When you’ve spent the day hurtling between facts and feelings, fake news and misinformation, it is more important than ever to slow down and tap into all things traditional, beautiful, and communal. A perfect way to do this is through knitting and crocheting. Knitting isn’t just for Grandma crafting a handknit Royal Wedding keepsake for Meghan and Harry. Hardly! Art exhibits showcase fiber artists and yarn bombings artfully appear in urban settings (crochet covered mail boxes, abandoned bikes, parking meters, and trees). And they’re friendly- those who knit and crochet are always happy to welcome newcomers of all ages to join them.
The benefits of knitting and crocheting abound: feeling the calm brought on by meditative repetitions and the soft feel of yarn, fighting dementia and boosting memory by following a pattern, creating your own art and gifts, and creating new social connections. There are craft stores that sell inexpensive yarn and books. There are also videos online that show you the basics. However, to truly benefit and to actually learn how to knit, the best source is your local yarn shop.
Luckily for Orange County, there are yarn shops that could be found on any small town Main Street (if any of those still exist outside of Disneyland). Each of the shops we’re showcasing are owned and staffed by women of all ages who are happy to help people learn new skills.
The key to these shops is their personal touch and beauty of the yarn. Even the most crudely made scarf will look incredible when made from a high quality, hand dyed skein of yarn. In fact, a couple skeins of yarn in a basket makes great home décor, even before they become a sweater or scarf.
Knitting newbie? Here are a few quick refreshers:
- Knitting is with 2 needles.
- Crochet is with a hook.
- Skeins and hanks and cones are yarn that you need to wind into a ball of yarn.
- Samples are the scarves, sweaters, blankets, etc. that are made out of the yarns the store carries so you have a better idea of how your project will look.
- Social Knitting is when people bring their own projects and work on them while chatting with other social knitters.
Now that you’re itching to start knittin’, here are five awesome yarn shops we found tucked across Orange County (and a total Easter egg at the end!) that are well worth a visit to support a seriously local small business.
Strands Knitting Studio
111 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, CA 92672
The Southernmost yarn store in Orange County is Strands Knitting Studio. This is a beachy, cute little shop just off of Del Mar in San Clemente. It’s a casual and friendly shop with a small table to sit at. Christine, the owner, is friendly and can tell you all about the many yarns they carry and give you advice. She has beautiful samples showcasing the yarns and the workshop projects. There’s not much room so it isn’t a good place for social knitting groups, But there are daily workshop times and special classes (such as how to fix mistakes!) offered regularly. Workshops, classes, hours and prices are on their website. The shop is a three-minute walk to The Cellar on Del Mar for a coffee or snack afterwards.
Yarn Del Sol
24471 Alicia Parkway #2, Mission Viejo, CA 92691
In Mission Viejo, just off of the 5 at Alicia, Yarn del Sol is everything a community yarn store should be. Shelves and tables are filled with beautiful yarns from cottons to cashmere in different price ranges. Get inspired by the gorgeous colors and textures of the yarns and sample projects. Rosemary, the owner, has local yarn custom hand dyed in SoCal themed colors. These unique local yarns are featured as prominently as imported yarns. Small tables display trunk show yarns from various makers. There are also pre-packaged kits that include all the yarn and instructions you’ll need for certain projects. They offer workshops for these individual projects and offer regular classes. This light-filled space has plenty of room for both social knitters and those taking classes. There’s an inviting social seating area that always has a friendly knitter or two working on projects and greeting everyone who enters. Yarn del Sol hosts a knit/crochet book club that meets once a month. Other tables are busy with lessons and projects. I was invited to partake of the free donuts out on the big tables on a recent visit. Talk about welcoming! Who said community is dead? Not Yarn Del Sol’s knitters. The website is up to date with the latest knit-alongs, events, classes, drop-ins, skill series, and even children’s classes,. They also sell some yarn and other items online. This is a perfect place to learn how-to, learn a new skill, or to meet other people.
Ursula’s Yarn Boutique
2441 North Tustin Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92705
Ursula’s Yarn Boutique is in a small strip mall in Santa Ana, near the 55 and 22. You’ll see the sign that says “Yarn Yarn.” Gets the message across! Ursula has run her yarn shop for over 30 years. It’s like visiting a friend in her spare room; lots of beautiful yarn and projects piled all over the place. Although she doesn’t run workshops or classes, she teaches one-on-one. There’s not enough space for social knitting, but she knows where everything is and has good suggestions for projects. She is partial to good imported German wools, but also has exotic yarn that works up intricately textured and colored scarves that come from a single skein of yarn. There is a good variety of yarns in different price ranges and a great basket of beautiful discounted yarn. If you didn’t have a grandmother or auntie to teach you to knit or crochet when you were younger, Ursula is a good substitute. Her shop is closed on Sunday and Monday and since she runs the shop herself, you may want to call first.
2915 Red Hill Ave, Suite C 108, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Knit Schtick is another great social spot with beautiful yarn and friendly people. Located on Red Hill in Costa Mesa, where the 55 and 73 meet, it’s in the same complex as Durty Nelly’s. There are plenty of patterns and samples of both knitted and crocheted scarves, sweaters, and hats. You can easily get a good idea of what a yarn will look like when used in a pattern. There are plenty of seats at the tables for social knitting and for the regular classes and workshops. There are even complimentary workshops for bottle cozies, holiday wreaths, hats, and more. The staff is welcoming and helpful and will tell you all about the different high quality, but reasonable priced yarns. They sponsor social knitting events and invite you to come in any time they are open for advice. There are ongoing classes on a regular basis, and they often offer Groupon specials (with information right on the website so you don’t feel awkward about using your deal). Knit Schtick’s website is updated regularly with information and photos. Knit Schtick is open Tuesday through Saturday and is even open until 8 on Wednesdays for people who can’t leave work early to do their yarn shopping.
1665 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Sheared Sheep’s motto is “Knit Yourself Happy.” It’s a bit hidden in the back of Westcliff Court, but this is a nice little shop with lovely yarn and helpful, friendly people. They offer ongoing knitting classes with punch cards for multiple classes at all skill levels. They carry many beautiful yarns at reasonable prices, including cottons, wools, and cashmeres. There are beautiful samples and hand painted knitting bowls (to hold your ball of yarn so it doesn’t roll away!). The shop is located on a courtyard next to the W Café. Haute Cakes bakery is just a few doors down. Kean Coffee is in the same complex, making this a great destination for an outing.
Bonus: Purl Soho Warehouse
2302 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine CA 92606 (New location and no signage)
Purl Soho is a famous high-end yarn and craft store in New York City with an ecommerce store selling fine yarns, fancy craft kits, and notions. So why is it mentioned here? The distribution warehouse is in Irvine (recently moved from Tustin) and it’s open to the public for limited hours Tuesday through Saturday. You won’t find any warehouse deals here, but they do have a couple sale racks that matched sale items online. The beauty of the warehouse is that you can see, touch, and feel the yarns, avoid delivery fees and the waiting of delivery. This is top-of the-line yarn and it does not come cheap. But the quality is obvious. This is a real warehouse and the nice gals working in the back are there to pack orders, not to work with customers. So you need to know what you want by looking at the website first. Of course you’ll be tempted by all of the unique and pretty yarns and kits that surround you. It’s fun to wander the vast aisles and find yarns in linen or special blends you’ve never heard of, but will want to try out. The website has many gorgeous patterns in both knit and crochet and they also carry embroidery and needle point yarns, quilting fabrics and notions, and looms for weaving. Lots of inspiration here!