Sunday, November 20, 2016

NORTHWEST INDIANA - Day One: Valparaiso

Surprising Valparaiso...

Each “Reader Who Knits" (or in this case, Crochets) has the opportunity to give a shout out to their favorite local yarn store.  Last November when Anaida Morales cited Sheep’s Clothing in a city not too far from me, I filed it away for future use.  Now, I get the delight of introducing you to this nifty store in a town I confess I’ve driven past countless times and never stopped to visit.  My loss, I tell you, because “Valpo” has a surprising lot to offer!

Fluid Coffeebar
159 W Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383

DestiKNITTers know coffee is always Job One on a yarn adventure.  Forget the franchise java and make your first stop this engaging and funky family-run coffee bar.  Truly good brew here, folks, delivered with tons of character.  They serve Intellegentsia coffee—top notch beans, and the folks who served as my resource when I wrote The Perfect Blend—so you know quality is a priority.  Ask the good baristas behind the counter to tell you the story of this place, right down to the handmade furniture.  Don’t forget to include a visit to the chalkboard-walled washrooms, filled with “entertaining” messages from patrons.

On to the main event: the fiber:

Sheep’s Clothing Knitting Supply
60 West Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN  46383

Owner Paula Strietelmeier started with a small section of yarn in a friend’s quilt shop and never looked back.  Earning its own retail space in 2001 and growing to its present wonderful location in 2008, the store boasts three classroom spaces, perfect lighting, airy high ceilings, and warm textures like wood and brick.  The whole place just feels creative.

“I love good yarn and helping people come up with a project,” says Paula.  Her stock shifts slightly with the seasons and product innovations, and is displayed with a loosely organized style meant to encourage browsing.  

A friendly staff of many long-time employees stands ready to help you.  Paula makes great use of that loyal talent.  “Each of our employees has a specialty,” she says, “Including especially strong beginners classes like "First Time Sweaters.”  As Anaida will attest, crocheters will find a home here, too.  Just want to hang out?  Open knitting is on Wednesday mornings, Thursday evenings, and the first and third Saturdays.  Check out a chock-full monthly newsletter to see all that’s being offered.

The store is packed with enticing samples, and here are a few of my favorites:

Enter Sweater
Norah Gaughn’s versatile design takes on the characteristics of whatever lighter worsted weight yarn you use.  This is one pattern you’ll want to make multiple times!  Perfect for the layering Chicagoland’s tricky weather can demand.  Depending on size, you’ll need approximately 7 skeins.

Big and Cuddly Cable Cowl
And when those Lake Michigan winds blow, you’ll want to knit up this to keep you warm.  Any purchase of chainette yarn such as Classic  Elite’s Chalet, Chateau, or Palace earns you a copy of the exclusive shop pattern.  Vary the length to your taste, and stay warm and stylish this winter.

Yoked Cardigan Baby Sweater
What sweet little one wouldn’t look cuddly in this stylish sweater?  For that matter, what human?  Good thing Hanna Fettig of Knitbot lists this pattern in a variety of sizes so you can indulge everyone.  Go cheery and bright or neutral and elegant—any worsted weight yarn will do.  Make sure to grab a pair of artful buttons for the perfect finishing touch.

Knit A Long: Caterpillar to Butterfly Scarf
Our hands-on project from this store is all about the transformation!  Using two balls of Tahki Filatura Di Crosa Fancy Tempo or Minitempo, this store exclusive pattern works a post-stitching magic I can’t wait to watch.  Lots of “dropped stitch” scarves like this are worked widthwise, but this clever design is worked lengthwise.  I’m excited to see this inventive technique in action.

Yarn in hand, it’s time to indulge in the surprisingly great shopping this little town has to offer.

Ivy Boutique
64 Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Just yards away from Sheep’s Clothing! Little boutiques like this are my favorite place to shop—personalized service, and you never come away looking like everyone else.  If you like Free People clothes, this place is for you.  Accessories, home and bath finds, and gift items round out the inventive stock.

Bangles Clothing Gifts and Accessories
15 Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Duck around the corner from Sheep’s Clothing to this small store packed with charm.  I found a great pair of earrings, but Owner Paulette Domke also stocks unique handbags, apparel, and accessories.

Silcott’s City Gear Shoes
18 Washington St
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Yelp photo
There’s always something nice about a quality independent shoe store that puts the mall and big box outlets to shame.  The variety of the stock is impressive!  Everyone talked about owner Brent’s fabulous customer service.  Any place with this many enthusiastic regulars deserves a look.

Seasons on the Square
1 Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Beautiful high quality clothes and Brighton bags make this a great shopping experience. If you’re looking for a statement jacket to let you stand out at work or elsewhere, chances are you’ll find it here.

Ready for lunch?  Head to:

Blackbird Cafe
114 Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Admittedly, this is as good a choice for breakfast as it is for lunch.  The quiche is outstanding, as is the soup and salad selections.  Casual enough for moms and tots but trendy enough to make you feel like you’re someplace special (the cupcakes, and pecan pie help with that, too). 

I’m especially fond of places where eating alone doesn’t feel weird—and I saw many lone diners (I brought a friend to help me “taste” all the goodies that weren’t on my very restrictive diet program).  Valparaiso University is nearby, and this spot has that artsy, casually elegant college-town feel.  Succumb to the “homemade oreos" if you must, but we have other dessert plans so save room!

Designer Desserts Cupcakes
56 Lincoln Way
Valparaiso, IN 46383

I have a thing for cupcake places.  They always have an inventive and whimsical vibe, a place where you don’t have to take life so seriously.  I love to see if someone has come up with a flavor I’ve never heard of before.  This place had large, moist cupcakes with delicious frosting.  Seasonal flavors that sounded intriguing included Watermelon Fizz and Eggnog, but our super-helpful server recommended the Big Texan (seriously chocolate) the Creme Brulee, and the Pink Champagne.  I counted 101 flavors on the menu! I’m coming back when I can have more than a forkful!

Lifestyles Unique Gifts
122 Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383
This is one of those “little bit of everything” gift stores that I especially love to frequent.  I found a clever Joseph Joseph counting water bottle to help me stay hydrated on my program, as well as some very lovely soaps (I’m a total soap snob, if you haven’t yet figured that out).  There was home decor, jewelry, garden and kitchen goodies, accessories, and even toys—truly a bit of everything.  The sales staff was exceptionally friendly, offering to gift wrap my purchases even though they were just for me.   Don’t miss the upstairs gallery, too.

Old World Market
76 S Washington St
Valparaiso, IN 46383

I didn’t know quite what to think when Paula suggested we stop here.  Wine and cheese foodie shops aren’t usually my thing, but I adored this place even if my diet kept me off cheese while I was here.  Don’t you dare call this a deli—your grocery store can’t hope to compete with the intriguing collection of meats and cheeses in this oh-so-friendly market.  You can easily walk in here clueless about wine and come away with a purchase sure to make you look clever at next week’s dinner party.  A serious display of local brews rounds out the fare.  My friend and I packed ourselves a lovely little set of snacks for the drive home—you should, too!

I feel bad that I hadn’t given Valparaiso much thought beyond an 1-65 exit before my visit. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My friend and I left thinking, “My hometown should feel like this—can we move here?”  Valpo has all the spiff of a elegant suburb with all the warmth of a small town.  Perfect!  Next time you drive by, don’t just drive by—stop and enjoy all this town has to offer.

Next up, we travel a little further west to Griffith to sample more Northwest Indiana hidden treasures.

No comments: