I have a routine when I first walk into a yarn shop--especially one I have never visited before. I tend to immediately fixate on a color and wander over to it, pick up the skein of yarn attached to it and then proceed to wander around the store gently kneading the skein in my hands. If another color catches my eye, I may put the first skein back and continue around the store with the new yarn. I aim for a perfect mix of a yummy color and a cuddly texture. I might not even look at the skein in my hands but I feel it there. It's like holding a tribble in that it calms me and helps me focus on the racks and bins of yarn that would normally send me into sensory overload.
I do the same thing when I pursue one of my other favorite activities: beachcombing. My preferred targets are agates, but I also search for jasper, whole shells, sea glass, weird pretty rocks and once when I was very lucky, a whole glass fishing float. I will wander down the beach, head down and peering at the rocks at my feet. If one catches my eye, I will pick it up and continues my slow wandering sliding the rock through my fingers as I go.
I had a chance to experience this tactile trolling in a LYS Over President's Day weekend. The store in question is Fiber-Frolics in Benicia, CA. (note: as of this post and due to a technical difficulty, the website is currently just a bare bones site. I hope it comes back soon!) This shop is one of the most tucked away I have had to hunt out in recent memory, squirreled away as it was in the Arsenal Building on the riverfront and within sight of the Benicia-Martinez bridge. Believe me, it is WELL worth hunting out. I went in with my yarn-sistah, Q. The owner was there and greeted us warmly. The shop is not large, but they have some choice stuff.
The first thing that caught my eye was some Malabrigo Lace in color 102 "Sealing Wax". This is a color that is right up my street--a warm paprika red-orange. This pic is more saturated looking and the real skeins have more variations, but it is a close approximation. I immediately picked it up...and felt how SOFT is it. Not "soft" but "SOFT". All caps. Soft as in "I want to roll around in this in the buff" soft. Light, squishy and lofty with slight halo. If memory serves, my eyes rolled up in my head a bit. I may even drooled. I wandered around the shop groping the skein in complete yarn-lust.
Enough of the lace did follow me home for a project. This yarn is so soft, though that it really rates something more than a mere shawl. Shawls are worn OVER clothes. Nuh-uh. Not for this stuff. I have queued up this project: the Scarpetta Sweater by Kristin Johnstone (apologies to you non-Ravelers who can't access the link. Note: Ravelry.com IS free...but you have to join to browse). I did cop this pic from the pattern page. Isn't this DREAMY? Very simple and wearable and NOT a shawl. I am not sure when I will get to this, but in anticipation, I have wound my skeins into center pull balls. I really want to do this soon.
But I digress. The rest of the shop Had some nice treasures as well. I knew I would buy, but it did become hard to choose. I opted, along with the Malabrigo lace, to get some Malabrigo sock yarn, which is often hard to find. There was also a nice selection of Koigu yarns (also something I don't see often in real life. The shop owner had some NICE triangular shawls knit up with the Koigu and displayed throughout the shop. If I had not already settled on the Malabrigo, I might have gotten some Koigu for a shawl. Lastly, I was tempted by some hand painted sock yarn that was done up by the shop folks themselves for a class. I wanted but I passed. I had to draw the line somewhere.
So I wandered in my yarn groping, tactile way, fluffing the Malabrigo and trying not to miss anything. It's a very nice shop and I hope to go back sometime, although it is not on our homing-pigeon route to the part of the SF Bay Area where my folks live.
As a side note, we also had a REALLY nice lunch at a bistro called The First Street Cafe in the very cute downtown area of Benicia. There was a wait for lunch, but once we got our food, it was apparent why.I had the chicken salad sandwich which was yummy. Walnuts, grapes, balsamic mayo and big chunks of chicken on really good artisan bread. I added a raspberry Italian soda with cream: VERY pink, but tasty. The place was full, thoughout our meal, so if you plan to eat there, be patient.
My childhood memory of Benicia is that it was very blue-collar with a navy yard a working shipping port, oil refineries nearby and really not much more than a small town. The city planners have definitely upscaled it. and the downtown is all shops and boutiques. I didn't spend much time peeking in shops, as there was no time, but between the downtown and the yarn store, I would go back.
Now back to that Malabrigo lace...