ALEXANDRIA, VA | Author Allie Pleiter


My kind of Old Town...

Earlier this year I had the chance to return to the Washington DC area. Sure, I was there for a family gathering, but I had to add on a little yarny tourism so I could share my adventures with you!

Misha’s Coffee Roaster and Coffeehouse 
102 S Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
DestiKNITters know every adventure needs to be launched with coffee, and this bustling independent roaster/coffeehouse is the perfect place to start. Sure it may be no frills and down-to-earth, but I rather like the atmosphere. Oh, and they have pie. You know how I feel about pie—even for breakfast (yes!) 

There’s a reason this area is called the “Old Town Boutique District,” so wander the length of King Street and the surrounding blocks, taking in whatever shops pique your interest, such as: 

Red Barn Mercantile
1117 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
There’s a little bit of everything here—housewares, gifts, cards, candles—but  nothing that feels like a department or mall store. The infusion of color just feels wonderful to soak in, even if you only end up browsing. Great for gift shopping or finding a little something to treat yourself. 

Stitch Sew Shop
102 N Fayette Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Hey, we support all crafts, not just the yarny kind. Good, quality sewing stores (that aren’t just a few aisles in big box craft stores) are starting to crop up everywhere, and we’re glad for the trend. Rent an hour on one of their machines and workspaces—what a great idea!—or take a class to build up your skills or dip your toes in the world of fabrics.

Now's a good time to check out today’s fiber—or is that fibre—find: 

fibre space
1319 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

AlexandriaNews photo

FIRST OFF: fibre space used to be right around the corner from Stitch Sew, but just this month they've moved to a spiffy new home. The new digs boast more parking, one large open space rather than the several rooms of the former location, a second floor for events, and two private classrooms. Talk about making a good thing even better!

Now, about this lovely store: Owner Danielle Romanetti began her fiber career teaching knitting classes on the side. Once she added the retail component, things just took off from there. An integral player in the Old Town business district, this long and narrow space is packed full of fibers, samples, ideas, and happy customers who knit, crochet, and weave. You may also get the chance to say hello to Danielle’s two “shop mascots,” Italian Greyhounds Nemo and Kermit. Fibre space calls itself “a yarn universe”—and the description fits!

the were still in their former space for
my visit...the new one's even better!
Lots of free events like movie nights build community, allowing knitters and crocheters to interact with each other as well as the yarn. Danielle dreams up yarn tastings that partner with local businesses so the experience is always an adventure. Weekly open knitting nights and programs like “Survival Skills Wednesdays” make sure you can get the help you need when you need it. A great MSNBC piece on why Danielle wants you in the shop rather than on your computer can be found here.

again, the former space during my visit
And there’s plenty of reason to venture in.“I carefully curate the inventory,” Romanetti says. “I look for the best quality fiber for lots of price-points.  “You’ll find tried and true workhorse yarns here, but I’m especially interested in bringing unique things my customers can’t find everywhere.”  If you’re looking for souvenir yarn, check out anything by local Neighborhood Fibre Co., where all the fibers are named after DC-area neighborhoods. The shop features sought-after lines like Hedgehog Fibres from Ireland, Woolfolk, and Brooklyn Tweed. You’re bound to find something you “need” from the wide selection organized by gauge. If weaving is your thing, fibre space has started a program in tapestry and rigid heddle weaving as well.

DC can be a pressure-cooker of a place to live and work, so she views the shop’s role as an important counterbalance. “This is stress relief for a busy, high-stress customer base.” Couches, groupings of chairs, and a conversational atmosphere make this a friendly gathering spot for tourists like myself as well as DC natives.

If you need a place to start, here are a few projects to help you unwind:

Hei Snood Cowl
Color progression and texture share the stage in this striking cowl by Olga Buraya-Kefelian (Olgajazzy on Ravelry). Danielle suggests two cakes of Knitwhits’ Freia Handpaints Ombre Sport for this in-store pattern. Make sure you get a bit of staff help picking out your yarn, because you need to make sure you get two that are wound in different directions in order to achieve the lovely color effect that makes this shawl such an eye-catcher.

Knockout Round Shawl
If you’ve been yearning to experiment with color interplay, Ann Weaver’s generous triangular shawl is a great way to explore. The stitching is simple (so you can do other things like watch a knockout round), while the alternating rows of ombre and solid colors make the style for you.  You’ll need either two different skeins of fingering weight ombre like the Fria Handpaints Ombre Petit  or one ombre and a complimenting solid from Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio Sock. The pattern is available in store or through Ravelry.

Jimi Shawlette
Local designer Dee O’Keefe works some contrast magic with any pair of  worsted skeins from Virginia dyer The Fiberist in this smaller-scale top-down triangular piece.  A good first shawl for novices ready to stretch their skills, the pattern comes with extensive tutorials and super-helpful photo instructions. 

Knit-Along: Brick Sidewalk Beanie
An excellent souvenir choice, I’ll be knitting Ann Weaver’s clever hat nodding to Alexandria’s brick walkways. The pattern features instructions for multiple sizes (Mother-daughter hats! Father-son hats!) and works up wonderfully in Neighborhood Fiber Co’s Superwash Merino Studio DK. A locally focused pattern in locally crafted yarn—what could serve as a better tourist treasure than that?

Once you’ve satisfied your yarn cravings, continue your exploration of King Street. My recommendations today head you back in the direction of where you started, but can show you a host of other adventures. Still, you won’t have to go far to experience.

1223 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
I never knew all I didn’t know about oils and infused vinegars! Now such upscale condiments are my go-to hostess gift as well as the occasional in-home splurge. Yes, it really does make a difference. You can customize your own sampler box, or fill a basket with all the jams, crackers, teas, spices, honeys and sauces the store carries.

La Fromagerie
1222 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
If you like happy hours, this is a great place to experience the slow food movement that’s becoming so popular. Wines and cheeses complement fresh local fare “lovingly prepared.” Sit back and stitch while you sip, or pick up a few bottles from their vast selection to take home.

Alexandria Cupcake
1022 King Street
Alexandria VA 22314
703) 299-9099
I maintain my theory: where there’s yarn, there’s cupcakes. There aren’t a lot of places to sit in this cheery little bakery, but I was just as happy to nosh on a sunny park bench and watch the world go by.  

If cupakes aren’t your thing, Danielle also recommends the “Tango” gelato at La Casa Rosada.

1000 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
I’m becoming a fan of makeup boutiques like this one. I love the personalized service, spot-on advice, and interesting products I discover whenever I browse. I always let them try something new on my face or hands—I’ve discovered some wonderful products this way. Plus, no calories (useful after wolfing down two cupcakes ten minutes earlier).

When you’re ready for dinner, head to:

The Majestic
911 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
Their famous coconut cake is reason enough to go, but my sources also recommend the Cheshire Pork Chop or the gnocchi. The atmosphere of this restaurant—around in some form since 1932—is as wonderful as the food.

Spend the rest of your day doing whatever DC adventures suit you, but make sure at some point you take in one of my new favorites:

Duck Donuts
3610 King St
Ste F
Alexandria, VA 22302
They’re all over the east coast and I cannot wait for them to make their way to Chicago! Warm, made-to-order donuts in a gazillion scrumptious flavors—what’s not to love? Choose your donut, your glaze, your topping, and your drizzle and watch it take shape right in front of you. I would eat these any time of day or night! Very good coffee too (that’s important).

There are lots of reasons to visit the nation’s capitol, but it’s always nice to include yarn among your travel incentives.  I hope I’ve given your tourism new fiber enhancements as well as made your tastebuds and shopping bags happy.

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Next up, we venture to Asheville, North Carolina.
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