The Knitter's City: Seattle, Washington with Dianna Walla
We were so pleased to see that you all were as excited about our new Knitter's City feature as we were! We're over the moon to share the Pacific Northwest knitting haven that is Seattle with none other than Dianna Walla as our guide. You know Dianna from a number of places - the pages of Pom Pom, her self-published designs and maybe from her blog, or lovely Instagram feed. We think she's put together a pretty amazing guide to Seattle. Where's that hand-knit teleportation device when you need one? Here's Dianna:
These days, Seattle is exploding with creativity. Artists and musicians find it easy to make their homes here - something about the dark and rainy winters helps nurture that introverted creative flow (it also means we can’t get anything done when the sun is out - we all want to take advantage of it!). Perched on a scrap of land between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, we’re surrounded by beautiful nature, from the water surrounding us to the mountain ranges that are visible to the east and west. You don’t have to get very far out of the city before you find yourself in the middle of state parks and picturesque farmland.
I could fill up a Seattle city guide with yarn stores alone - there are currently no fewer than ten yarn stores listed on Ravelry within city limits, and that’s not counting the neighboring towns - so I found it incredibly difficult to narrow down all of my ideas. I decided to approach this city guide the way any Seattleite would: by neighborhood. Seattle’s a very neighborhood-centric town; almost every neighborhood has its own independent business core and some areas’ residents have a reputation for never venturing beyond the neighborhood borders. I’ve picked the ones that house my favorite spots or that I know best; I apologize in advance if I leave your favorite spot or ‘hood out - there’s just too much to fit in one guide! (To explore neighborhoods on your own, check out this list of different neighborhood-focused blogs.
While Pike Place Market is one of the most recognizable tourist destinations in the city of Seattle, it’s beloved by locals as well, and absolutely worth a visit. First opened in 1907, it’s one of the oldest continuously operating farmer’s markets in the country. You could spend days exploring its labyrinthine passages of stalls, shops, and restaurants, but just a few of my favorite spots include DeLaurenti (a fantastic selection of specialty foods), Daily Dozen Doughnuts (the donuts are minis and the stand cash only, so get a mixed dozen and remember to bring cash - you’ll thank me), Pirkko (Scandinavian design and women’s fashion - think Marimekko), Piroshky Piroshky, and MarketSpice (tea and spices). Skip the original Starbucks unless you’re a really big fan of Starbucks - the lines are long and the coffee is, well, Starbucks. For a yarn fix when you’re down by the Market, pop into So Much Yarn (1525 1st Ave #4). A few blocks south of the market is the Seattle Art Museum, aka SAM (1300 1st Ave), with some incredible permanent collections and a generally awesome lineup of rotating exhibitions (the gift shop is worth checking out, too). The Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Ave) on the waterfront just north of downtown is also part of SAM and a great place for a walk on a sunny day. If you’re into books and architecture, the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library (1000 4th Ave) is an architectural landmark not to be missed.
Downtown also hosts a ferry terminal (Alaskan Way & Marion St) - many Seattle commuters live across the Sound - and a ferry ride on a beautiful day is a great outing on a budget (walk-on fare is around $8). If you hop on the Bainbridge Island ferry, it’s worth getting off at Bainbridge to head up to Churchmouse Yarns & Teas (118 Madrone Ln N, Bainbridge Island, WA), a fantastic yarn store that also happens to be the only local spot to purchase Brooklyn Tweed yarns. Make it a day trip and by the end of the day you might just be daydreaming about permanently relocating to one of Washington state’s charming islands like Bainbridge.
In the heyday of grunge in the early 90s, Pioneer Square was the place to be. Situated at the south end of modern-day downtown, it was the original downtown in the 19th century when the city was first being settled. These days, after some years of neglect, it’s seen a real renaissance and is now home to some of the finest restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques in Seattle. It’s the part of town that has the greatest tendency to make people feel like they’re actually in Europe.
For your fabric needs, Drygoods Design (301 Occidental Ave S) has you covered - but they’re so much more than a fabric store. The selection of beautiful fabrics they stock can’t be beat, whether you’re looking for bright and punchy colors or mellow neutrals, and rather than carrying sewing patterns from “the big four”, they feature indie designers like Wiksten, Grainline Studio, and Colette (to name a few).
Directly opposite from Drygoods, head across Occidental Park and check out The London Plane (300 Occidental Ave S), part cafe, part specialty foods grocery, and part floral workshop. Housed in a lofty corner space, The London Plane is mostly a breakfast and lunch place (occasionally open for dinner), but the retail half is a great place to grab any number of gifts for the foodies in your life.
