IOWA!

I’m too excited to be all clever or reasonable or poetic, so I’ll just out and say it:  as of Saturday, I’m now the proud owner of my very own spinning wheel (!!!).

OMG YES REALLY.

It all started early last spring.  Mom was in Iowa visiting a friend (more on that momentarily), and they stumbled into a yarn shop, and in that shop Mom was told that just a few towns over was a tiny little shop that stocked Ashford spinning wheels, and that the proprietor was a really nice lady.  So Mom told me about this, and asked if I would like to go to Iowa sometime and buy a spinning wheel from the nice lady and see Mom’s old friend and browse some antique stores and have one last midwestern hurrah before I run off for the west coast.  And I said FLIPPIN’ YES.

So a couple weeks ago I reached out to the aforementioned really nice lady who owned the little spinning wheel shop, and asked her if she had an Ashford Kiwi in stock (that’s the same model that Kim lent me last year, remember?  And I really enjoyed spinning on that then, so I thought I might like to probably own that one, but I also wanted to try out a few other wheels while I was there anyway).  And she DID have a Kiwi in stock, and so plans were made for Mom and me to take a weekend trip to Iowa and see everything that the extreme southeastern corner of the state had to offer.

So here’s what happened:

On Friday morning, Mom drove from Kansas City to St. Louis.  I worked diligently all day to hit a deadline at work, then as soon as I turned that stuff in, my ass was out the door.  And Mom and I were on the road to IOWA!

(BTW, I’m totally referring to it as “IOWA!” throughout this post.  Because in my experience, IOWA! is full of nothing but beauty and wonder.  Go IOWA!)

We got to Ft. Madison, IOWA! just in time to grab some Subway, check into the hotel, and make Saturday plans with Jeanette (the aforementioned friend), who happens to live in that corner of IOWA! and knows every antique store within a 100-mile radius.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early, and I ate a waffle courtesy of the Comfort Inn (yay IOWA!):

(unnecessary picture? Yes. But I am being thorough.)

And then with some printed Google maps and my Android’s spotty roaming signal for a guide, Mom and I set out to find Country Lane Fiber Arts in nearby New London, IOWA!.

We were doing so good for the first bit, I swear.  But then Google Maps told us to follow a road that went through a state park (this one) and then I saw a cute squirrel and Mom was pointing out pretty trees and somehow we missed a turn.  Someplace.

(Jeff and Dad are both shaking their heads right now, I can tell).

We went from roads that looked like this:

to one that looked like this:

Not usually a promising sign.

Of course we didn’t figure that out immediately.  But once I noticed that the road was curving a bit more than my map indicated it should, and then we hit a town called Lowell and found a river that’s nowhere near New London, we knew we were lost.

So I begged and pleaded my phone to eke out enough of a signal that I could set us straight, and we found a loooooong gravel road that would put us in the direction of the spinning wheel shop.  And after several very confusing minutes and a few more wrong turns, we were there!

Just look at this place:

Isn’t it wonderful?  It reminds me so much of Grandma’s quilt shop.  Everything from the handpainted sign and creaky screen door to the delicious fiber-y fabric-y smell inside made me feel like I was home.

And OMG.  The inside!  It was like a fiber artist’s brain exploded.  And I mean that in the best possible way.

There was a wall of knitting needles, and giant Rubbermaid bins of spinning fiber:

There were looms bearing WIPs, and racks of finished woven textiles:

There was yarn and spinning fiber and drop spindles and spinning wheel parts and accessories:

There were spinning wheels out for testing and display:

and brand new boxed up ones for the buying:

And there were things I barely even knew about: intricate beadwork, and bobbin lace, and tatting kits:

For every craft, Diana had set up a WIP, and usually had a few FO’s for sale, too.  She knew how to do EVERYTHING, I swear.

It was seriously incredible.  I felt like I could dive into the shop and emerge years later and STILL not have seen everything she had to offer.

So after a couple hours of chatting and learning and wheel testing (I spun a bit on her display Kiwi, and also tried out a Traveler)…

I’d decided!  Kiwi it must be:

(That box contains an entire spinning wheel.  Crazy!  The laws of physics must be different in IOWA!.)

