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The Yarn Branch at Quilt Tree is offering even more knitting classes than before. I've taken three (top-down sweater, double knitting, and a finishing class) and have had good experiences with all three. Although folks are right that they're primarily a quilt shop, they do make sure that there's at least one experienced knitter available in the store to help customers and there's almost always one employee that's assigned to helping the fiber arts area. They have at least one certified Master Knitter on staff (Toni) and all of the knitters on staff are willing to try and help with patterns, questions and problems. When they first started The Yarn Branch, it wasn't as well-developed as it is now. I wish there was a bit more comfortable space to sit and knit (there are tables, folding chairs and a couple of wicker chairs), but otherwise I enjoy this LYS. If you've tried it in the past and been disappointed, I recommend giving it another shot.
Sadly, this shop closed in September of 2009. Zaynab is still teaching classes on occasion (especially in felting) and folks who were coming for Friday Night Knitting are still getting together, usually on Friday nights, sometimes at Starbucks on the north side of Dimond between New Seward and Old Seward and sometimes in private homes. When the store closed in September, there was talk of the website continuing to offer yarn, fiber, etc., but I'm not sure if that's happened.
In the past, I've sometimes felt that it was a little hard to feel welcomed and comfortable in this shop. I was in this weekend (March 2010), however, and had a very different experience. I had two different people ask if I needed help, which was nice. Also, they've really expanded the yarn that they offer, so the selection is really outstanding, probably the most diverse in Anchorage. The also seem to have increased the number of books/patterns they're offering. The shop is still tiny, tiny, tiny, but it seems to me that they've got more than ever before. If you're in Anchorage and looking for a LYS, hit this one. If you live in South Central Alaska and haven't been to FNYC in awhile, give them another try. I was impressed at the way they're growing!
I concur with comments made by Steph above: my children love to stop here with me and I stop and shop whenever I'm in Palmer. There's a nice, varied selection of yarns and other supplies (books, patterns, needles, etc.), and Vera (the shop owner) is always willing to help with a project, order a pattern, whatever you need. I've always felt very welcomed and at home in the shop and am sad when I happen to be in Palmer on a day when she's closed.
Today I had the pleasure of shopping at The Calico Whale, a lovely, colorful shop in Valdez, Alaska. The shop offers a nice selection of quilting material and supplies, as well as some yarns and a few handknit projects such as felted bags. Between the fabric, the yarn and the creative paint on the walls, this shop is a feast for the eyes and was a welcome change from the rainy, gray weather that is common to Valdez this time of year. Although the yarn selection isn't huge, the shop does carry a fairly good range of brands (Galway, Encore by Plymouth, Nashua and more) and the yarns are pretty much everything from super buiky down to sock yarn and fingering weight. Prices seemed reasonable and I believe the owner runs announcements of her specials events, sales and promotions on Facebook. The only thing I would've liked to see was some yarn that is spun or dyed here in Alaska. If it was there, I missed it. If it wasn't, there are several fiber arts folks around AK whose yarn might be sold in the shop. Overall, I'm glad I went in and will be back next time I'm in Valdez.