Last year (before we had a shop and two full-time jobs!) we booked a trip to NYC, and last week, we took it. Neither of us were NY virgins, and it turned out to be a great trip, completely changed by our knitting experience, and full of drinking, dancing (a little), knitting, eating, walking (lots of it) and spending. All par for the course, really.
We arrived on Friday afternoon, 2nd March, and got the first cab straight into Manhattan. No matter how many times you've been, the view of that skyline as you drive through Queens from JFK is always awe-inspiring. Dipping beneath the river and up again onto the island is like entering some kind of other-world, a secret passageway into an imaginary place...looming large and proud. It doesn't take long to realise that it's just like any other city, only bigger and better and bolder and brasher! We were holed up in a huge hotel on 8th Avenue, central and comfy enough but our budget didn't stretch to the Park Plaza! We didn't spend much time there in any case...
The knitting started on the plane (all hail Denise knitting kits!) - Gerard finished one of his Monkey socks, I got on splendidly with my retro tank-top, and the air stewardesses chatted us up no end! Bless. Anyway, we just about covered every yarn store in Manhattan, from the sublime (The Point) to the ridiculous (Walker & Daughter - more of that later!). They are really spoiled for choice too, but we'll list our faves in this blog in a sec. If we weren't fondling yarn, we were usually drinking cocktails or spending on 5th Avenue (yikes). In fact, we were very excited by the Abercrombie & Fitch store, which came over like a gay disco - loud music, no lighting, photos of semi-naked boys all over the walls (most of whom weren't actually wearing many of the clothes they were advertising). Came out of there fully loaded on Sunday and not a little disappointed to find when we got back to London that they are opening their first store on Saville Row in a few weeks' time! We can be trendy and ahead of the crowd for a fortnight at least.
Our first night we had a quiet one at the cinema, which feels like an anticlimax, but after a long flight, watching Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac seemed perfect. (G met him once in a shoe shop in Covent Garden y'know, buying the same shoes, but that's a different story!). We made up for the slow start on Saturday though.
We arranged to meet our pal, Leonne, in Public, a bar/diner in the East Village where we sipped our first champagne cocktails, and our second and our third etc. Leonne was the hero of our stay - we met her first at an I Knit London meeting last year, and she became a regular, but, sadly (for us) she had to return home to Harlem. But we arranged to meet up when we came and did just that, a few times. Thanks Leonne, for making our stay so cool and for making us feel all international-like! Actually, I overheard a conversation in that bar with some jet-setting model-looking types telling each other just how "great it was to see so-and-so", "last time we were in London / Florida / San Francisco blah blah" and felt a bit jealous! Then relaised we were meeting our friend from Manhattan, seeing another two pals who live in Brooklyn, and had a meal with a colleague of G's who'd flown in from Washington DC. All very high-life and glam. Plus we made so many new friends over the course of the week, and we were both accosted by a alcohol-fuelled Goddess....
Saturday rounded off with an impromptu visit to see the Scissor Sisters at Madison Square Garden Theater. This is below the actual MSG as their home crowd haven't taken to them the way we have over here. Although it was packed and loud and filthy/gorgeous. Strangest support act I've ever seen though - Wigs On Sticks - hilarious! We left late, made it back to the hotel and slept til morning....
Sunday was action-packed too, and by the end of the night it felt like we'd done enough to last a week before we'd even started. Shopping on 5th, modern art at MOMA (left) (Craig says dull, dull dull!)(Gerard says "open your mind and have a dialogue with it(right). We also called in over the road to the MAD Museum where the Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting exhibiton was going on. As we'd planned a trip here later in the week with friends from Pennsylvania we skipped it and just raided the shop. More trawling up and down 5th Avenue looking for a pair of jeans that would safely get up past my thighs and that wouldn't take all the spending money in one day. I failed. We made it back to the knitting exhibition on Thursday, sadly minus our expected group as they were snowed in and couldn't get to New York. Still, a fascinating show, mostly awe-inspiring exhibits. We couldn't take any photos inside but the website does have some sneaky peeks at some of the work on show.
If you're wondering who the Goddess was, she is Miss Kiki Durane, one half of Kiki and Herb, chanteuse and friend of Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. I first encountered the deranged cabaret duo about 5 years ago at the Soho Theatre and have since seen them when and where I could. Couldn't quite believe they were on in NYC while we were there. Joe's Pub is a great venue, seedy, small, intimate and the show was a corker. The delightful gin-soaked Kiki made our night by lounging in my lap and offering herself up to G (although helping herself to G's red wine was crossing the line!). If only I'd had my camera! Not quite accustomed to the NYC 24 hour way of life (why oh why does the Tube close in London?) we still managed to last til the bitter end around 1.30am and back in a cab to the Milford Plaza.
