Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tying One On at the Quarter Stitch

The Quarter Stitch lies just between the cholesterol-clogged heart and the cirrhotic liver of the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Call it "The City that Care Forgot." Call it "The Crescent City." You can even call it "The Big Easy" if you promise to remember that people from Hollywood came up with that moniker, and they didn't get any of the local accents right.

Whatever you choose to call it, New Orleans is a city whose entire economy thrives on self-indulgence, excess, glitz and a complete lack of self-restraint.

A lot of New Orleanians have swum home since Katrina, fixed up their homes and businesses, and are trying to get back to something resembling "normal." Many are still working on their homes and businesses, in hopes of renewal. And a lot of unfortunate souls have simply had to close up shop. We are hoping for the rest of the world to remember that, and start visiting us again, and resume having conventions and suchlike, so we can get our economy back up and running.

Our economy counts on people from all over America and the rest of the world to come on down, tie one on, eat like a pig, walk around the Quarter exploring the marvelous old buildings, let their hair down, and go home and tell all their friends how fabulous it was. In fact, because most of the French Quarter didn't flood at all and primarily had to recover from wind damage and looting, it was back up and running in a reasonable amount of time, ready to distract both natives and visitors from the utter devastation in the surrounding areas.

The bars are open, the restaurants are open, the shops are open, and at this point only a native can cruise the Quarter (festive adult beverage in hand, of course) and point out anything that has changed significantly since Katrina. You can go to the French Quarter right this very minute, indulge yourself in everything it has to offer, unwind, and be as excessive as you can allow yourself to be.

And this is precisely why it is very, very dangerous to locate a yarn store in the French Quarter, because you are already steeped in the romance of the old New Orleans, and you're a little dizzy from the summer heat combined with drinks they don't make back home in Minnesota, and your lungs are full of the intoxicating olfactory brew which is a combination of the living scent of the Mississippi River, the heady aroma of coffee being roasted at the French Market, and the aura of spilled beer, human urine, and Dumpster leachate which tells you in no uncertain terms what city you are in.

As you weave your way down the ancient, narrow streets, you suddenly see a wee, narrow sidewalk kiosk, meekly proclaiming the presence of "needlepoint," "yarn" and "knitting."

Then you open a door that is at least 200 years old, and you stumble into a yarn brothel:

Yes, that is the Bad Yarn Fairy screaming into one of your ears, while reaching around the back of your head to sucker-punch the Good Yarn Fairy before he reminds you about the balance on your credit card.

Remember, you're in New Orleans. You are supposed to sin.

Back to the Bad Yarn Fairy, who is singing, "please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste..."

The Bad Yarn Fairy is beckoning you deeper into the heart of the Quarter Stitch. He bears a striking resemblance to Mick Jagger, and he wears a red mohair Lily Chin suit, complete with a smart little red devil-tail by Nicki Epstien.

You follow, tripping over the Good Yarn Fairy, who is lying unconscious on the floor with a black eye.

And this is what you see:

At this point, the Good Yarn Fairy has pulled himself up off the floor and run outside to round up a sidewalk preacher to help make his case before you get in too much trouble here.


There are many reasons that sidewalk preachers don't have much luck in New Orleans, among them being:

-- you can't scare Southerners with heat. Honey, we just went through Katrina. New Orleans was flooded and on fire at the same time. Fire and brimstone? I think that's a drink at the Shim-Sham.

-- you can't scare is with locusts, either. We have roaches the size of a lumberjack's thumb, and they fly.

-- we need to resolve this business about Jesus, wine and grape juice for once and for all. There's a good reason that most native New Orleanians are either Catholic or Jewish.

-- virgins, wise or foolish, are in short supply here

-- so what if the Bible says the streets of Heaven are paved with gold? Gold, schmold. We want a place to park.

-- if you think a beast with seven heads and ten horns is scary, you have obviously never been to Mardi Gras.

Nah, none of that stuff works on us.

But ... "excuse me, Mr. Sidewalk Preacher ... what was that you just said about a coat of many colors?"

The Quarter Stitch is the place to find the yarn for it. My favorites from their selection -- Inca Alpaca (Classic Elite) in a wide variety of colors ... Noro Kureyon ... and a wide variety of Koigu KPPPPM, which is Mambocat's favorite yarn in the entire charted universe. They also have Brown Sheep, lots of Trendsetter yarns, and many other products, including Addi Turbos, and Lantern Moon needles and baskets, and a wide variety of hard-to-find luxury yarns, if that's the shiny, happy creek you paddle on.