Just down the road you’ll find Velouria (145 S King St), hands down my favorite independent clothing boutique. These ladies carry a variety of clothing from independent American and Canadian designers, and they’re committed to working with small companies whose clothing is ethically produced in the US and Canada (be sure to also check out the jewelry they carry). Their walls feature a rotating collection of art from independent artists - most recently, the weavings of textile artist Kayla Mattes (they also hosted a weaving workshop with Kayla - how cool is that?!).
A few blocks away sits E. Smith Mercantile (208 1st Ave S), a killer cocktail bar and drygoods storefront (we like our business hybrids in Seattle). They serve up some truly incredible craft cocktails, and the storefront carries home goods, apparel, small gifts, and more. Once again, there’s a real focus on small, independent businesses (often local). If you’re in the market for menswear, it’s worth your while to check out Tarboo (608 2nd Ave). And if you’re tuckered out after all this traipsing around, head over to Zeitgeist Coffee (171 S Jackson St), my favorite coffee spot in the area.
Known for its punks and hipsters, the population of Capitol Hill is, on average, probably younger than many parts of the city. That being said, it’s incredibly diverse, and you’ll find all kinds of folks and businesses around (businesses tend to be open later on Capitol Hill, too).
One of the first fabric/yarn stores I visited in Seattle was Stitches (711 E Pike St), a cute spot with a great selection of prints and a limited supply of yarn. Other spots you should make time for are Cafe Presse (1117 12th Ave), where both the incredible food and the decor will make you feel like you’re at a neighborhood favorite in France (it’s also a great spot to catch soccer - that is, football - matches on TV). Beloved Elliott Bay Books (1521 10th Ave) is adored for a reason, and definitely worth your time. Not just a fantastic independent bookstore, they boast a cafe in the back as well. Next door, Oddfellows (1525 10th Ave) is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s also one of my favorite dining spaces in the city.
Capitol Hill could easily fill up its own guide, so if you’d like to do some more planning and exploring on your own, check out www.capitolhillseattle.com.
Ballard is my neighborhood - in the northwest corner of the city, it’s bordered by water on two sides, with the Puget Sound to the west and the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Salmon Bay to the south. Historically an area of Scandinavian settlement, it was once the wooden shingle capital of the world and Salmon Bay is still home to the 101-year-old Fishermen’s Terminal, which houses over 600 vessels (most of which are commercial fishing boats). It’s growing in population at a frenzied rate these days, but vestiges of the old Scandinavian settlers can still be found if one knows where to look.
For yarn, head to The Tea Cozy (5816 24th Ave NW), a cute little shop just off the main drag. This is my main local spot and they’ve been incredibly supportive and nurturing of my career as a knitwear designer since I started. For a larger selection, head east up the hill to Greenwood, where you’ll find The Fiber Gallery (8212 Greenwood Ave N), another local favorite run by fantastic folks with a large selection of yarns.
For fabric in Ballard, head to The Quilting Loft (2622 NW Market St). The focus is on quilting cottons, unsurprisingly, but they also carry fabrics appropriate for apparel, and their selection is huge.
In the very heart of Ballard, check out Trove (2204 NW Market St), my favorite vintage store in town. Run by lovely ladies, the space they’ve curated is charming and crammed full of amazing stuff (without seeming crammed, somehow).
I love to look for pieces to style with my hand knits, and I also love to check out the vintage knits themselves (most of which are machine knits, but there are often hand knits too). Take a peek at Trove's stash of vintage buttons, and peer through the vintage sewing patterns on the shelf, too.
Bonus for those planning a wedding: they have a bridal salon, too (but you’ll need to book an appointment). If all this vintage puts you in the mood to buy some records, hop a few doors down to Bop Street (2220 NW Market St) or head across the street to Sonic Boom (2209 NW Market St). Both carry vinyl and CDs, but Bop Street’s mostly vinyl. For current releases, Sonic Boom is your spot, while Bop Street’s the place to go for vintage finds. Be sure to check the schedule of upcoming in-store performances at Sonic Boom!
For some Old Ballard charm, make your way down Ballard Avenue, an historic district that was the main street of the township of Ballard before it was annexed by the city of Seattle in 1907. Today it houses a myriad of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. You’re sure to discover your own favorites just taking a stroll down the avenue, but my suggestions for boutiques are The Palm Room (5336 Ballard Ave NW), a plant store that specializes in succulents, tropicals, and air plants, Lucca Great Finds (5332 Ballard Ave NW), and Prism (5208 Ballard Ave NW). Beloved local bar the People’s Pub (5429 Ballard Ave NW) serves up my favorite fish and chips in Seattle, and Hot Cakes (5427 Ballard Ave NW) has got your sweet tooth covered.
