Sometimes the journey—and the knitting opportunity it provides—chooses my destination. This weekend I’m on the top deck of a ferry in Bridgeport, CT. There’s a breezy hour of smooth seas knitting, and when we dock, I am in Port Jefferson, NY.
Once a 19th-century shipbuilding village, Port— as the locals call it—is a satisfying getaway. It’s halfway between New York City and the eastern end of Long Island, on the north shore. Vibe-wise, it’s a fun town: brimming with recreational boaters, artsy shops, and quaint architecture. It’s like New England with bling. The perfect place to wear your glitter-covered Birkenstocks, if you will.
Get to Know Some Local Fiber
Driving off the ferry, it’s a quick trip south to Long Island Livestock, in Yaphank, home to Tabbethia Haubold-Magee and her fabulous farm of fiber animals.
If you don’t think of Long Island as a place for raising animals, you’re like me. That’s why Tabbethia’s mission is introducing us to fiber breeds, and farm life.
Located in pine barrens on a rural road, Tabbethia’s ranch house is unmarked. Make an appointment to come by, or visit on one of her open house days. (Read on! An open house day is coming up on Sunday, November 27.)
Don’t be shy. Oohing, aahhhing and asking silly questions are warmly welcomed. Visits are hands-on affairs. Before long, my four-year-old traveling companion is a confidently leading Sir Arthur, a blue ribbon llama, on a walk.
It’s a fiber Noah’s Ark. There are bunnies (pictured above: yes that’s a bunny), sweet-faced sheep, a small tribe of goats, an alpaca, and notably, award-winning llamas and their crias—long-legged babies with anime eyes.
I marvel at the crazy markings, and the variation of coloring. Tabbethia is all about breeding for great yarn, in color and softness.
I appreciate this when we leave the animals and enter the studio. Tabbethia’s yarn is spun from her sheep, goats, alpaca and llamas (with tags identifying the animal it came from—by name), sometimes with silk and bamboo plied in. When she blends with off-farm animal fibers, it’s thoughtfully sourced from ranches elsewhere in the USA. She changes her combinations and fiber selections often. I realize that if I love it, I’d better nab it when I see it.
I fall hard for all the naturals. The dyed hues are soft blues, pinks and purples, and pair well with the undyed skeins.
Side note: there’s yarn with sparkle spun in. Like I said—Long Island has got herself some bling.
It’s time to say goodbye, but Tabbethia tells me I must meet Pansy and Piggety. No farm animals, these two. They’re snug in dog beds in her living room, ready for petting and heart-stealing. There’s no fiber connection—just pure porcine love.
The next Open House at Long Island Livestock is on Sunday, November 27, 2016. (Directions here.)
You can also catch Tabbethia Haubold-Magee and Long Island Livestock at fiber festivals and shows. Her schedule and online shop of yarn, woven goods and body products are at the Long Island Livestock Company website.
While you’re in the area: If you haven’t had enough of farm life, visit the nearby Cornell Cooperative Extension/Suffolk County Farm. Events and hands-on potential for all ages.
The Village of Port Jefferson
Port is charming. It’s the kind of place that gives me window box envy. In a good way, of course. Shops, restaurants and picket fences line the hilly streets. The agenda: wander, poke into galleries and gift shops, eat, sit and knit.
Here’s why this village is especially knitter-friendly:
There’s the superbly yarn bombed facade of the Maritime Explorium.
Whether you’re visiting with kiddos who will enjoy a visit to this family maker space, or just popping by, the entrance columns scream “Welcome”
Is it odd that a 12-foot-tall crocheted octopus says “hey there sailor” to me? I think not! Artwork courtesy of the P&J Yarnbombers. More oversized crochet is inside, on the walls.
Then, there’s The Knitting Cove on East Main Street. Peeking in, I spy an inviting table and chairs in the center of this cozy shop. A good sign! Just inside the door, a display of local dyers’ yarns. Lambstrings and Groovy Hues Fibers grabs me.
A little artsy, a little hippie, a little trendy. So Port. I choose a souvenir skein.
A recent change in ownership brought new energy and community to this knitting outpost. Locals and day visitors alike get a friendly greeting. It’s a well-stocked shop, with new and classic yarn options.
I find a display of printed, solid reliable Yankee Knitter patterns. It’s like bumping into old friends! I can replace my worn basic socks copy, and cast on, later in the day.
You'll Be Needing a Bag
Sit, Sip and Knit
Port Jefferson is a town with optimum sit-and-knit possibilities.
It’s dotted with benches in picturesque nooks and crannies, on streets and in courtyard parks. There are coffee shops, smoothie cafes, juice bars, bar bars. And if those aren’t your style, there’s tea on fine china in the Secret Garden Tea Room on Main Street.
Owner Kate dresses for high tea every day—and amazingly, so do some of her customers. Don’t be dismayed if you’ve brought your knitting but lack millinery. Kate keeps a selection of fancy hats on hand for use in the tea room. Needles up! Pinkies up!
Back at the waterfront, Harbor Front Park and The Village Center (a former chandlery) are expansive spaces open to visitors. My choice is knitting with a water view, casting on while watching the ferry boats, yachts and sailboats cruise by. In good weather, I’m outside in the park, which has seating and picnic tables. In cooler weather, the second floor of the Village Center is a giant living room, with wifi, sofas, and windows all around. Bonus: history buffs (or ephemera fans, like me) can browse the digital archives, also found on the second floor.
Love me an old postcard in black and white, even while I am spending the rest of my visit enjoying this present-day scenic panorama.
A bit of travel info:
The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry crosses the Long Island Sound year round, and is the best way to reach Port Jefferson from points north of New York City.
If you drive or take the Long Island Railroad from points south or west, and you want to see Port Jefferson from the water, you can buy round-trip foot passenger tickets on the ferry and enjoy the boat ride just for fun. There are also seasonal harbor cruises available from local charters.