Thursday, March 11, 2010
Arch (itecture) and Craft
What is it about site visits and yarn stores? Clearly they have an affinity for one another. I thought Viale was a real find. But Sheep Meadow is paradise on earth. Located on Kichijoji's tony Taisho Street, this wool emporium is laden with much, much more than three bags full.
The other day I went out to Kichijoji to see a 14-unit housing project recently completed by a well-known architect. It was a special preview for invited guests hosted by the architect before turning the project over to his client who will occupy one apartment and let the others. In anticipation of the area's commercial growth, the units were created expressly for renovation. Thanks to movable panels and other parts that pop out, they can be easily reborn as galleries or small shops when the inevitable spread occurs. What a breath of fresh air! Here in Japan shockingly few buildings are made to last and clients, especially residential ones, would much rather scrap and build than save and restore. Blurring the boundary between art and architecture, this project has a lot of charm and I wish it well. I would post a picture but then I might end up scooping myself.
After touring the site, I did an about face and set off back towards the train station. As I was curious about Kichijoji, I meandered a bit. An energetic and appealing area, it has the flavor of a mini-Shibuya minus the riff-raff. I ducked my head into a few shops and poked around but did not part with money. That is, until I encountered Sheep Meadow.
A few trans-Pacific crossings ago, I cut out an airline magazine article concerning a specialty yarn store in, you guessed it, Kichijoji. I figured that locating this tiny shop among the neighborhood's web of narrow streets would take some sleuthing. But when yarn is involved, I can be quite intrepid. On a lark, I went into a clothing boutique and asked the shopkeeper if she knew where I might find Sheep Meadow. Her response knocked the hand-knitted socks right off my feet! There it was ... directly across the street. I know. This sent chills up my spine too. It was obvious that Sheep Meadow and I were intended to meet. Thank you yarn gods.
Naturally, this serendipitous sequence of events made my find all the sweeter. This adorable shop fronts the street with plate glass windows decorated with a collection of little sheep. The entrance opens onto a petite sales floor with a circular table in the middle ringed with stools straight out of a milking barn. One entire wall holds cubbies filled with a spectrum of house-spun and dyed yarns. Rich reds and oranges, tender pinks and pale yellows, Delft blues and, my personal favorite ... the greens. Forest, lime, hunter and olive -- they are all there. This display was a feast for the eye and a pleasure to touch.
While perusing the offerings, I struck up a conversation with the owner. Apparently she recently switched over to her spring collection -- lots of cotton blends, a smattering of light wools and a few luscious silks -- all only a ply or two thick. Her concept is to pair and knit strands of two complimentary yarns together. Since the yarns knit up beautifully, I might give it a go if I can find a suitable pattern that calls for super skinny needles. The lacy product might be nice for a summer sweater or some such.
Of course I could not come away empty handed so I selected a little mohair and a skein apiece of a light wool and a satiny silk, both pink, that I might turn into a simple hat with a rolled brim. As I anted up, I mentioned that I had recently visited Viale. It turns out that the owner of Viale trained the owner of Sheep Meadow in the craft of spinning and dying. I always like small world stories with happy endings. And, judging from the broad smile on her face, Sheep Meadow's owner does too.