And since Diana stocked jumbo flyers and scotch-tensioned kates and high-speed whorls, and since my mom is an exceedingly generous soul, I was soon set up with those accessories as well.

And then I found the WIP gauges (cutest little bamboo one you’ve ever seen).  And Mom found the tunisian crochet hooks.  And I dove headfirst into a bin of locally dyed fiber.

We left the shop just after noon, our heads cloudy with wool.  And happiness.

I even got to pose with the  enabler  proprietor herself:

It was one of the most amazing mornings of my life.

So believe it or not, buying a spinning wheel and fiber and accessories and yarn and crochet hooks and who-knows-what-else can really work up the ol’ appetite.  Aided by a map and instructions that Diana drew for us, Mom and I made our way back to Ft. Madison, and met up with Jeanette for lunch.

Let me tell you about Jeanette.  She and Mom have been friends since they were 12.  They met in junior high, and have been close ever since.  Jeanette got married and moved to West Point, IOWA!; Mom got married and moved to Kansas City.  They still get together at least once a year to enable each other’s antiquing addictions, and whenever they’re together they do that thing where they finish each other’s sentences and have nearly 50 years of accumulated inside jokes.  It’s pretty awesome (and Stef and Mandi? I fully expect us to be like this in another 30 years.)

So anyway.  That’s Jeanette, and she’s super cool, and luckily she was able to hang out with us ‘most all day on Saturday and Sunday.

Last time Mom went to IOWA!, she and Jeanette had gone to the Ivy Bake Shoppe in downtown Ft. Madison, and Mom has not. shut. up. about it, ever since.  They were getting ready to close for a private party when we stopped in, but they let us order anyway.

My delicious turkey and veggie wrap:

Nom.

But (as one might suspect from the place’s name), the baked goods were the real star of the show.  Mom had some amazing apple cake:

(she let me try a bite.  It was ALMOST as good as this apple bundt cake I made last fall.)

Jeanette’s strawberry shortcake bar was so wonderful that it almost disappeared before I could do that annoying “hold on! I must take a picture of your food!” blogger thing:

So I think that’s a solid endorsement of its quality.

And then I had this:  a millennium (toffee) bar:

My one regret in life is that I didn’t haul out the ol’ Nikon and take a more flattering picture of this amazingness.  But that wouldn’t make a difference, because you really just have to try it.

Since I doubt anybody reading this lives in southeast Iowa (thus making it difficult to procure one from the source), how about the next best thing?

The recipe.

I will be attempting to replicate these in my own kitchen, post-haste, and you should too.  (knit night-ers, watch out.  These are heading your way, very soon.).

Next door to the Ivy Bake Shoppe was a super cute place called Artisans Next Door:

And that’s where I fell madly in love for the third time that day.

They had yarn and fiber and even silk hankies:

(you know I didn’t walk out of there empty-handed).

And they had pottery:

and jewelry, and felted soaps and little birdies, and cute house stuff, and handknits:

I just about had a heart attack, I swear.

This place was unnatural.  Even the frickin’ COUNTER was beautiful:

And Linda, one of the artists, didn’t even laugh at me when I made this silly request.  In fact, she asked for my blog URL and OMG SHE MIGHT BE READING RIGHT NOW.  (Hi Linda!)

Gawd I loved that shop.  I bought fiber and hankies, and I was happy.

From there, Jeanette served as our tour guide/co-conspirator for the rest of the afternoon:  we visited three antique shops in the Ft. Madison area, including this one:

Which was one of the nicest antique shops I’ve ever set foot in (and I’ve been in a few, as you might surmise).

Browsing is so much fun, but since next month we’re going to be packing up all our worldly possessions and putting them into storage, it was pretty easy for me to resist buying. Much.

When we’d gotten our fill of antiques for the day, we headed back to the Comfort Inn, and then this happened:

Oh, how young and optimistic I was then.

Jeanette’s husband had kindly delivered to us their mallet and hammer, and Jeanette let me borrow a folding screwdriver.  Along with the allen key that came with the wheel, I was confident I’d have it together and spinning in no time.

HA.

and HA again.

But to be fair, it doesn’t really look all that daunting spread out on the hotel bed there, does it?  I’ve assembled furniture before.  Hell, I’ve even disassembled, stripped, refinished, and reassembled antique furniture. I was sure I could handle it.