Other Ballard spots that are absolutely worth your time are the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (3015 NW 54th St), better known as just the Ballard Locks, home to one of the busiest sets of locks in the country as well as a botanical garden and a fish ladder (the garden grounds are perfect for sitting and knitting while boats go by); Delancey (1415 NW 70th St) and its little sibling Essex (1421 NW 70th St), the restaurant and bar co-owned by hugely popular food blogger Molly Wizenburg of Orangette, where you’ll find one of the best pizzas in the city; the Nordic Heritage Museum (3014 NW 67th St), which hosts the Nordic Knitting Conference every two years (but is worth a visit year-round); and Slate Coffee Bar (5413 6th Ave NW), for a truly special coffee experience (or just a really fantastic cup of coffee).
Also of note:
Weaving Works (6514 Roosevelt Way NE) is a top notch yarn store that caters not just to knitters and crocheters, but also spinners and weavers (as the name suggests). They stock a great selection of dyed and undyed fibers for spinning - it’s my go-to spot for wool roving.
Uwajimaya & Kinokuniya (600 5th Ave S) are a must for fans of Japanese bookstores (I tend to spend my time in the craft and stationery sections, unsurprisingly). Kinokuniya, the bookstore, is housed within Uwajimaya, a specialty Asian foods supermarket. Head down for the day and wander around the ID (that’s the International District, aka Seattle’s Chinatown); you’re sure to stumble upon some delightful stuff.
Discovery Park (3801 Discover Park Blvd) is an oasis in the middle of the city. 534 acres, nearly 12 miles of walking trails, situated on a cliff top overlooking the Puget Sound, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped somewhere special (and you have). You’ll forget that downtown Seattle is only about 5 miles away. Knitterly bonus: we shot the “Magpies”section of Cirilia Rose’s new book, Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads in the park.
Located about an hour east of Seattle in Carnation, Washington, Tolt Yarn & Wool (4509 Tolt Ave, Carnation, WA) is something pretty special. Many of you probably read about Tolt in the Autumn 2014 issue of Pom Pom, and you may have even followed Tolt’s progress from dream to yarn store (Tolt opened in autumn of 2013). Proprietor Anna Dianich has built a community around her incredible store and it’s well worth the trip east to visit (but you’ll need a car, for sure).
And some general tips for visitors to Seattle:
If you’re doing any navigating from one spot to another in the city, pay close attention to the directionals in the address (N, S, E, W, NW, NE, SW, etc.). These matter; in fact, they matter VERY much. If you plug the wrong one into your GPS, you’ll end up in the wrong part of town. If there’s no directional attached to the street name, the address is probably either downtown or on First Hill/south Capitol Hill.
It’s possible to get around by public transit (even if that’s not the fastest way). Sound Transit Light Rail currently runs between downtown Seattle and SeaTac airport. Within Seattle, the King County Metro bus system is what you’ll want to use. There are a number of apps that are useful for KC Metro, as well as an online Trip Planner that’s incredibly helpful. Exact fare is needed, so it’s worth buying an Orca Card and loading up the E-purse to use the bus system. The Orca Card will also work on Sound Transit (ie the Light Rail). More info at www.soundtransit.org and www.orcacard.com.
Many museums in town that normally charge admission are free on the first Thursday of the month. Find a list of when museums offer free entry here.
Twice a year Seattle hosts Urban Craft Uprising, the city’s largest indie craft fair - typically a summer show in June or July, and a winter show in December. If you happen to be in town during one of these craft fairs, GO. Urban Craft Uprising is huge and so much fun and always has an excellent variety of vendors.
If you’re into live music, be sure to check out The Stranger’s Live Music Calendar before you go, because there’s always something happening.
Thanks so much Dianna!
Editor's Note (14th December 2021): Pom Pom reader Laura Lee got in touch with some updates for 'The Knitter's City: Seattle'. They note that, since the publication of this post, Trove, The Quilting Loft, and Weaving Works have closed, and that The Nordic Heritage Museum has moved to 2655 NW Market Street, Seattle, 98107. Laura's own recommendations are as follows: 'Venture Cafe, with all manner of coffees and write-home-about pastries, is conveniently located directly across the street from Tea Cozy Yarns. Both are places of note.' They sound delightful – thank you, Laura! Xx