STRING has moved to a new location:
33 E. 65th Street, New York, NY 10065, (212) 288 9276
First day of school after Easter vacation. I thought my daughter would be excited to see her friends, but no, she refused to get dressed, told me she could not put on her own socks, found a nearly invisible scratch and declared it was hurting so much she could not wear socks or shoes at all... After carrying her out into the rain (without socks or shoes or a coat)--her clothes stuffed into the bag that was hanging over my other shoulder--she pounded me on the head in angry sorrow... When we got to the school, her teacher told me this is not abnormal. Of course, my husband got to pick up a cheerful child after a full day of playing with her friends. I couldn't get her because I went to String (please check above for new location, (212) 288 yarn, http://www.stringyarns.com/).
I almost wish I hadn’t gone, only because this store could be my ruin. I met Linda, the owner, a very warm woman whose gold framed John Lennon sun glasses went perfectly with the elegant necklace she wore. She showed me around, and I realized that I had entered a kind of “caviar bar for knitters.” Each yarn was more exquisite than the last. I had never seen so much cashmere in my life, nor touched this much :-). I have to admit, I did not know how light it is. Cashmere from a clothing store is not like cashmere you buy in a yarn store. Yarn store cashmere is much thicker, so I expected it to be heavy.
String specializes in high-end yarns, especially cashmere (in case you haven’t noticed). Linda buys the cashmere in Italy and gives it to Koigu, which dyes it into its recognizable color scheme. Artyarns, and Prism, supply some fibers to her store (some exclusively), like a cashmere and silk blend. Cashmere by Koigu? Artyarns in silk and cashmere? I thought I had gone to heaven. One company (I forget which) has dyed it in neon colors. But String also carries its own brand of cashmere. After our tour through the high-end yarns, I thought I should probably order a very tall glass of champagne (Moet perhaps?). I also thought I might move into the store.
String is located on the parlor floor of a brownstone (think very high ceilings). It looks as if it used to be someone’s apartment and feels as if you are visiting someone in their home. The back room has a round table placed in front of a marble fireplace, which I assume works, but won’t actually be turned on for obvious reasons. Samples made from Artyarns’ sequin yarn hang next to canary yellow cashmere sweaters. Children’s sweaters and dresses are placed on glass tables in the front.
Although String specializes in high-end cashmere, it also carries more “mainstream” yarns (if not to say less expensive): a nice mix of cotton/silk blends, Rowan mohair and Sublime as well as Debbie Bliss, and Blue Sky Royal Alpaca. I’m still on a yarn diet so I couldn’t go wild, but I grabbed a beautiful pink/purple/red/orange Koigu skein to make my daughter some mittens for her “show and tell” on Friday. I talked to Linda a little about her past in information technology (she worked in IT for 35 years, I for 10). She gave me a book she wrote, aptly titled “Luxury Knitting,” which only made me more determined to save some money for yarn fast. The book is filled with information on the fibers she specializes in (how to judge silk or cashmere, what to make from it, how to price it…) and has some very beautiful designs.
Before I ran back out into the rain, I asked Linda my seven questions:
Me: When did you open your store?
Linda: In 2002. We first opened on Madison between 78th and 79th and moved here about two years ago.
Me: What made you choose this location?
Linda: I wanted to be on the Upper East Side. I wanted to attract a clientele that would appreciate exquisite yarns, but I also wanted to be available for the tourists who visit the many museums up here.
Me: Who is your staff?
Linda: Lidia has been here since we opened. She is a very accomplished knitwear designer and designs our store samples. She makes patterns and adjusts sizes for people who bring in their own. She’s also an expert at finishing. She can look at any sweater and figure out how it was made. Before she worked here, she was working in the fashion district. Becky is a recent college grad. She works in the store. She has knitted for many years, worked in knitting stores before and recently interned at Vogue Knitting. Some part time staff are students who are studying design. Lisa has published in Vogue Knitting and Sauniell is a published designer who is a grad student at FIT. I have an incredible staff as you can see. I like to hire people who know what they are doing. I offer a high end product, so I believe the people who work here should reflect that, too.
Me: What do you care about when you buy yarn?
Linda: Quality. I collaborate with companies that make very high quality products. I also carry yarn from some very small companies, like handspun cashmere from Tanglewood Fiber Creations. Prism, Artyarns, and Koigu create cashmeres, silk blends, and Angora for us. But I also make sure to carry yarns that people expect to find in any regular yarn store.
Me: What kinds of classes do you teach?
Linda: We do not teach group classes. But we teach people one on one who have never knit, or who never knit lace, or who just need a refresher. If you have a question you can sit here any time and ask Lidia to help you. We are available to help you alter patterns and we give our patterns out for free with the purchase of the yarn. We host some workshops. When certain questions come up regularly from our customers, we tailor workshops to those topics. But we also have community evenings where people can mingle, like the “new moms” night we had recently. We had an OBGYN here who answered questions about being a first time mom, while everyone was knitting.
Me: Who makes your store samples?
Linda: Lidia does, and I make some. We get some samples with the yarns, but most of the samples are made by us.
Me: What got you into yarns?
Linda: I have been into yarns forever. I used to say I wanted to open a knitting store. I said it for many years, and then finally my husband said I should do it now, or never. So I retired and opened the store.
Me: Do you think people are knitting more or less during the recession?
Linda: I think people are going through their stashes more, and some people have “downgraded”. Those who used to buy pure yarns are now knitting more with blends. That said, this past December was the best December I have had since I opened the store, so I would definitely say it has increased.