18 July 2008

Tapestry Weaving - II

Most, if not all of the yarn for the current tapestry project came from Christa's Yarn Shop. Christa's is located in the village of Beaches Corner, or Beach Corners - signs on the highway claim both names. Beaches Corner is near Ettrick, Wisconsin, about 30 minutes drive on county highways that wind through areas sculpted by glacial melt.

I learned about Christa's Yarn Shop from a co-worker whose description of the store fell a bit short of reality. She said "There is an awful lot of yarn there..."

Awful lot. There IS an awful lot of yarn at Christa's. In fact, you have difficulty walking through the store without knocking over a box or two of skeins, or stepping on someone else's spill. Basically there are two narrow hallways between mountains of yarn. It is all very wonderfully chaotic and quite beautiful. And Christa is the most beautiful thing there.

Christa is Christa Berg, originally from Germany. My guess - and I will hazard one, although guessing ages is something I am terrible at - is that Christa is in her mid-to-late 70s. Her store is what appears to be an old general store, or perhaps an old hardware store. It has high shelves running down the longer sides of the building, with an abundance of smallish bins - bins that are full to overflowing with brightly colored yarns. There is a narrow walkway between these walls of bins and the old-fashioned glass-front counters that also hold an abundance of yarns and yarn accessories (needlework tools, embellishments for yarn projects and some other really strange items that you might find at a flea market sale). Running down the center of the building is a wide, two-sided shelf area - where the eye-catching consumer goods might have resided in an old-time hardware store. It too is full to overflowing with skein after skein of lovely yarn.

As you stand in the doorway the right-side wall is full of the inexpensive synthetics (acrylics & orlons - discount store yarns) that you could find anywhere. They are all neatly stacked in the bins on the wall and you can tell that no one gets into them very often.

Not so the rest of the store.

The left-hand wall full of exciting special yarns (my last find was a skein of thick, thick singles that resembled dreadlocks - perfect for a sculpture project that I have banging around inside my head). There are jewel-toned handspuns, Italian designer yarns, silks, cashmeres, trendy-or-just-past-trendy eyelash and loop yarns, and buttery-soft wools. Then there are my favorites - the itchy, scratchy wools that are strong and lustrous and perfect for tapestries and sculptural work.

The center aisle of the store is heaped with boxes and crates of mostly wools. Wools for knitting socks, sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves. Wools for tapestry and other weaving projects. Wools blended with silks, wools blended with cashmeres. Handspun wools and wools from woolen mills I have heard of all my life.

You can tell that people come for the yarn in the center aisle and left wall. It's a jumbled visual cacophony as delightful as it is bewildering. Just the thought of pawing through it all makes me happy, giddy, fluttery - and I am by no means a fluttery person. That much yarn to peruse just makes my pulse race.

I have been to Christa's four times. The first time was a few days after a huge snow storm. When we got there Christa was still struggling to get the door open against a foot or more of snow that had blown in under the porch roof and up against the door. Abelisto and I helped her get the snow cleared. Christa reciprocated - I got really good deals that day, and every time since.

Usually when you arrive at Christa's you'll find her sitting in the back of the store knitting or crocheting something - her hands constantly in motion. As she says "It's what I do." She's always more than willing to stop "doing it" and dig through the piles and piles of yarn with you when you arrive.

Christa can (and does) tell you the story behind most of the yarn in her shop. Somehow amid the sumptuous chaos, she always knows exactly where every skein resides. If you say "I'm looking for a bit of burnt umber-colored yarn, perhaps a heavy singles, or two-ply..." she will say "Oh, ya, I got some of that over here" and lead you off on a treasure hunt for that perfect skein of yarn that you "gotta" have.

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