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Knitter's paradise 

A new yarn store in downtown SLO draws beginners and experts alike

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Nordic Mart’s store manager Felicia Gurley is a hardcore knitter. To dispel any doubt, she had the words “knit” and “purl” tattooed behind her ears. These two fundamental stitches are the yin and yang of knitting: Purl is a backward knit stitch and vice versa.

Whether you’re a yarn aficionado or knitting virgin, Nordic Mart is worth a visit. The vast array of yarn colors—from light mint, lilac, and coral to frosted plum, Bordeaux, and dark rust—is a true spectacle. This knitter’s heaven, located along the creek and equipped with an outdoor patio with tables and chairs, opened in June.

Nordic Mart carries products from Drops Design—a successful online store started in Norway—and is the first retail store in the country to sell all of their yarns, none of which cost more than $10. Stacked at the counter are Drops pattern books showing detailed instructions on how to knit sweaters, wraps, and ponchos. These books include only some of Drops’ 3,500 free patterns.

Gurley began knitting by creating hats and scarves for her father when he was sick with cancer. She finds the activity therapeutic.

“You are creating something with your hands,” she explained. “You take a piece of string and make something three dimensional out of it. Plus, it is satisfying to be able to wear what you stitched.”

The yarns in the store are organized according to type, neatly tucked away in wooden cubbies. “Nepal” is a wool and alpaca blend, “Silk Tweed” is made of lambswool, and “Muskat” is a mercerized cotton, treated to give it a lustrous appearance. “Drops Ice,” a durable cotton, is an acrylic blend, and “Cotton Light” is a strong yarn for knitting baby outfits. Not all the yarns fit in the cubbies, however; some hang on the walls along with sweaters and scarves knit by locals. A basement warehouse allows for shipping online purchases.

A physical retail store downtown gives knitters a chance to come in, ask questions, trade ideas, and gain inspiration from other people’s projects. A lot of people knit in San Luis Obispo, but many are part of online knitting and crocheting communities like

Gurley and a friend are working on a project together: “We are making a hot pink and navy blue sweater with a hood. It’s going by really fast because it is so bulky!

“People come in inspired about a pattern in a book,” she explained. “I help them figure out what they need for that project. Right now, the bolero, a feminine lacy half top, is very popular.”

When a particular project gains mass attention, a lot of specific yarns and even certain colors sell rapidly. Just this month, Gurley held her first class. Her all-level classes are held on Sundays and focus on whatever the group is most interested in.

Locals, as well as passionate knitters just passing through, have discovered Nordic Mart. Rachael Herron, who wrote How to Knit a Love Song, has frequented the store. Gurley encourages anyone interested in learning to knit to stop by and discover how wonderful it is to make your own sweaters and hats—that fit you perfectly.

Nordic Mart is located at 1023 Nipomo St. in SLO and is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and select Sundays. For more information, visit or call 542-9303.

Fast Facts

Interested in learning about insects? Check out the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s upcoming events. On Sept. 11, hear a discussion of insect identification techniques, followed by a tour of the garden. An evening lecture on Sept. 13 will feature a slide show. Both events are held in the Oak Glen Pavilion and cost $5. For more information, visit or call 541-1400. …

The Jacqualyn Palchak Cancer Fund is hosting its second annual Cancer Survivorship Celebration on Sept. 18 at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 959 Valley Road, Arroyo Grande. Starting at 10:30 a.m. with registration and coffee, the seminar includes guest speakers and a barbecue lunch. The event is free, but reservations are required. Call the fund at 710-3113.

A car show at Hearst Castle on Oct. 3 from 1 to 4 p.m. celebrates alternative fuels. More than 25 vehicles—including biodiesel, vegetable oil, propane, ethanol, and natural gas—will be featured. The show is free, and all ages are welcome. Find more information at ∆

Intern Alycia Kiley compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send comments or ideas to Executive Editor Ryan Miller at [email protected].

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