Lifestyle

Cleo’s Yarn Shop Is the Wholesome Third Place Knitters Needed

The yarn shop where everyone knows your name.

Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist
Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist
Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist

The third place has entered the public lexicon again and it seems like everyone in New York is searching for theirs. A third place is a sociological concept that refers to a beloved space apart from home and work, where one repeatedly spends time in a social capacity. A place where one feels like they belong, a home away from home. To quote Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.” Other famous examples of third places include Central Perk from Friends, Luke’s Diner from Gilmore Girls, and Paddy’s Pub from Always Sunny In Philadelphia. But, not all third places have to be associated with eating or drinking. Your third place might be a neighborhood bookstore, a yoga studio, a barber shop, a basketball court, a garden, or a skatepark-or maybe even a yarn shop.Sandwiched between a block of nondescript warehouses and industrial-looking storefronts, sits our new favorite third place: Cleo’s Yarn Shop. Owned by knitwear designer Cleo Malone, the eponymous East Williamsburg shop sells skeins (aka bundles) of yarn in addition to offering an inclusive community for knitters of varying expertise.

Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist
Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist
Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist

The yarn business runs in Malone’s veins. A native to Santa Rosa, California, Malone worked at her family’s store, Cast Away Yarn Shop, from a young age. “I heard something once-and I don’t know how true this is-but it really resonated with me. It’s the idea that whatever you were obsessed with when you were 12 years old is what sticks with you for the rest of your life,” reminisces Malone. “I think [knitting] is just what I happened to be obsessed with at that formative age.”Now, fast forwarding through middle school, high school, college, and briefly becoming a partner at Cast Away, Malone fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving across the country to New York City. It wasn’t long after settling into Bushwick that Malone realized the absence of any nearby yarn shop. Thus, came the idea for Cleo’s Yarn Shop.

Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist
Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist
Photo by Lanna Apisukh for Thrillist

After one year in business, the ethos of the shop can be summed up in the words of store manager, Jessie Wayburn, “it’s sticks and string.” In other words, knitting is not a vain or weighty pastime. “It’s nothing that serious, right? It’s not life or death,” explains Malone. “No one’s going to judge you if you have a little mistake in your hat that you made-and [the mistake] makes it more beautiful in a way. Knitting is an imperfect medium, it’s supposed to be. The imperfection of it all adds to its accessibility.”The carefree and wholesome ethos can be best felt at the store’s weekly meetups, facilitated by Malone. The linkups offer a range of instructional classes on how to knit apparel like socks, cardigans, horned baklavas, and bunny bonnets, in addition to craft circles devoted to queer and BIPOC locals. At the latest knit-a-long, a small crew of artisans could be found casually grouped around the shop’s main table. Experts and beginners unhurriedly started on the same sweater pattern, while chatting and intermittently pausing for direction from their neighbors or Malone. By the end of the night, a diverse smattering of partial or complete chunky knits were packed into tote bags to be taken home.Regardless of the habitual rise and fall of knitting’s popularity in the mainstream, devotees like Malone believe in its staying power, its perennial pull. “Knitting is the perfect hobby. You’re making something wearable, but it’s also meditative. The something that we leave behind, there’s something innately human about that,” Malone reflects.

“I don’t really feel like I’ve done that much. Right? I’ve just set up a time and said, here, come do this. And they do and it’s great,” Malone adds. “I’m so in love with how people are able to find community here.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

Izzy Baskette is the New York City Staff Writer for Thrillist. Talk to her at [email protected] or find her on Instagram.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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