Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join my parents on their annual two-week fishing trip in northern Minnesota. Other family members vacationed with us at the same time, at the same resort. I don’t love fishing, but I love eating fresh lake fish. The area was familiar to me – I’d been here before and knew about the bike trails, so I brought my bike…and of course, I brought my knitting. I plan to write about all our adventures in an upcoming post, but today, I’m writing about my search for yarn shops.
As I do on all my travels, I researched and planned to visit yarn shops in the area. The resort where we stay is located on Cass Lake, about 20 minutes drive from Bemidji, Minnesota. There are several lakes within a short driving distance, so the area is popular for fishing and other water sports. Since the area draws so many tourists, I expected to find a variety of yarn shops.
Earlier this year, I visited several shops in Minneapolis-St. Paul, about three and a half hours away from the vacation spot. I thought I had visited most of the shops in the “twin cities,” but recently, I learned that there not just 15, but 23 yarn shops in the metropolitan area…I have several more to visit. Minnesota is obviously a state for knitters, so surely I would find shops in the north.
The city of Bemidji, Minnesota, claims to have raised Paul Bunyan and has an 80-year-old statue to honor him – the oldest in the country. He stands next to the Bemidji Tourist Information Center with Babe, his blue ox.
At nearly 100 years old, Bemidji Woolen Mills has been producing woolen textiles since the early days of the state. They still make the classic wool blankets and shirts, but have added sweaters, hats, and warm, soft mittens. They also sell replicas of Paul Bunyan and Babe – stuffed animals, knitted and crocheted figures, cute puppets (my favorite), and ornaments.
Other family members warned me that I would be disappointed in the yarn selection in the store, so I didn’t hope for much. Yarn for knitting is not the store’s specialty, but in the small room, there was nearly every available color of Lamb’s Pride 100% wool worsted and bulky yarn. There were several cones of yarn for weavers or machine knitters and a small selection of Patons Kroy sock yarn. The yarn room was small, but I can’t say I was disappointed.
Although I didn’t purchase anything from Bemidji Woolen Mills, I’d recommend a visit if you are in the area. Browsing through the store was fun, especially since we shopped on a day that was almost too cold for being on the water. (I even thought about buying mittens for fishing).
Park Rapids is about an hour south of Cass Lake and Bemidji. Years ago, I had shopped at Monika’s Quilt Shop there. Started as an art supply store in 1984, the store has continued to evolve. Before the trip, I looked at Monika’s website and saw that she now carries yarn. As soon as I walked into the store, I remembered why I had shopped here. The store is lovely – it almost made me want to start quilting again.
Right inside the door was a large display of thirties prints – my favorite. I was very tempted to pick up a packet of fat quarters. Quilts hung from the ceiling throughout the store. One in particular that caught my eye was a garden quilt made with soft pastel florals. Again, I was tempted, this time by the prepackaged kit.
I resisted temptation, though, until I entered the yarn room. Wandering around, I looked at beautiful yarn from Cascade, Plymouth, Malabrigo, Schachenmayr, and others. I saw a lovely shawl and asked about the pattern. The clerk, who I later realized was 75-year-old Monika herself, went to get the knitting expert to help me.
A little later, I saw a rack of shelves that held some beautiful sock yarn. The clerk noticed as I picked up a skein and explained that the yarn was hand-dyed by June De Grote of the Yarn Market, who lived in the area. I was intrigued – but mostly I just loved the yarn. It was all I could do, not to pick up a skein of each color. I limited myself to two skeins. (I really need to get caught up on knitting socks). Although all that was available was sock weight, in the future I will be on the lookout for more yarn from this dyer.
Brainerd is another hour beyond Park Rapids, so I hoped the drive would be worth my while. There are two yarn shops in Brainerd – Utrinkets, and A2Z Yarns. They carried similar yarns – mostly by Cascade and Plymouth. These two brands are prevalent in shops in northern Minnesota.
The selection at Utrinkets was quite large, but what I found more interesting was the non-fiber half of the store. Utrinkets shares its space with an antique shop – I wish I had planned more time so I could peruse more slowly.
A2Z Yarns is a boutique shop located in an old school building shared with various artists. In addition to yarn and supplies, they offer knit and crochet classes and a community atmosphere.
Quilt Shop in Hackensack
My last stop was in the small town of Hackensack, known as the original home of Paul Bunyan’s wife, Lucette. Again, I had shopped in the Piecemakers Quilt Shop years ago, so I wanted to revisit it. Piecemakers is a small, but super friendly, quilt shop, specializing in wool applique. Although I arrived right at closing time, the clerk graciously welcomed me in.
I didn’t see much that interested me – just one wool applique pattern. I asked about yarn and the clerk, who I assume was the store owner, said they had introduced yarn a few years ago, but it didn’t sell well. Since she was not much of a knitter, it was hard for her to help answer the questions of her customers. I appreciated her honesty.
Not What I Expected
Although I expected to find more yarn shops in northern Minnesota, I was pleased with the few that I found. I would return to any of them, but wouldn’t go out of my way to any except Monika’s Quilt Shop in Park Rapids. This shop has been an excellent quilt shop for several years and with the addition of yarn, it has earned my continued support. If I begin quilting again, I would probably go back to Piecemakers Quilt Shop in Hackensack.
It was interesting to explore northern Minnesota, even though I didn’t find as many yarn shops as I thought or hoped I would. Instead, I enjoyed relaxing days at the lake, productive afternoons knitting, and countless hours of love and fellowship with my parents and family.