There aren't a lot of "firsts" from my knitting past around here. The first sock, a baby sock whose second was never completed, is somewhere unknown. First lace? Not sure what that was. First knitting project? Probably lost over a decade ago. This is one of taking up knitting as a child. First knitting book owned? I don't remember.
I do remember though the first yarn store I really fell in love with: Smiley's.
Smiley's is in Queens and I'm not sure how I found it. I was living in Forest Hills at the time and one gray and rainy day, I ventured on the J train (it was actually running) over to their stop.
I walked into the small warehouse of yarns in wire crates stacked far above my head. I wandered around the store in some amazement watching as other knitters grabbed entire bags of yarn and piled them up by the cash register. People shopped with laundry baskets--BIG laundry baskets. And the prices were incredible.
This was the height of fun fur mania and when it showed up on their website, I ordered a huge case of it. I still remember the yarn showing up at my office--going through all of the shiny colors. My infatuation with the yarn wouldn't last and most of it went to the kids group I lead. Interestingly, while they all fell on it, many of them were quick to realize, as most of us had, that looking at its coolness and actually knitting with it without screaming were often two different things.
Smiley's also does a big annual sale in a hotel in Manhattan. The year I went it was at a Holiday Inn on the Upper West Side and I literally honed in on it by seeing where it was that women were coming away with trash bags obviously filled with yarn. Here was a ballroom of yarn and you really did just buy yarn by the bag. I saw customers, again mostly women, creating small mountains of yarn that they were purchasing. Whether they were just getting a great deal or planning for the next year, I didn't think to ask.
I haven't been back to Smiley's since I left New York. I keep meaning to take the Brunette but we've never made it for one reason or another. I hopped over to their internet sale though and was pleased to see there's still a lot of variety: Rowan, Jaeger, Filatura Lanarota (this stuff is amazing and Smiley's is the only place I've ever found it), and Red Heart. Always a variety, and always incredible pricing. They do require a minimum purchase of $50 but for that--you can get quite a lot of yarn.
I hesitate to show it to you, because you might buy the yarn and then there would be less for me, but it's good to share where the good stuff is and I have faith that Smiley's will be around a while yet.