Sunday, June 1, 2014


The Nifty Nearby...

My favorite task at DestiKNITions is to uncover those hidden gems right under our noses.  Those places that no tourist brochure would list but are awesome in their own right.  I feel lucky to have discovered several of those in my career as an adventuresome knitter, and today is no exception:  Welcome to the Madison Street neighborhood of Forest Park, Illinois.

Madison Street in Forest Park is the quintessential midwest Main Street, but with a decidedly cultured urban vibe. It’s a 15-minute trip from my home and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only driven through it before now.  My loss, believe me.

But not yours!  Start your day with breakfast at:

Madison Park Kitchen
7525 West Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60130

I love that they are family owned, and “presenting a carefree feasting experience.”  My sources point me toward the omelets here, and there are some unique offerings as well as the “build your own” options.  There are other fabulous looking choices other than the egg-based variety, too.  Who could resist “Jelly doughnut pancakes” with jelly inside and powdered sugar on top?  Or bacon and pecan waffles?  Hey, this could be the most important meal of your day.

Step down the street to our fiber fix:

Knit Nirvana
7453 West Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

This cozy, inventive shop is the new kid on the fiber block with a slightly exotic vibe.  Owner Sue Jaffee had worked for five years in a now-closed local shop before striking out on her own.  “It was such a pleasure,” she recalls, “that I brought many of those friends into this new store.”  

Sue recognizes knitting as much more than a craft. “It’s a calming technique, it’s art, it’s a community builder.”  Her passion for fiber shows in a welcoming, encouraging, friendly shop organized by yarn weight and filled with nooks, corners, open drawers and cubbies that invite exploration.  There’s even a spinning club.

Katherine’s washcloth classes sound like a fun tour of knitting techniques, as well as the “Beyond Basics” class designed to lure you past your first scarf.  The shop had what I’ve come to recognize as the hallmark of a friendly establishment—the table where everyone is sitting around knitting, talking, and laughing. Customers stop in for a respite between work or errands, soaking up the warm personable atmosphere for 30-minute breaks or long hours of enjoyment.

Loads of samples inspire any knitter to try something new, and here are some of my favorites:

Metalouse Shawl
Stephen West’s shawls are all the rage for their striking, contemporary designs and stunning use of color combinations.  Featured in Knitty and done up with 2 skeins of Noro’s oh-so-soft (really!) Shiraito and 1 skein of a separate contrasting color, this project is a fetching piece.  Personally, I’m delighted to finally have a Noro fiber that feels good against my fingers.  I’m eager to start this as my Knit-Along from Knit Nirvana.

His Golden Lair Shawl
This lace masterpiece makes great use of the amazing sheen in Debbie Bliss Luxury Silk.  Who wouldn’t feel luxurious with this draped across their shoulders?  The dragon-y wings might make for perfect Game of Thrones knitting, don’t you think?

Hitofude Cardigan
Ravelry photo
Looking for a challenge?  This delicate, swingy jacket should earn you compliments and respect.  You’ll want to take advantage of shop advice for this one, Sue advises.  Done up in Madelinetosh Marino Light, this garment has all the makings of a treasured heirloom.

Monkey Hat
If you're seeking something with a bit more whimsy, this topper could make any little person in your life smile.  It’s an excellent project to learn fair isle, so you get a new skill while some child gets a great hat.  Pick 3-5 shades of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and you’re all set.

Super Bulky Brioche Cowl
Pick out your one skein of Tosh ASAP, and you get this pattern free.  A great choice for a fast gift and just the right touch for fall.

Once you’ve scored your fiber finds, spend the afternoon wandering down Madison Street to explore the great variety of shops and eateries.  At Christmas, many of the stores create live holiday windows—how fun is that?  Me, I started at:

Camille et Famille
7418 Madison Street
Forest Park 60130

Earlier this month at a LevelUp seminar, we were asked about something in our life we’d like to change.  I put down that I’m never really happy wielding coupons to shop at mall stores, but I never seem to be able to successfully navigate those artsy boutiques I like so much.  So for this trip, I tried an experiment.  I looked at how much I spend for clothes annually and divided it into four seasonal budgets.  Then, without calling ahead or anything, I walked into Camille et Famille and asked owner Rosemary Gange to guide me to what she thought would fit and look best.  “I wish everyone would do this,” Rosemary said as we spent about an hour pulling clothes and finalizing selections.  “People think we’ll oversell you if you ask our advice, but  why would we do that?  We want you happy so you’ll come back.”  I know I will.  I came away with some fabulously versatile (and comfortable!) Tribal pants, a basic but artsy shirt, and a splashy piece for fun. All soundly within the budget I gave her.  It was a great experience.

A great experience calls for a great lunch.  There are several choices, but being the lover of mac n’ cheese that I am, I took Sue’s advice and headed to:

7445 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

It looks a bit “bar-ish,” but it really has a friendly lounge atmosphere.  The lamb burger and Greek fries sounded interesting, but I was happy I stuck with my choice for the Macaroni N Cheese with Pulled Pork on top.  Delicious!  The spices in the pork and the use of truffle oil give this dish a bit of bite, but I didn’t mind.  For heaven sake, order the small—the large is enormous and I couldn’t even finish the small plate I ordered.

After lunch, walk off those calories with some more great shopping.  I especially liked:

Madison Street Clothing
7500 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

Good sales, incredible shoes, nifty handbags, what’s not to love?

Deedeee & Edee
7415 West Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130
Creative accessories, unusual items, and you can get a custom designed jacket here.

7423 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

A slightly younger vibe but still very unique and inspired.

7316 West Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

It’s not an antique store, but then again it is.  It’s current, but with a decidedly retro vibe.  It pretty much defies description but invites exploration.  It’s a nostalgia shop that’s both retail space and design studio.

Todd & Holland Tea Merchants
7311 West Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

This shop was as much tea education as retail experience.  Sure, I loved the hand-knit tea cozies, but I also loved the wonderful stories the owner told me as I asked about the hundreds of teas on his shelves.  There are always intriguing blends for tasting, too.  From the basic blends to exotic and expensive estate teas, you find a whole adventure in your cup here.

To finish your day, I recommend a stop at:

The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor
7347 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130

This family-run place is how ice cream is supposed to be.  A charming old building filled with happy kids, indulging adults and some spectacular sweets.  I had the chocolate peanut butter and it was splendid.  Their party packages sound fun—I’d want the “come in your jammies for waffle sundays” event any day!

There you have it—a nearby and nifty adventure just minutes from your door (if you live near me, that is).  When you get set to come, let me know—I just might meet you there.

Next up, I tackle the clever Leftie Shawl from Knot Just Knits.

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