Monday morning, back to reality and a first for me - walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Prior to that we wandered through Chinatown which confirmed that we probably wouldn't be going to eat there anytime soon. We have friends who moved to Brooklyn last year and arranged to meet up on the other side of the East River for a long round of drinks and catching up. Richard's currently appearing in The Crucible in snowbound Vermont, but made it back for a perfect night - hung around their locals in the Park Slope area, much Mexican food and many, many tequilas later we were stuffing our faces with Dunkin' Donuts and on the Subway home.
Tuesday was when the knitting really started in earnest. We set off early and headed for the Upper West Side. Those knitters in the know will have heard about Kate Jacobs' book The Friday Night Knitting Club, based on her experience of being a member of a knitting group at a Manhattan yarn store. Walker & Daughter was set up by Georgia Walker and her daughter Dakota, and is located above Marty's Deli. Every Friday a group of women meet to knit and chat, and share their life experiences. The book is about to filmed with Julia Roberts playing Georgia, so we just had to pop in, say hello, and check out their group and the shop...only snag is the website (linked above) doesn't give the exact address. All a bit mysterious, and only after a couple of hours of roaming the streets, asking passers-by for directions to Marty's Deli or the knit shop (all of whom were nonplussed) we decided to stop off in an internet cafe. When it finally dawned on us that the place is a figment of Jacobs' imagination we had a few drinks to get over the embarassment! But, great publicity from the publishers is all I can say!
That night we made the real knitting group at The Point. This was the original Stitch n Bitch group, founded by Debbie Stoller and still going strong. We had some cake, cherry soda and settled in for the night. Everyone made us very welcome and we headed off afterwards for more drinks at the bar over the road with Chris and Robert (right). The Point was gorgeous, full of yarn you just wanted to dive into. Probably our favourite store of the visit, and closest to the vibe we have at IKL, very social! But during the week we also popped into Knitty City (below left)(W79 St between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave) which was just packed to the gills with everything you'd ever need. Pearl (yes, she owns a knitting shop and she's called Pearl, honest!) was a delight and we came away with some Lorna's Laces and a knitting bag made from woven tape measures. In Downtown Yarns (right) I bought a couple of balls to make myself a hat, as the snow was heading in, although it didn't get started while I was away, and we got ourselves a wooden swift for our wool winder from Purl (bottom left). Three others stores deserve a mention too - School Products (1201 Broadway), on the third floor of an office block is a real find. A treasure trove of yarn in the heart of the Garment District, it has stacks and stacks of cashmere and merino, as well as random amojnts of yarns of all types - many odd skeins leftover from the nearby fashion houses. Here I got myself some yak/merino skeins but haven't decided what exactly to do with it yet, and then there's Habu, the Japanese textile and weaving store, again, hidden away on the 8th floor of a block on W35th St. This was the most fruitful excursion and we came away having made a huge order for their unique laceweight silk yarn which will be winging it's way over the London very soon. The last shop we called in at was downtown in the East Village - Knit New York, another cafe/yarn store. I think by this time (Friday) we were just about knitted out so we were less enthusiastic about the place than the others and came away empty-handed.
Add to this, on Wednesday evening we joined Booze n Yarn for their Wednesday night knit at the Luca Lounge, again, in the East Village. A bunch of knitters, lots of drinks, and pizza too. We loved it! We hope that everyone who made it to meeting in London had as good a time as we did!
For much of the rest of our time, it was lots of walking, Central Park in the snow, cinema, a visit to the theatre which we'll never forget: if you ever ask anyone "If we only see one show while we're here what should it be?" and FOUR people recommend the same musical how can it be wrong? The answer we got was Spring Awakening, and, despite a standing ovation it was possibly one of the worst things we've ever seen. As G said, "I blame Simon Cowell".
All in all it was fabulous. The shop was left in very capable hands of of our various new members of staff - we should introduce them here soon! Thanks for that, took a lot of the stress out of leaving our 'baby' behind. For now, here's some more of our pics...if you've been to any of the stores, or seen that Godawful show, then please do leave a comment!
Cream cheese and salmon, with a bit of bagel. Breakfasts came in quite large portions.
Gerard in the Garment District - note huge button, sewing needle and large statue of man with sewing machine
Gerard on 'Top of the Rock'