Friday, September 30, 2016


Nashville has grown far beyond it’s country music fame to become one of the country’s hottest cities.  Food, fashion, art…and yes, yarn can be found with a vibrancy that enamored me even if I think of myself as a far cry from a southern twang or a cowboy hat.  This is a hip, sophisticated town—and you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Here's where to start:

Pancake Pantry
1796 21st Ave S
Nashville, TN 37212

Everyone I talked to had only one recommendation for breakfast—and it was this place.  Lots of pancakes come with their own special syrup, and the line outside tells you why everyone loves their food.  This place is old school—not fancy, just delicious.  My choice:  sweet potato pancakes.  Go ahead and lie to yourself that they are nutritious.

Fox’s Donut Den
3900 Hillsboro Pike
Ste 2
Nashville, TN 37215

If a full breakfast isn’t your thing—and, quite frankly, even if it is—here’s another Nashville icon.  Again, nothing fancy, just a wide variety of donuts and fritters done exceptionally well.  Of course, if you want to pull out all the stops, pre-order the Texas Donut.  It comes in a pizza-sized box.  Need I say more?

Parnassus Books 
3900 Hillsboro Pike Suite 14 
Nashville, TN 37215 
(615) 953-2243

This is no ordinary bookstore.  This is a noble cause disguised as a bookstore.  Bestselling author Ann Patchett didn’t just talk about the necessity of the independent bookstore, she up and launched her own.  The store is stunning, right down to the children’s reading room, the shop dog, the many events, and the staff recommendations.  Go here and buy something because you ought to, and you’ll want to.

Haus of Yarn
265 White Bridge Road
Nashville TN 37209

Taking over from the shop’s original owner who passed away in 2015, Meg Strong stepped up to the plate because “I really, really wanted to keep the place open.”  We’re glad she did. Having moved to this new location to gain more space five years ago, this shop fills three rooms with a mix of big brands and beloved locals.  Trunk shows showcase smaller, local stock and happen nearly every month.  Products flow in and out of stock, so there’s always reason to come back and find some new fiber obsession.  

Haus of Yarn boasts a long-time and loyal customer base.  “We have fantastic customers who’ve been with us from the beginning.”  But Meg also meets the needs of the expected tourist base, being close to downtown and to area hospitals (I think yarn should be sold in hospital gift shops  myself—where do you need the peace knitting brings more than a hospital?) Meg selects projects and products to appeal to each audience—and that’s no small feat.  “You want a lot of affordable and interesting new stuff for our regulars, but you also need enough stock to let someone get all the skeins they’ll need to finish their project.  It’s a balance.”

The super-friendly staff—all of whom have been with Haus of Yarn for multiple years—stands ready to assist.  “We’ll help you try any project,” Meg boasts.  The staff will often brainstorm multiple substitutions at a variety of price points for projects.

Just want to come in and stitch?   Social knitting takes place Thursday afternoons and all day Sunday.  You can connect digitally, too—the shop is active on Ravelry, Instagram, and Facebook.

Here are some of the projects that caught my eye:

Easy Folded Poncho  
I’ve seen this clever Churchmouse Yarns pattern in many stores, and it’s a fan favorite everywhere.  “Nashville is a poncho town,” Meg remarks, and who wouldn’t want to join in with this accessory?  The varieties are endless, depending on yarn and stitch.  Grab 980 yards of whatever strikes your fancy if you want the cowl version, or 840 yards without.  There’s no way you can make just one of these—the options are obsessive!

CrochetWorks Crochet Projects 
Under her CrochetWorks moniker on Ravelry, Julie Blagojevich (yes, she’s the sister-in-law of that governor) has dozens of stunning patterns. Meg’s favorites include  Vicki’s Scarf, the Leslie Shawl, and Lisa’s Bag.  One of these is bound to hook your imagination.

Josephine Shawl
This free Ravelry pattern is as simple as it gets.  Use two balls of any self striping yarn—Meg recommends Noro Taiyo sock—and zen out.  The mindless, soothing knitting is the perfect project for a stressful season.  Look here at all the myriad of possibilities and cast on.

