Wednesday, December 9, 2009
After finishing Manhattan and Brooklyn, I ventured far into the outer reaches of Queens this week to visit a knitting institution. Smiley's (92-06 Jamaica AveWoodhaven, NY 11421Store: (718) 849-9873 Mail Order: (718) 847-2185, http://www.smileysyarns.com/) has been around since 1935. It has always been on Jamaica Avenue, first at one location, and then (for the last 36 years) in its current place. I took the J train out to Woodhaven Avenue and exited down the stairs, finding myself right across the street from the store. Tempting smells of fast food pizza and chicken entered my nose, but our babysitter had to go to school soon, so I had very little time to linger. When I enterd Smiley's, I thought I had gone to a "Target for wool". The store is very large and filled with shelves and shelves of yarn--most of it wrapped in plastic so it won't get dusty. The website promises: "Smileys Yarns offers all of its wool yarns, cotton yarns and acrylic yarns at the guaranteed lowest prices in America." And that is true. The prices are truly amazing. Most balls of yarn are sold for under $2.
Smiley's has been run by the same family since it was founded. The two women at the front were not sure if it was the grandfather or father of the current owner who founded the company. Counting back, though, we all agreed it must have been the grandfather (unless the dad was really old!). The store was quite busy when I was there. A couple of people asked questions and were promptly (and very nicely) educated about the yarns. The women behind the counter were both knowledgeable and eager to help. Both were crocheting. I the feeling of watching old acquaintances during a coffeclatsch.
I would recommend the store to anyone on a budget and to people who are just starting out, who want to work with cheaper yarns before they try the fancy stuff. Most of the yarns can be machine washed. The store carries Tahki Elliott, Royale Love Beads, Bernat Boa, Bernat Eyelash, Cervinia Genova, Patons Twister, Patons Ci Ci, Bernat Bling Bling, Moda Dea Dream, Patons Carmen, Aunt Lydia New Wave, and more. It is a good idea to call the store and ask if there are any special yarns in the store--sometimes they carry cashmere... Aside from yarns, Smileys carries a wide array of knitting and crocheting needles, threading needles, and rows and rows of knitting magazines (also at great discounts). Once a year there is a trunk show in Manhattan where all the yarns are available. Higher end yarns, are also sold during the sales dates--at mind boggling prices. These brands are announced on the website shortly bfore the sales. The ride out on the train was enjoyable and mostly overground. You can catch the J from the A at Chambers or at Broadway Junction. Both transitions are easy--just make sure you catch the "uptown" train if you are coming from the Chambers station. Give yourself about one hour from most Manhattan locations.
After chatting for a little while and snapping photos , I looked at my watch, and dashed back out of the store to get back to Manhattan. I even made it with fifteen minutes to spare! My son greeted me with "Yay, Mom's home, now Kara can leave!" Then he turned his back on me and continued playing with his babysitter--go figure... :-)
P.S.: "Oldestyle10" from Ravelry sent me an alternate route to get to Smileys:
An alternate route to Smiley’s, for those to whom the J train is a mystery.
Take the R or V to Woodhaven Blvd-Slattery Plaza. Follow the signs to the Q11 or Q53 bus, both of which run south on Woodhaven. Get off at Jamaica Ave, which runs under the first el train you will pass, and Smiley’s is a half-block down Jamaica Ave. Travel time is still probably about an hour, but I enjoy buses much more than subways.
And on the northeast corner of Woodhaven and Jamaica, there is one of those wonderful Peruvian roast chicken places. Delicious.