Cross the river from Harts Fabrics in Santa Cruz and you’ll come across a very appropriately named shop, Yarn Shop Santa Cruz. No prizes for guessing what they sell a lot of. Lots of lovely, snuggly, squishy wool.
There’s a lot of the usual suspects, Malabrigo, Plymouth Yarns, Ito, (they have a complete list on their website) but they do have some indie-dyed lots, including the aptly named ‘Radioactive Rainbow’ by Knitted Wit. I didn’t actually realise this at the time but this is actually part of the HERstory sock club colourways, where each month there is a new colourway dedicated to a woman in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (or STEM for short). A very cool idea and you can find a little more background on some of the scientists featured on the Knitted Wit blog.
Radioactive Rainbow is a very fluffy superwash merino/nylon 80/20 blend that still somehow smells very sheepy. I feel in honour of Marie Curie, still to date the only scientist with a Nobel Prize in chemistry and physics, I had better use this for some very inventive sock patterns! If you’re after something really local, there is The Dye Project collection, all hand-dyed in Santa Cruz, which is perhaps a little more name than the Knitted Wit collection but has some gorgeous colours too.
The skein density in the store is incredibly impressive, with lots of shelves you can just sink your hands into. I’m not really sure quite how much yarn fondling at stores is deemed appropriate behaviour but I promise I make sure I always remove any evidence of ice cream store visit beforehand!
There’s a great stash of knitting and crochet tools, including the Clover crochet hooks that can be a little tricky to see out of Japan (and are nearly as nice as the Tulip Etimos that I constantly rave about). They have some really gorgeous wood needle sizers and gauges that are well worth taking a look at.
Wrapped up with really friendly, expert staff, Yarn Shop Santa Cruz is excellent, yarn store simplicity. You might not find every Stylecraft colourway but instead you’ll find a carefully curated collection, with special attention to local products, including yarns, project bags and pins. They run a lot of Knit Lab and Tea and Stitching Classes, with either a focus for helping you deal with tricky parts of works-in-progress or just some social needle time. All part of a store whose purpose goes beyond just being a yarn vendor, but being a part of the local fibre arts community and worth a visit.
If you have to head north again, Santa Cruz is perfectly located for a trip up Route 1 following the coastline, definitely one of California’s most charming features. It was about an hour’s trek, through some natural reserves and beaches, to Half-Moon Bay and the next yarn store on the list.
Whereas Yarn Shop Santa Cruz is mostly fingering weight and above wools, Fengari in Half-Moon Bay feels to me like the yarn shop with the weaver in mind. If it’s the kind of yarn that you look at and go ‘how on earth do I knit that’, you’ll probably find it in Fengari, the yarn shop that feels a bit like you’ve got lost in someone’s long-forgotten attic. A very wonderful attic belonging to someone with a hoarding issue for weird and wonderful yarns.
If you love Noro, there’s a whole wall for you to indulge yourself on, as well as incredibly extensive collection of Madeline Tosh and Malabrigo. There’s a bit more cashmere, silk and other unusual fibres then you find in the average local yarn store but I have to admit there wasn’t really anything that inspirational for me for knitting and crochet projects. While I love the concept of tinsel yarns and some of the whacky textures on offer, I’m a little conservative for what I like to knit and crochet with. Silk, variations on silk, more silk, maybe the occasional bit of crochet cotton.
It’s not the best organised store, which adds to the feeling of digging through someone else’s attic, complete with tripping over the boxes loitering everywhere. If you don’t see the dye lot or colourway of something you want, digging is advisable.
Crazy and chaotic as Fengari is though, it’s delightful to see somewhere with some spindles, weaving equipment and kits. It seems a bit odds and ends rather than stocking a complete range of looms, and sadly there’s nothing really in the way of wheels, but if you’re looking for something small and portable to get you started you may just be in luck here.
I did fall in love with some of the Crystal Palace Yarn’s Party range… I will admit I fell more for the colours rather than any sense of practicality but I think this would make an excellent weaving yarn, or maybe if I’m feeling a little adventurous, some embroidery/textile project.
It needs a few more gadgets and looms to really be a weaver’s paradise and maybe a bit more of a practical yarn collection to appeal to most knitters, but Fengari is far from your average yarn store. Lots of knitting notions, some gorgeous, if expensive, needle cases and the patient will undoubtedly be rewarded with some good yarn hauls. If you love novelty yarns, it’s a must-visit, or are looking to spice up your weaving or mixed media work but if not, it’s still a rather unique and interesting shopping experience! Just watch out for the trip hazards!