Sunday, March 6, 2016


Pleasantly Surprising Peoria...

Peoria is one of those cities you hear named frequently, but rarely visit.  I’ve driven by or through it multiple times, but when work afforded me the chance of a short visit, I decided to see what fiber adventures Peoria had in store.  

I wasn’t disappointed.  Peoria and its neighbor to the east, Morton, had some great yarn finds I’m happy to share with you.

If you're one of those people who just needs coffee in the morning, launch your adventure from:

Thirty-Thirty Coffee
734 Main St
Peoria, IL 61602

The unique triangular building can’t be missed—even if you’re under-cafeinated!  Great coffee expertly brewed in the hip-efficient atmosphere you’d expect from a good java joint.

If you need to start your day with a meal, however (and I usually do), head to:

5901 N. Prospect Road
Peoria, IL  60614

Bakeries—ones so large and diverse they’re really restaurants—are one of my favorite places to have breakfast.   And not just because I can indulge in the “Better Than Brad Pitt” brownie and the salted caramel cheesecake alongside my quiche for my morning meal.  Service is quick, the food is exquisite, and the place is filled with clever cookware and other giftable goodies I can peruse while my food is on its way. A day started this way must turn out great, don’t you think?

My next stop ensures that outcome—it’s today’s fiber find:

The Fiber Universe
305 SW Water St
Peoria, IL 61602

Tucked just inside the Contemporary Arts Center along the river you’ll find The Fiber Universe. It’s easy to find; owner Erin Strehlo planned it that way when she opened the store 4 years ago after selling knitwear at a farmer’s market with a friend.  With art studios all around the Center, there’s a great, young-feeling creative vibe to the space.

“Whimsy is important,” says  Erin, and you feel it echo from all corners of the store—including the large-scale pink-and-blue knitted squid smiling at you from atop a fixture.  

Erin prides herself on individualized customer service, remembering customer’s names and preferences.  “I want to appreciate each of my customers and make that personal connection.”  It’s not unusual to find Erin sitting and knitting alongside her patrons.

Fibers are arranged by weight, and there is a very nice selection of finished knitted goods for sale—I found to be a unique touch.  Fibers from local farms and local designers get well-deserved attention.   Sock yarns?  Tons of ‘em.  Spinning fibers?  They’ve got some great ones.

If you’re looking for a project, here are a few to inspire you:

World War G{loves}
Nicole Montgomery’s clever design takes a basic accessory and gives it a bit of flair.  Two balls of HiKoo Llamor (the fiber that was once Frog Tree Llambrosia) whip up into these clever mitts that boast ridges on the outside but remain smooth and comfortable on the inside.

Ombre Cowl Hood
Hillary Carr’s free Ravelry pattern uses two strands of lace-weight held together.  The dual strands in three different colors of your choice enable you to design your own gradual ombre color progression.  Erin suggests Lotus' Tibetan Cloud Yak in fingering weight for warmth and loft.  Scrunch it around your neck or pull it up over your head to keep those ears cozy.

Our Knit a Long from Fiber Universe: The Fog Shawl
Dallas Ann Prentice writes more of a “recipe” than a pattern, giving you lots of free rein to make the accessory in your own style.  Two skeins of Dream in Color’s lushly hued Jilly pair with one ball of Plymouth Revel lace weight to make this large, nicely draped wrap.  The magic of this piece?  It nearly doubles in size when blocked!

Fiber Universe hosts not one, but two Knit Nights on Wednesday and Thursday from 6-8.  You’ll find this inventive little shop big on creativity and customer service.

When you’re ready for lunch, if you don’t want to stay right there and take in the New Orleans vibe of the Rhythm Kitchen Cafe, Erin suggests you head to:

One World Cafe
1245 W Main St
Peoria, IL 61606

This corner restaurant has a fun, bohemian feel—right down to the murals all over the walls and the eclectic, diverse menu.  If you’re there for dinner, the King Creole Shrimp is the way to go, but as we were there for lunch, we followed Erin’s suggestions and went for the appetizer sampler to try One World’s famous spinach dip.   Very good!  

The coffee was first-rate and the flourless chocolate cake was one of the best gluten-free desserts I’ve ever had.

After lunch, I’m always in the mood for a bit of shopping, so we went to:

I Know You Like a Book
4707 N Prospect Rd
Peoria Heights, IL 61616

Independent book stores deserve our patronage, and this one makes that job easy.  It feels just the right size—not too big to overwhelm, but not too small that you can’t find something to tickle your reading fancy.  The little wooden bar serving wine and beer is a great touch.

1219 West Glen Ave
Peoria, IL 61614

I love stores that defy categorization, and this is one of them,  Clever gift items, some unique jewelry—I purchased a ring with a flip-able, dual colored center stone—scarves, cards, all kinds of things.  The  owner is very friendly and has a great sense of style.

When you’re ready for an afternoon respite, drive the short trip to Dunap IL for this one-of-a-kind place:

Her Majesty’s English Tea Room at Fairchild’s
211 N 2nd St
Dunlap, IL 61525

It’s a tea-room, complete with beautiful and delicate china serving ware.  It’s a shop jam-packed with all things Anglo, right down to the full size London taxi in one back room.  It’s a gift shop with adorable little girl stuff, luscious soap (I’m a total soap snob and I took home two bars).  It’s…well, it’s just about the most unique retail experience I’ve run across.  Great fun, delicious, and relaxing—all at the same time.

By the end of this day my companion and I were too stuffed to think of dinner.  As such, I can’t offer you any first-hand advice.  If you need a place to take your evening meal, however, take Erin’s advice and hit one of Travis Mohlenbrink’s restaurants:
Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro for gourmet pizzas dishes
Salt for American Food

I found Peoria to be a pleasant surprise—fun, a little bit funky, and delightfully friendly.  What more could a DestiKNITter ask for?

Next post, we head slightly east to visit Morton IL.

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