Someone should’a just hit me over the head with that mallet.

TWO HOURS LATER, I tried to Tweet, “Does this look like two hours’ worth of work to you?”:

Cue the sad trombones.

(It’s really a shame that Twitpic wasn’t cooperating with my weak phone signal, because I’m sure Saturday night’s antics would’ve been a rollicking good time for those of y’all playing along at home).

I was bleeding in two places.  My knees were skinned from scooting around on the hotel carpet.  My back hurt, and I’d knocked a full can of Diet Coke onto the floor at some point (mercifully far away from the wheel’s unfinished wood).

It was time for a dinner break.  And a bigger-screwdriver-buying break.

(the only non-fast-food, no-mammal-meat-etarian sustenance to be found in Ft. Madison at 7:00 on a Saturday night).

The one bad thing about this part of IOWA! is the dearth of no-mammal-meat-etarian/preferably pescatarian/ideally vegetarian food options.  But still, it was probably a wise move getting away from that goddamned wheel for a little while.

By 8:00 or so I was back at it, with a vengeance.  And at around 10:30, after liberal use of a the mallet and Dollar General screwdriver, WE HAD A WHEEL.

Do NOT underestimate the effort involved in that, y’all.  Just don’t.

So even though it was late and my back hurt and I was exhausted and we had another full day ahead of us on Sunday, I couldn’t help it: I had to spin.

(That’s some superwash cheviot roving from (surprise surprise) Dyeabolical: the perfect fiber for my new wheel’s maiden voyage, yes?)

My blistered, shaky hands managed to christen her with a few yards:

And then my eyes just couldn’t stay open, so I texted with Jeff with news of my success and somehow nodded off mid-conversation.

And then it was Sunday! In IOWA!

Mom and I got up bright and early, met Jeanette, showed off the spinning wheel, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road:

Our first stop was the nearby town of Bonaparte, for lunch and (surprise!), more antiquing.  We ate in an old mill that had re-opened as a restaurant:

and then wandered for a bit.

See that antique store there at the left, with the blue awnings?  That’s where I found this:

All together now:  AWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mamacat didn’t think much of my loud Nikon clicking, so she bolted after just a couple pictures.  But her beebee was a little ham, and he and I got to cuddle and play and model and pose for a quarter of an hour.

Couldn’t you just eat him up?  I love IOWA!.  They have kittens there.

Mom and I made a plan.  I was going to stuff him in my pocket and take him home with me, and she was going to make Jeff let me keep him.

This was an excellent plan, because OMGLOOKITHISWIDDWETUMMMYYYYY!!!!!

We were buds. I really shoulda taken him.

(I took like a bazillion pictures of this little dear, and there are a few more on my Flickr photostream if you’re so inclined).

After I tore myself away from the little squeezie, it was time to get serious about the antiquing.  Because some of them were serious.  Like this:

I think I need to start a blog called “racist things I saw in antique shops.”  Much like my find from last winter, I’m still WTF-ing over why anybody would want to own this.

I CAN, however, totally understand the appeal of jarts:

Especially if you throw them at racists.  But not at tiny orange kittens.

After one last impassioned kitten-y plea (which fell upon deaf ears.  JEFF.), Mom and Jeanette and I headed down the road a bit to nearby Bentonsport for more (you guessed it) antiques and crafty stuff.

Our first stop was Iron and Lace, a pottery/weaving/blacksmith’s shop:

The metalworking was neat but not really anything I’m passionate about, but OMG you should’ve seen the pottery.

Hold on, I’ll show you the pottery, so you can be happy too:

Unf. I die.  Look at the queen anne’s lace imprint!  The beautiful glazing!

I am dead of gorgeousness (yes, that’s a thing).

Luckily I’m not dead-for-real, as I would’ve been if I had bought a beautiful-yet-expensive tea set.  That is to say, Jeff would’ve killed me.

Somehow (I really regret this), I managed to leave without any pottery whatsoever.  But Mom fell down the weaving hole, and found some placemats she just couldn’t live without:

From there we wandered across the street to Bentonsport’s old post office, which has recently become a tiny adorable exquisite fudge-and-sandwich shop:

I dare you to tell me that’s not the most charming place you’ve ever seen.  I DARE YOU.