Knit Along:  Meet me at the Ryman Shawl/Stole
Our Knit-Along from Haus of Yarn made its debut at Stitches, and takes its design from the famous architectural details of Nashville’s home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium.  The pattern comes in a shawl version utilizing 3 balls of Geilsk wool cotton blend, and a stole version (which I chose), kniting up with two balls of Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal wool cashmere blend.  Gauge is critical, so if there’s any doubt, go ahead and get a third ball.  I sure did.

Time for lunch?  I know where to send you:

Picnic Cafe
4320 Harding Pike
Nashville, TN 37205

There are so many plates decorating the walls, it’s like eating in a blue china garden. Every member of the wait staff dons a different cheerful apron.  The chicken salad was everything Meg said it would be, and the frozen fruit salad was like a dessert in itself.  The coconut cake—a personal favorite—was top-notch, as were the little “Kathy’s Crescents” cookies.  The perfect “ladies who lunch” spot. 

From here, head on down towards one of Nashville’s trendiest neighborhood, “12 South.”  The best route is to drive down Woodlawn Avenue, taking note of all the fancy houses and imagining which stars or executives might live inside.

Tackle the challenging 12 south parking (side streets offer the best bet), and start your afternoon adventures with a dose of caffeine at: 

Frothy Monkey
509 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

This inventive, friendly java joint has all the markers of a good gathering spot—small tables, comfy chairs, memorable name, good brews. You can eat here too, with full menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s often crowded, and it’s not hard to see why.

Craft South
2516 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Even though I’m a one-craft gal—knitting only—I like the new trend of multi-craft establishments like this one.  Knitting, sewing, crochet, quilting, embroidery, cross-stitch—it’s all here.  The shop lists itself as “an expertly curated supply shop of fabrics yarns, embroidery supply, tools and a Janome Sewing Machine dealership.” Owner and craft maven Anna Maria Horner of the popular Anna Maria brand runs the place, and her trademark love of color is seen everywhere.  She even designs quilt fabrics.  Just standing in the store revs up your creative juices.

Sprinkles Cupcakes
2606 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Now if you want to rev up your blood-sugar, you only need to travel next door.  This shop has a cupcake ATM! How can you not love that level of efficiency?  My sources tout the Red Velvet, Black & White, and Chocolate Marshmallow flavors as the best, but a wide variety of seasonal flavors show up to tempt you as well.  There’s ice cream, too, in just as many clever and yummy flavors.

Draper James
2608 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

later learned that this charming southern store is owned by actress Reese Witherspoon, and it made total sense.  The store has a stylish, classy whimsy to it.  The kind of place where you find something for the person you can never find anything for.  They even offered me a glass of sweet tea while I shopped—can you get more southern hospitality than that?

White’s Mercantile
2908 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Another store with a different vibe is in this old gas station with the flower stand out front.  Owned by singer-songwriter Holly Williams (daughter of legend Hank Williams), “ecclectic” is a good word for this place.  Delightfully cluttered, this “hip new twist on the age-old general store” hosts an intriguing assortment of gifts, housewares, and foodie goodies. There’s a second location in nearby Franklin TN.

Las Paletas
2911 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Gourmet popsicles?  Why not?  The list of the day’s flavors surprised me.  An avocado popsicle?  I declined that one, but headed straight for Meg’s suggestion of cantaloupe and was not disappointed.  The perfect treat on a hot summer afternoon.

Hattie B’s 
112 19th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203

Speaking of hot, “hot chicken” is one of Nashville’s contributions to civilization, and a fine way to top off your day.  Being a total spice-wimp myself, I can’t speak from personal experience, but the line outside Hattie B’s (my photo is from a different location) should tell you this isn’t to be missed. Their list of “heat levels” will tell you all you need to know:  Southern, Mild or Medium, Hot, Damn Hot, and Shut the Cluck Up.  Totally not my thing, but may surely be yours.

There you have it.  Any guidebook will give you a standard list of things to do in Nashville—all of them worthwhile.  But once you’ve exhausted the standards, spend a fiber-filled day exploring these treasures.  Your day will sure be music to your ears.


Lenora said...

Well, I had fun at a couple of these places. And I have the extra pounds to prove it!

Dawn Leonard said...

Looks like you had a great time "researching" this.