NORTHWEST INDIANA—Day 2: Griffith | Author Allie Pleiter


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Whistle stop...

One of my favorite parts of writing DestiKNITions is when I end up in interesting small towns that would never show up in tourist guides.  Lots of towns like Griffith have fascinating stories.
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Evidently Griffith held the record for the most train crossings per capita.  When the multiple rail lines needed to increase the traffic that ran through the mega-crossing in town, they struck a financial partnership that gave Griffith lots of funding to upgrade all kinds of things.  Everybody wins—including you, when you visit.

Like all good DestiKNITions, start with a great cup of coffee at:

Grindhouse Cafe
146 N Broad St
Griffith, IN 46319

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This is one of those great coffee places where reading the massive chalkboard menu is an entertainment in itself.  Strong, superb brews in a variety of flavors and combinations, often with cheeky names that can’t help but make you smile.  You can grab a satisfying breakfast here for $5.50.  Should you be here for lunch, my sources say the chicken salad sandwich is not to be missed, nor is one with blue cheese with called a “Beef Bomb.”

Properly caffeinated, head 50 feet away to today’s yarn find:

Spinnin’ Yarns
145 Griffith Blvd
Griffith, IN  46319

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When the local yarn shop closed, lots of Jamie Gunnink’s friends said, “You should start one!” So in 2010,she did.  She outgrew her home in six months, opening in a freestanding shop a year later.  Spinnin’ Yarns draws from all over the county as well as southern Chicagoland, with customers ranging from kids to knitters in their 90’s.  

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“We’re a store that is very patient when you come in saying ‘Oops, I did something interesting,’” says Jamie.  “We try never to call is a mistake, you just did something interesting.”  Help is always free, and the loyal customers who remember what it was like to not have a local shop surely appreciates Spinnin’ Yarns’ friendly, inclusive atmosphere.

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Jamie stocks the store with “a mix of things I like plus what I know my customers will wear.”  The store offers a wide rage of “entry level yarns” to artisan fibers. “As knitters increase their skills, they want a better quality yarn,” says Jamie.  Open knitting nights—which often resemble a potluck meal with yarn according to Jamie—happen Monday and Tuesday, with additional sessions on Wednesday morning and Saturdays. Project and technique classes, as well as private knitting lessons and what Jamie calls “urgent care help,” round out the store’s services.

Packed with project samples, you’re sure to find something itching to make its way onto your needles.  Here’s a few to whet your appetite: 

Inspira Cowl
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Knit down your stash by combining four unrelated yarns to make this eye-catching accessory.  Or whip up one in school colors for a student home for the holidays.  Or show your team pride.  This cowl has more possible combinations than a Rubix cube, so have fun.

Knit Along:
Great Prismatic Cowl
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Taking its name from the famously hued Yellowstone spring, you surely want to knit this up in Cascade Melilla’s colorway that exactly matches the color progression of its famous namesake.  Since most of those colors look dreadful on me, I chose a blue color-scheme, but it will still be lovely.  I’ve always wanted the learn the true mobius cast-on, and knitting linen stitch in the round means no pesky counting!

Berroco Brooklin Vest
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A well-draped vest can jazz up almost any outfit.  Berroco’s simple design takes 5-7 skeins of Vintage Chunky and combines great texture for this vest.  The yarn becomes the star—unless you add a stunning shawl pin.  And Spinnin’ Yarns has plenty of those!

Surprise Crochet Baby Sweater
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Elizabeth Zimmerman’s famous Baby Surprise Jacket takes a long time to knit.  Indulge your impatient self by making the much quicker (a total of 6 hours if you’re fast, according to Jamie) crochet version using James C. Brett Marble Chunky.  The pattern comes from the book Surprise Crochet Sweaters for Baby. One giant ball will produce a jacket, or any worsted weight yarn will give the garment more of a sweater feel.

Azel Pullover
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It’s hard to get more adorable than a chunky sweater on a little one.  This simple pullover by Velvet Acorn Design also has a crochet version named Aura.  Of course, if you want one, they come in adult sizes, too.

A unique gadget recommendation:
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Most of us have a collection of circular needles tangling in a drawer, but Jamie has a unique solution to this problem from a source you’d never expect:  Bass Pro Shops.  Their soft sided tackle binder makes the perfect tote for all those circs & dpn’s that refuse to stay sorted.   Worth an inclusion on your holiday gift list for the guy who’d never darken the door of a yarn shop!

Yarn purchases in hand, let's explore some of the rest of the town.  Start with:

128 N. Broad Street
Griffith IN  46319
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Nothing makes me happier than learning new words.  On this trip I learned “charcuterie.”  It’s a neither butcher shop nor deli; it’s a French (of course) term for a shop specializing in salted, smoked and cured meats, artisan cheeses, wine, and other specialty food items.  Translation: high quality yum. Oh, and the bread.  It’s enough to make this newly gluten-free girl go rogue.  They’ll prepare a meat and cheese board that’s pure edible bliss for your next gathering.

American Natural Resources
120 N. Broad Street
Griffith IN  46319

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Even if you’re absolutely sure you’ll never need a vignette of stuffed raccoons in canoes (which seem to be a house specialty here), this establishment is worth a trip inside.  While I’ve always found taxidermy an…unusual art form, it’s clear these guys are the top of their game (pun intended).  You’ll encounter giraffes, bears, big and small game, humongous moose, things you didn’t know could be made from antlers, and some impressive rustic furniture.  Your hunting friends will be impressed, your PETA buddies not so much. Still, for sheer “I’ve never seen that before” value, this store is hard to beat.

Lady’s Gourmet Popcorn
118 N. Broad Street
Griffith IN  46319

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Chicagoland seems to have a love affair with gourmet popcorn. Only we never stop at the cheddar/caramel combo (known in this shop as Central Park and really good)—we take it to extremes.  Cinnamon Roll flavored popcorn?  Sign me up.  Spend some time tasting whatever flavors are available that day (they take special orders as well), and pick three or four to munch on the drive home.

Ready for lunch?  Head to Jamie’s recommendation:
Asada Mexican Restaurant
216 South Broad Street
Griffith, IN 46319

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A recommendation for a good Mexican restaurant is a treasure.  You often can’t tell the quality from the outside and it’s not always wise to “wing it.”  The really good places?  They’re always really good, and this is one of those.  Reasonable prices and friendly service, too.  The owner is likely to come by and check to see if you’re satisfied, and that doesn’t happen often anymore. The Carne Asada seems to be a favorite of many I spoke with, but Jamie says “everything is good.” They offer the traditional fried ice cream dessert, but save room for your next stop:

Brumm’s Plaza
2552 45th Street
Highland, IN  46322

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You’ve heard me say it before: where there’s yarn, there’s cupcakes.  While this is just a small drive away in the next town of Highland, these goodies were worth hunting down.  Moist, several with decadent fillings, and not piled high with frosting as so many are lately. The bars and brownies were excellent as well.  And the cakes! Frosted or bundt, tall layers or luscious cheesecake—one glance at the display case will have you drooling.  You’ve earned a slice of whatever you want, so give in to that glycemic finale to your trip.

There you have it—two delectable, surprising towns tucked away in Northwest Indiana that are worth your time to visit.  The perfect one-day adventure for any yarn fan.

Next up, we cast on the transformative Caterpillar to Butterfly Scarf and watch the magic happen.
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