Yarn Shopping in San Francisco and Oakland, California

I just got back from a long weekend in San Francisco, California. The city was fun and easy to explore, although I didn’t spend a lot of time being a tourist.

Vogue Knitting Live
Josh Bennett Class,
Vogue Knitting Live

My main reason for visiting was to attend yet another Vogue Knitting Live event. This time, I took classes from Josh Bennett and Franklin Habit, designers I admire. The classes were great. I learned about design in one class, and photographing my projects in the other.

Classes were offered all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, although I chose to spend Friday and part of Sunday checking out some of the tourist highlights of the city. I’ll tell you about them in a later post.

There is one more Vogue Knitting Live event this year – Minneapolis in November. Yes, I’m registered. I enjoy the classes, but even more, I enjoy spending time with other knitters.


After an early lunch in San Francisco’s Chinatown, I headed across the bay to Oakland. There are two yarn shops in Oakland, one newer and one quite well-known. It took a little over a half hour to get to Oakland on the BART train, plus extra time to take the bus to each of the shops. It was worth the trip to see the shops.

The Black Squirrel

The Black Squirrel is located in Berkeley, a suburb on the north side of Oakland, California. The area had a distinct collegiate atmosphere which would be expected. The neighborhood is a bit “hipster” with interesting cafes and shops.

The shop itself is in a new building, with two walls completely made of windows – the yarn was bathed in afternoon sun. Yarn, fabric, and supplies covered the other two walls and several display tables.

The Black Squirrel,
Berkeley, California

The owner, a woman, seeks to empower other women through her buying choices. She looks for indie dyers,  and chooses product based on quality and sustainability.

When I shop, I primarily look for yarn that is eye-catching, and this shop had plenty of it. I also favor local indie dyers – I’d rather not buy yarn from Texas in a shop in Minnesota. There were two or three companies whose yarn I particularly liked, but I chose just one skein from a dyer in Santa Cruz, whose yarn was featured in a trunk show while I was there.

A Verb for Keeping Warm

I had heard about A Verb for Keeping Warm, often just called, Verb,  from a couple of podcasters that I listen to, so I was excited to visit the shop. The shop is located about half way between Black Squirrel and downtown Oakland, in an unassuming white building. Although the bus stop is directly across the street, I might have missed it if I didn’t have the address.

A Verb for Keeping Warm,
Oakland, California

When I entered, I was immediately struck by the dried plants hanging from the ceiling. later I was told that most of it was indigo, although there were also marigolds and a few other varieties.  These plants are used to make natural dyes for the yarn that the shop specializes in.

The shop is divided between yarn displays and classroom space, since several knitting, spinning, and dying classes are offered. There is also a small garden  in the back (primarily for demonstration) with plants used to produce natural dyes. Verb’s own yarn is all dyed with natural dyes, and although natural colors are usually more subtle that those dyed with acid dyes, the colors are rich and beautiful. I couldn’t resist a skein dyed with logwood.

San Francisco

By the time I returned to San Francisco it was nearly 4 pm. Where did the time go? There were two shops that I wanted to visit in the city but only one on my list for Friday. I quickly stopped at the hotel room to pick up my jacket and the battery charger for my phone and then hopped on the street car. I wanted to visit Atelier Yarns and then go see the “Painted Ladies” – San Francisco’s famous row of Victorian houses.

Atelier Yarns

Atelier Yarns has been in business for over 25 years. Started by Grace Cooper, the shop in the city, and a second one in San Anselmo, are now run by her niece, Amanda.

Atelier Yarns, San Francisco, California

The large shop carries natural fiber yarn from several different companies. They have a good selection of hand dyed yarns, including a handful of local ones. The staff was pleasant and welcoming. I wish this could be my local yarn shop.

Around the corner from the shop is a bakery, B. Patisserie,  that is known for its delicious pastries – I wish I had time to stop for a taste.

When I asked about local hand dyed yarns, staff person showed me what they carried. She said that if I was really looking for hand dyes, I should go to Firebird Yarns. I had noticed the name on my map, but since I knew nothing about the shop, it hadn’t made my list.

Firebird Yarns

It was nearly 5 pm when Firebird Yarns was recommended to me, so I thought I was out of luck – most of the stores seemed to close early on Fridays. I looked it up on my phone and was pleased that they were open until 6 pm, so I decided to make an extra stop.

Firebird Yarns, San Francisco, California

Firebird yarns opened a month ago, and although it’s somewhat small, the shop was bright and uncluttered. Beautiful hand dyed yarn was organized along both walls of the shop with displays on tables in the middle. I could easily have come out of the store with handfuls of skeins, but I was running out of room in my suitcase. I did pick up a couple in the “Painted Ladies” line.  When I commented about the name, the owner said, “They know their audience.” How true.

After a quick visit to the Painted Ladies houses, I went back to the hotel to do a quick walk-through of the marketplace.


After a full day of classes and some shopping at the marketplace on Saturday (see below), I went to an open house at ImagiKnit. The store had invited a few designers, although I wasn’t really familiar with their work. They offered a package deal with shuttle service to and from the hotel and a meal with one of the designers. I decided to go on my own since I didn’t want to stay the entire evening.

I took the subway to the suggested stop and walked to the store. ImagiKnit is located in a very diverse area – I walked past interesting shops and cute cafes. It was kind of a long walk – when I left the store I was directed to a closer subway stop – next time I’ll know.

ImagiKnit, San Francisco, California

ImagiKnit seemed to have every kind of yarn you could possibly want. In the main room, there were yarns made with animal fibers, starting on the left with bulky yarn, then worsted, and continuing around the room until you get to the lace yarn. The second room was full of plant fiber yarn – cotton, bamboo and silk.

I asked about locally dyed yarns and was disappointed that they had very little. If I was looking for anything else, though, I would probably find it. The bins were stacked from floor to ceiling and every one was full.

The Marketplace at the Show

As I mentioned, I had quickly walked through the marketplace at Vogue Knitting Live on Friday evening. Usually there is a marketplace preview on Friday evening from 5-8 pm. This was the case again for the San Francisco show. On Saturday, the marketplace was open from 10 am unto 6:30 pm and on Sunday, it was open from 10 am until 2 pm.

The Marketplace at Vogue Knitting Live, San Francisco

On Friday, as I walked through, I noticed many vendors who were new to me. There were booths from Atelier and ImagiKnit, but Verb decided not to vend at this show. I found several booths that had yarns I liked, but I knew I couldn’t have them all.

After mulling over my options, I went back to the marketplace on Saturday after my class was finished. I picked up a couple skeins of yarn and a kit for a shawl. I will have plenty to knit through the fall and winter.

Vogue Knitting Live and California Shops

While I was in San Francisco, Vogue Knitting Live announced their show locations for next year – New York City in January (this one never changes), Seattle in September (which sounds really tempting) and Columbus, Ohio in October (close and easy to drive to). I wasn’t planning to go to all of next year’s shows, but I might change my mind. Based on the fun I had last weekend, I’d say it’s a strong possibility.

I also loved visiting the new shops in California. Each shop had it’s own flavor. The next time I’m in San Francisco, I’m sure I’ll stop in again.

On a side note – I met, in person, someone who I only knew from Ravelry. We had a short visit, but are planning to meet again. I’d love to meet some of you at my next knitting event. New York City, anyone?  Seattle?



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