sun go down at Anthony’s Fish Grotto, or nab some souvenirs and really good fudge at Seaport Village.

When you are ready for dinner, you owe it to yourself to make a stop at:

Rockin' Baja Lobster
3890 Twiggs St
San Diego, CA 92110
This crazy-happy Old Town cantina serves up literal buckets of seafood with a Mexican flare and a contagious party atmosphere.  We scored a table easily early on a Friday night, but if you plan to get here later you should be prepared to wait a bit.  And there’s Taco Tuesday—a $2 taco this good sounds too awesome to miss!  Massive Signature Buckets—three of us split the “Big Baja Bucket for Two” and still couldn’t finish—are the way to go here.  If you get the “Shipwreck” drink “served in a giant fishbowl,” take a photo—you may not remember it otherwise.

You can peek around Old Town, but save the visits for tomorrow.  You’ve had a full day already and there’s more to come in the next installment.

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