So I was driving along I-70 eastbound, headed for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's annual meeting, looking for an excuse to get off the big highway and onto the two lanes, but arguing with myself that I needed to make tracks. I had some hope of getting to a place with free wifi for a phone conference that would be happening that afternoon, but this wasn't an essential phone conference and I wasn't at all sure where the free wifi might be available, although I'd researched both libraries and coffee shops that might be available at the correct times. (In case you ever need to know, the Salina, Kansas, library would apparently have let me come use their connection. The Wichita, Kansas, library wouldn't let me use it without a local library card.)
Yet my impatience with mile after mile of smooth, fast road ticked upward when I saw a billboard that advertised QUILT SHOP (with yarn), accessible from an upcoming exit. That didn't quite do the trick, because while I do like quilts and quilting, I already take on more than I can handle and I didn't need to open up yet another temptation that I'd have to say no to. Yarn was the subtext, not the focus. So I stayed on my steady course eastward. Yet not long after, another billboard offered YARN SHOP (with antiques or buttons, I forget which). The emphasis on YARN and the relatively short distance—10 miles—from the highway in a direction that would continue to take me toward Wichita, my required destination by the end of the day, created the necessary magnetic pull toward the ramp at exit 93 and highway 23, southbound toward Gove, Kansas.
It's a small town. Here's what the Gove City Yarns building looks like looking east from the west side of highway 23:
I had to watch my timing to get a vehicle into the picture. Mostly there wasn't much traffic. Here's the center of town, looking south down highway 23 from the corner right by the shop:
A truck! That's downtown metropolitan Gove City, and here's a view of 3rd Street, which runs just south of the shop and turns into county road 452 after a few blocks, as seen from where I parked my car:
No, it's not paved. It was obviously not an area of high-density population. (I learned later that the 2000 census reported 105 residents of Gove. The 2010 census counted 80 people.)
So what sort of yarn shop would I find?
My first interesting observation involved the book section, right inside the front door, which included multiple copies of a large number of books, including the most recent publications from Interweave Press, both magazines and special issues.
That's only part of the publications section. Note the multiple copies of titles, neatly stacked (but recently perused) on both the racks and the shelves. More:
That issue of knit.wear on the table is brand-spanking new, as was the Jane Austen Knits in the previous image. Again, the shelves are packed with more-than-just-one of a lot of knitting publications. (The table was also loaded with unusual buttons. The place is a treasure-trove of exceptional buttons.)
Someone here is serious about knitting, and has a clientele that is, too.
There are a lot of rooms in that little building, and they are crammed with well-organized yarns. There's a room for wools and sock yarns, another room for acrylics and baby yarns. This is a small portion of the wool realm, of course my primary interest:
Yarns are carefully selected and not boring:
I even found a little bit of local roving (although spinning is not the shop's strength):
By this time the other customers were browsing happily elsewhere and I began talking with the shop's proprietor, Betty McDonald. I learned that she's had the shop since 2003, that it draws its clientele from a 100-mile radius (which is easy to believe for all sorts of reasons). There are no huge population centers within that 100-mile range, which looks like this and extends into eastern Colorado and southwestern Nebraska:
(The highlighter marks my routes to and from Wichita. I missed a turn in Great Bend on the way back—a hazard of being both driver and navigator—thus the odd dip to the south. Interstates are for when it's already dark out and I want to get to the location with the cheapest motel that has a decent rating before I quit driving for the night.)
I also learned that Betty endeavors to have a broad and deep selection, some portions of which, like the combination skeins shown below, are unique to the shop:
G.C.Y. is, of course, Gove City Yarn.
I asked if I could take Betty's picture, and she was a little hesitant because she was in her work clothes. The reason she was in her work clothes is that she and her husband, who rehabbed this formerly falling-down building and then filled it with yarn, are currently rehabbing another building that's a short distance from the back door so they can fill it with more yarn. "Work clothes" say to me "we're getting things done around here." As they obviously are.
The context is as thoughtful as the stock, with a great mural behind the desk.
Yes, there are also antiques, and quilt racks in the front room with beautifully selected and displayed old linens—crochet work, embroidery, and other treasures. Overall, it's an environment that simultaneously values past accomplishments and nurtures future creativity.
Gove City Yarns is a good reason to visit Kansas. I'm already looking forward to my next trip in that direction. I'll also look forward to visiting again with a former stray now named Casanova, who has never harmed a skein of yarn . . .
. . . and thus now has a permanent home.
It's true that I didn't get to the phone conference. But I didn't care at all.