Inside they had at least a dozen kinds of fudge:

(SO PRETTY)

Along with classics like maple, peanut butter, and chocolate, there was also divinity fudge. And something called “tiger stripes”.  And one that tasted exactly like a Snickers bar.

And there were fudge marshmallow pops, and cookies, and ice cream sandwiches, and teensy little ice cream cones made of fudge.

And did I mention the donut holes?

Mark my words, this place’ll have a line out the door within a month.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that the decor was tiny and cozy and unbearably awesomely cute.

They’d maintained most elements of the old post office, including the 19th-century collection windows:

The owner added a deck/patio area that overlooks the river and walking bridge:

Seriously, if I were going to open a business in a small town in IOWA!, it would be exactly like this.  Exactly.  I’m in love.

(Jeff is in love, too.  With the fudge. I brought him some of the chocolate-maple and the classic chocolate, and he still hasn’t stopped making yummy sounds.  I think he may be broken. Forever.)

With that, we said goodbye to Bentonsport and headed back to Jeanette’s house in West Point.  After seeing her kitchen renovation-in-progress (it’s gonna look awesome) and thanking her husband again for providing the means to assemble my spinning wheel, Mom and I hit the road.

Our trip to IOWA! was over, and it was a resounding success, and I can’t wait to go back.

IOWA! is full of awesome.

~~~
Postscript:  since we didn’t get home until late-ish on Sunday night, I haven’t had much of a chance to spin (WOE IS ME).  But I have made this:

I love my new Kiwi.  I am happy.

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8 responses to “IOWA!

  1. I would have had problems not stuffing the kitten in my pocket and taking him home, too. SO CUTE.

  2. You passed right through my town and didn’t even stop to say hello. The nerve of you! 😉 I live in Keokuk and get to Ft. Madison at least once a week. The Ivy is lovely and so is the shop next door. I looked into getting some of my hand dyed fiber in there, but you have to belong to the guild and unfortunately, it is not my cup of tea. There is another neat little shop in the same block around the corner the other way called Forget-Me-Nots. She has a whole back hallway filled with vintage hats! I regularly go pillage them when I have a few dollars and then I wear them. They really must be seen to be appreciated you know. Tee hee! It sounds like you had a lovely time. If you come through again, let us know. We would love to meet another spinner around these parts. Ask Rachel, she knows all about me.

  3. Wow Kate you had quite a trip after you left my shop. I am glad you love the wheel so much. You did an awesome job telling about all the things you did, it almost like being there. Hope you make it back out here again it was a great time having you and Mom visit my shop. I am off to Adel, Iowa this week-end to vend my shop at the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival. Happy Spinning

  4. Iowa, you have my heart. I grew up in Iowa and think it is the most wonderful place with some of the nicest people.

  5. Congrats on your wheel! Looks like you had a fantastic trip. I’ve been thinking about getting a wheel – I think I would spin more often if I had one.

  6. Pingback: Five years ago today | KateOhKatie blogs

  7. The fudge looks yummy. Great story!

  8. Believe it or not we here in Iowa are reading your story and I can only say you did a wonderful job of describing everything very well. We that live in these parts take for granted just what we have. I was born and raised in Keosauqua but moved to St. Louis for 31 years of my live and have just recently moved back “home”. I get to enjoy the view from the fudge shop every single day and can never get enough of it. The only thing prettier is the view from the foot bridge on a moon lit night. The lighting bugs when they first appear in June and light the meadows as if it were a beacon to the Heavens. And the smell of all the wild flowers on a dewey morning. I love going out at night and viewing stars that look as if you could reach up and pick them from the sky. The Milkey Way is incredible during the dark of the moon nights. We are so glad that we were able to share some of Iowa with you and hope that you and your mom will return very soon. There are some really neat places to stay North of Ft. Madison and I hope you try some of our bed and breakfast places also. And yes–the fudge in that quaint little place is by far the best in town!!! And yes I am related to the owner of that business Forever Sweet Creations that has all thoughs tasty creations. If Jeff runs out before your next visit let us know–we make trips to St. Louis pretty routinely and would be glad to meet you with another “fix”–lol!!! If Jeff likes the outdoors there are plenty of things to keep him busy while you and mom check out more stuff. Hope to see you again soon.

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