Monday, May 7, 2012

MILWAUKEE, WI - Day 1: North

The wonders of Whitefish Bay...

You’d think, living as close as I do, that Milwaukee would have been one of the first cities DestiKNITions visited.  It never worked out that way, so I was glad when well-known book blogger Barbara Vey invited me to a luncheon in that city last month.  This gave me an opportunity to turn a single luncheon event into two days of fiber wonderfulness.  You could certainly go farther afield and make a larger trip out of it, but I’ll share my quick visit with you.

I started up north of the city in the lovely section of Milwaukee called Whitefish Bay.  It’s the perfect setup for a DestiKNITions adventure: a great store with a highly walkable neighborhood all around it.

If you haven’t yet reached optimum caffeination, there’s a Starbuck’s just down the street on Whitefish Bay’s main drag, Silver Spring Drive.  The entire block holds some marvelous stores, and these were two of my favorites:

Think Toys
308 E. Silver Spring Drive
Whitefish Bay, WI 53217

You’ve heard me say it before--good, independent toy stores are gems to find in this big-box, dot-com world.  Even if you have no little ones, no nieces or nephews or grandkids, chances are some corner of your inner child will find a place to play in this chock-full-of-quality-fun store.

Just a bit farther down the street, indulge the other little (or maybe not so little) person in your life--the one with fur:

Hounds Around Town
330 E. Silver Spring Drive
Whitefish Bay, WI  53217

I struck up a conversation about my dog’s limping with the very helpful person behind the counter, and walked away with a bevy of good information.  The collection of adorable collars, mats, and an awe-inspiring display of canine cookies (or “ruffins” instead of muffins!) will surely serve up something to take home to Fido.

More than one person recommended the lovely gifts and personalized stationery in:

Three Wishes
304 E Silver Spring Dr 
Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
I was particularly fond of the baby gifts, the aprons, and the whimsical birdhouses in the window.  In this day of e-everything, nothing stands out like a handwritten note or invitation.  This store has an excellent choice of graduation and shower gifts, not to mention some really adorable totes and such.

As you walk by, choose and buy your tickets to tonight’s entertainment at:

Fox Bay Cinema Grill 
334 E. Silver Spring Dr. 
Whitefish Bay, WI 53217 
This place takes dinner and a movie to its natural conclusion--convergence.  You get your dinner served to you while you watch the movie!  No popcorn and giant stuffed pretzels here (unless you want them, of course); everything is cooked to order.  Salads, pizzas, pub food, grilled sandwiches, drinks and desert offer a far greater spread than any standard moviegoing experience.  I love that they say their wait staff is “trained to be as unobtrusive and stealth as possible, but always available.”

Stash your tickets for later and keep walking to reach today’s fiber fix:

Ruhama’s Yarn and Needlepoint
420 E. Silver Spring Dr.
Milwaukee, WI  53217
I love a yarn store that not only gets the atmosphere right, but gets it down to the tiny details.  Open up the folding business card for Ruhama’s, and you get a handy chart for which needles you already own--a brilliant idea to keep you from buying a third set of size 8 24” circulars (not that I own four or anything).  

The great wash of sunshine coming through the large front windows offers natural light to the classic gathering table that hosted a needlepoint class during my visit.  In fact, I was surprised to find that Ruhama’s is the only needlepoint store in the entire state. 

The depth of stock--one of the longest walls of yarn I’ve ever seen--suits every single taste and project.  While the establishment takes its name from the original owner, vibrant and fun owner Dawn Slugg has had the store for over 30 years.  I was sorely tempted by the collection of custom designed sweaters for sale as well as the array of Hadaki, Amy Butler, and Lantern Moon bags.  Add the loads of sock yarn, the nurtured community, and the know-their-stuff staff, and this sums up as an outstanding store.  Here are just some of the projects that you might want to consider:

Rosa Sweater
Brits have revered Marion Foale for her stunning knitwear designs, and now we can do the same--outside of Barney’s and Bergdorf’s!  Taken from her outstanding book Marion Foale’s Knitting Collection 1, this sweater is a wonderful example of what can be done with her fine-guage washable merino.  Dawn can advise you on the many Marion Foale patterns with delicate gages or some nifty ones that make use of double-stranding, too.  If you like details and don’t mind tiny stitches, this is for you.

BeSweet Mohair Swing Wrap
Knit up up 4-5 balls of Be Sweet’s medium brushed baby mohair for this frothy wrap that can spiff up everything from a sundress to a tanktop and jeans.  Given Be Sweet’s lush spectrum of colors, you could have loads of fun with this.

Our knit-long from Ruhama’s is this artful piece:

Brady Scarf
Done up in the striking colorways of Kauni, a wool from Estonia that Dawn wholesales herself, this scarf utilizes simple bind-off and cast-on combinations to create an eye-catcher of an accessory.  A versatile pattern from Sally Brandl, this can be adapted to be a wider shawl by adding a second ball and more stitches.

I asked Dawn for her favorite knitting gadget, and she showed me something I love but haven’t seen before:  Lee Products highlighter tape.  It beats my usual post-it-note pattern tracking trick by a mile. Removable, transparent, won’t slip off when you fold your pattern page, and comes in several colors.  Never lose track of your row again!

Now that you’ve satisfied your yarn appetite, wander across the street to:

The City Market Bakehouse & Cafe
527 E. Silver Spring Drive
Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
While this place has received a wide range of reviews, I had a good experience and felt like the friendly folks at Ruhama’s had given me a solid recommendation.  I found the sandwiches to be inventive enough to please me (I had the basil baked chicken), and I’m not really a sandwich person.  I’ll admit service wasn’t especially speedy, but I did find the food fresh and tasty.  It certainly was busy--I didn’t mind the noise, and it seemed like the kind of place you could take a boisterous toddler and not have to eat a McAnything.  The bakery shelves certainly had my attention--buy some goodies for your knitting alfresco this afternoon if you don’t want to indulge right then.  Under other circumstances, I’d have gone back for a second visit to verify my take on the place, but that wasn’t possible here, so I’ll just have to tell you to try it and make up your own mind.

For a bit more shopping, take in any of the other stores on the street including:

501 E. Silver Spring Drive
Whitefish Bay WI  53217
I love little gift treasures like this...small stores with an inventive selection of just about everything.  It’s hard to find linens that catch my’s not my thing...but I wanted several of the pieces they had in here.  It was small enough to make it feel very personal, yet filled with goodies.  Again, a very good place for wedding or shower gifts.

Now, if it’s a nice day, there’s really only one place to spend the afternoon knitting:  Big Bay Park.  There’s even benches facing the wide expanse of the lake.  On a sunny warm day, there’s nothing like it to finish off a great day of fiber finds and other treats.  

When it’s show time, pack up your yarn and double back to the Fox Bay for dinner and a movie.

There you have it, a perfect day in Whitefish Bay.  My lodgings for this visit was the lovely:

Schuster Mansion Bed & Breakfast
3209 W. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI  53208

It’s not in the center of town--the historic mansion sits like a secret find in the western part of town over by Marquette University--but I found the friendly service and comfortable rooms well worth going out of my way.  Playing fetch with the resident pooch, a wonderful breakfast, high tea, and a delightfully deep bathtub made my stay just about perfect.  

But, hey, we’re not done in the dairy state.  Stick around for the next episode, when we take in two stores bracketing the charming town of Wauwatosa.

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