Adoring an Asheville adventure...
I’m setting a series of books in western North Carolina, so this August I made the first of what will be several trips to the area. I only had time to visit one yarn shop in the midst of all my book research, but it was a welcome addition to the DestiKNITions family. Come along on my first exploration of Asheville!
A few purely travel-related notes to begin:
—No matter how you got here, try to make sure your visit includes a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even if you only manage it for a small portion, this ranks as one of America’s great drives. The scenery, even on a cloudy day, can take your breath away.
—If you’ve got time to spare, WNCyarntrail.com has got your back! My eyes popped when I noticed our hotel brochure rack had a yarn-crawl type guide of area fiber finds! The area’s dozen+ yarn shops host an annual Yarn Crawl every May, and in late October Asheville hosts the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. This is yarn-friendly country, DestiKNITters!
Every DestiKNITions adventure starts with coffee, and this one’s no different. Head on in to:
909 Smoky Park Hwy
Asheville, NC 28715
Go beyond the caffeine fix and grab a tasty breakfast from their specials board. Sweet potato grits? Yes, please! Indoor and outdoor seating, wifi, plus a warm and friendly staff make this an ideal place to wake up, meet up, or tackle your to-do (or even to-knit) list.
Properly caffeinated, you’ll only have to travel across the parking lot for today’s fiber find:
Friends & Fiberworks
19 Westridge Marketplace
Candler, NC 28715
|That's Lisa on the left with yours truly|
Why did owner Lisa Mackey open a yarn shop? The answer will charm you: “My husband wanted the house back!” Who among us can’t relate to that??
Lisa had been gathering knitters and yarn in her house for a while until she made the leap to open this huge 4,000 square foot yarn wonderland. “It’s epic,” she (and the shop sign) boasts. “We place a high value in welcoming places to sit and knit.” The shop not only features loads of fibers for knitting and crochet, but for spinning, weaving, and felting as well. This is also the first shop I’ve seen that a sells clothing, too—ones cleverly designed to enhance a knitter’s treasured wardrobe of accessories. Epic, indeed!
Friends & Fiberworks lives up to its name with lots of places to make fiber friends. Shop manager Sandy keeps the place hopping: knitting nights, knit-alongs, generous help from staff, open instruction sessions to bolster your skills on whatever project you’ve taken on, trips and cruises (sign me up!) connect you in lots of ways.
A healthy calendar of yarn show event participation also means the store is full of enticing kits. Always a hit with the tourist crowd, the shop’s many kits mean you’ll always have exactly what you need to achieve success. The store’s remarkably deep stock means you’ll finally have the chance to get your hands on—literally—that yarn you’ve heard so much about. We know knitters need to touch what we’re craving to buy.
Quick to support local fibers and designers, Mackey’s husband Robert even creates the store’s own line of hand-dyed yarns. I’ll be using it in my knit-along from Friends & Fiberworks:
When you’ve got a great fiber like Friends & Fiberwork’s Hand dyed superwash merino/nylon blend, you don’t need much fancy stitch work to show it off. This store-exclusive pattern makes great use of garter stitch and simple yarn-over increases to create a generous top-down triangular shawl sure to please. I love the touch of knotting the ends—why didn’t I ever think of that for those long and skinny pieces? If you crave some nice-and-easy knitting with fab results, this is the way to go.
Take a skein of Malabrigo’s richly colored Mechita, match it with a skein of Uneek merino, and you get this eye-catching cross between shawl and scarf. The store-exclusive pattern creates a super-elongated skinny triangle that boasts a load of wearing options. If you’re looking for a “uneek” piece that is all about how color and texture combine, I’d start right here.
Did you know that from April through October downtown Asheville has a famous Friday night drum circle in Pritchard Park? Celebrate this fascinating local tradition with a cowl kit that comes in as many varieties as there are yarn. Diverse—like the crazy-wonderful variety of the city. It's the perfect souvenir knitting to capture Asheville’s artistic flavor.
More than one DestiKNITion has featured this simple-yet-stylish tank top. Glitz it up with Glitter linen cotton blend by Universal. You may need up to 6 balls depending on the size you choose. Another piece that can take on different characteristics depending on the fiber you choose, you can’t beat this top for sleek style!
All that shopping just might work up an appetite. Good thing we’ve got a nearby recommendation for lunch!
Papas & Beer
1000 Brevard Rd
Asheville, NC 28806
My sources cite the Chicken fajita as the delicious option, but I also give high marks for the guacamole made tableside (always my favorite). Really good (and warm) tortilla chips hit your table as soon as you are seated, along with a unique bean dip. Ah, but if you’re into salsa, this place has an entire salsa bar. Lunch is a great option as the dinner crowd often has a wait. Still, there’s a reason the place is packed—the food is outstanding. But don’t order dessert…we’ve got plans for that:
Frostbite Ice Cream
1475 Patton Ave
Asheville, NC 28806
Delicious soft serve dolled out by super-happy people in tie-dye shirts—can you get any more cheerful? Get anything that ups your happiness quotient, but I was glad I took Lisa’s recommendation and sampled the salted caramel dipped in chocolate. It’s been so long since I’ve had a dipped cone—I went right back to my childhood.
For the next portion of your adventures, travel into downtown Asheville. There are loads of interesting little shops along Haywood Street, but make sure your adventures include:
Malaprop’s Book Store/Cafe
55 Haywood St
Asheville, NC 28801
As an author, this is the kind of bookstore we all dream about. The store has a delightful independent personality, right down to the checkerboard floors, endless nooks for exploring, a shelf of “staff picks,” and a great children’s section. They even have a signed first edition book club. And I LOVE that they deliver! The other thing I loved was the sign that said: “Be here now. Kindly take calls outside.” Advice we should all heed, isn’t it?
Spend the rest of the afternoon discovering downtown Asheville.
If you’re like me, afternoons always require a second dose of caffeine. You could have grabbed a cup in Malaprops, but consider venturing to one final stop to score really good cuppa at:
Biltmore Coffee Roasters
518 Hendersonville Rd
Asheville, NC 28803
The roaster is right out in back—and you can smell the beauty of the brew as you sit and sip. This funky indie spot features gorgeous rustic wooden stools and a garden out back where you can watch the roasting taking place. Daily specials feature different brews. I had a very good latte and a near-perfect scone—who could ask for a better afternoon snack break?
If you have time—and especially if waterfalls are your thing (I had to visit some for book research), I’d recommend venturing out to Brevard. It’s a delightful community with great shops, delicious restaurants, outfitters for fishing and other river sports, and several stunning waterfalls in the immediate vicinity (western North Carolina boasts no less than 19!). Be on the lookout for the town’s legendary white squirrels, too.
I could have easily spent a few days instead of the day-and-a-half I had. Honestly, it’s practically a crime to be in Asheville and miss the Biltmore Estate! You can bet your stash I’ll be back for more…and soon.