If you're also into needlepoint, this shop is a treasure trove. I'm afraid that I am a horribly useless needlepoint-shop critic in that I learned to execute the stitches once, in 1970-something, and I made a little bitty picture of an owl, and I decided that I didn't like needlepoint because it isn't knitting. But whoever the Koigu's and Trendsetter's and Brown Sheep's are of the needlepoint world, I'm certain the Quarter Stitch has them, because the canvases are lovely and abundant.

Another bonus is that the shop has oodles of brilliantly executed sample garments, something in every type of yarn, so you can pick them up and make the appropriate purring noises, and realistically imagine what YOUR garment would look like in that yarn. There are also other completed projects to admire -- felted hats and purses ... knitted scarves, hats, and novelty items -- done in some of the yarns that are hard to imagine knitted up. It does so much more for your imagination to see a whole garment knitted at the proper gauge and drape, instead of just a swatch.

The Quarter Stitch is also one of those delightful walk-in-and cry-for-help places that new knitters can rejoice in. I can't tell you how many times I've been in there when a French Quarter denizen has rushed in, needles in hand, screeching, "OHMYGAWD I CROSSED A CABLE WRONG SIX INCHES DOWN!" Naturally, the distressed knitter will have to wait until there's a lull in retail actvity, but when there is, he or she will have a staff member's full attention to help solve the problem.

It's also a very cool place to just hang out for awhile and watch the customers: here comes a guy working on a part of his 2007 Mardi Gras costume in glitzy yarn ... a college student working on her very first scarf (a Doctor Who scarf) for her boyfriend's Christmas gift ... a local bartender popping in on her break to get help with a lace snafu and to buy another skein of "Dune" ... and a gaggle of tourists from Nebraska looking for the Koigu they heard about from a friend (the Quarter Stitch bills itself as "the Baskin-Robbins of Koigu.").

Bonus: they have a shop dog. And they've added a shop conure, complete with a cute little red flannel birdy-diaper so he doesn't do birdy stuff on the yarn.

Anyplace that has shop pets rocks.

The downside to the Quarter Stitch is that, while the natural, undyed fibers they carry are absolutely luscious, you could probably put the entire stock of undyed, natural sheep/alpaca/etc. into one shopping bag. This is a shop to indulge your inner magpie, people ... not your inner Granola Girl.

I have always been amazed at the variety of yarns the Quarter Stitch manages to squeeze into two wee and ancient rooms. Bette Bornside also accomplshes the same feat, and we'll visit her shop on a future excursion, along with a trip to Garden District Needlework. Happily, all three shops escaped the floodwaters and suffered minimal damage from Katrina, but all three shopowners report that business is down. What with half the population gone and the tourism industry seriously gutted, that's no surprise, but we need to do something to help remedy this.

Folks, all these shops do mail order. I'll post links later here, but for now just Google for any of them and you'll get their information.

Meow for now,



At 4:11 AM, Blogger Joan said...

I love it!! What a great shop. I wanna be there. Very cool post.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Kendra said...

you have an amazing way with words. Thank you for sharing.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Barbara-Kay said...

I know what you're up to, Dez: you're trying to keep our "pushers" in business! Great read!

At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would LOVE to come and shop there. The Baskin-Robbins of Koigu -- WOW!. Thanks for letting us know about this gem.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Macoco said...

I spent lots of time at the Quarter Stitch when I visited 1.5 years ago - a great shop! I had no idea they had a shop dog, I would have loved to meet him.

I also went to the Garden District Needlework, nice shop. And I wonder if I went to the third shop you mentioned as well - it was in the middle of a residential are, not much else around as far as shops, etc.

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Lori said...

You forgot to mention the incredible job they do of wrapping your purchase. I was there a couple of years ago, and ran in while I was waiting on my breakfast to cook at the restaurant on the corner. I picked out my yarn, dropped it at the counter and waved my plastic at them and went back to eat. When I came backed it was all beautifully wrapped with ribbons and confetti and waiting for me in a transparent bag.

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an insane post, you paint a disgusting picture, the tourists are the ones who destroy our city! Ya'll do things to our city you would never ever try in your home town. We don't need visitors like you, are anyone who thinks like you.

The quarter stich is a lovely shop, that locals have enjoyed for years!

Lori from NOLA!

At 12:46 PM, Blogger LillyCat said...

Love this site - love the store, I used to shop at Quarter Stitch all the time when I lived in New Orleans for many years.
Makes me miss it -and as a yarn nut, can't wait to get back in March.
Does anyone know if the Persian Cat is still on Magazine St uptown?
thanks for a great blog!


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