On the Road: Noe Knit
3957 24th St. (between Noe and Sanchez)
Note: We sadly note that this store is no longer in business as of June 2009. The below review remains up for archival purposes and also to honor a great store.
A good yarn store needs to have depth and breadth of inventory, but it also needs to have the less tangible things like customer service, an inviting atmosphere, and a sense of community. In a city where yarn stores abound, Noe Knit achieves the perfect balance of the tangible and intangible.
Where Is It?
Noe (pronounced "know-ee") Knit is located in San Francisco's Noe Valley, which is nestled between the Mission District, the Castro, and Diamond Heights. This was my neighborhood before I left San Francisco nine years ago.
Noe Valley centers around the 24th Street shopping district, where baby strollers and dogs tend to outnumber people on the weekends. You'll find everything you could possibly want or need there—the fancy intermingled with the old-fashioned, from $400 handmade shoes to $15 galvanized steel garbage cans. The only thing it lacked when I lived there was a yarn store, but this has since changed. Right in the middle of everything is Noe Knit.Inside the Shop
Glance through the open door (it's actually a split Dutch door) and you'll see a deep tall space inside. On the left and right, walls of yarn lead your eye into the back area where tall sunny windows illuminate a large wooden table awaiting classes and impromptu knit-ins. Behind the shelves, walls have been painted a calming shade of green.
The polished concrete floor and high ceilings are decidedly urban, yet the yarns and sample garments and comfortable chairs keep it cozy. Lamps suspended from the ceiling give the space a warm and abundant light.
The yarns are stored on natural wood-colored shelves and are organized by gauge, then by manufacturer, by type, and finally by color. Everything is in perfect order, but not untouchably so. Debbie Bliss, Jo Sharp, Anny Blatt, Dale of Norway, and others are on the shelves.
They try to have on the shelves at least two skeins of each yarn, in each color. The rest is safely tucked away in back—a refreshing change from the usual "put it all out there and let them rummage" approach.
In terms of needles and accessories, you'll find pretty much everything you need, but not to the point of excess or gluttony where you have to choose from three or four different versions of the same thing.
Gadgets and gizmos are at a minimum, but colorful shapely bags from Lantern Moon are artfully poised throughout.
Even among non-knitters, the store is appreciated for its inventive window displays—once they preserved colorful ice cream cones in shellac and suspended them from strings through which balls of matching yarn had been strung; another time, their cafe-themed display included a French press coffee pot filled with small balls of brown yarn, and cappuccino cups with swirls of white fiber on the top for frothy milk.
For out-of-town visitors, it's a great stop because you get a real LYS/neighborhood feel, the inventory is interesting, it's extremely easy to reach (just take the J Church train from downtown), and the neighborhood will give any non-knitters in your group ample distraction while you go inside to play with yarn.