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Madison, Wisconsin Local Crafty Guide , by Brdgt

Madison, Wisconsin Local Crafty Guide

Madison, Wisconsin is the sort of city where the traffic jams on the bike path rival the ones on the Beltline, where the Saturday farmer’s market takes two hours to make the loop, and where you can drink a PBR while making the rounds at the holiday crafty fair. Located on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, the city is the home to both the University of Wisconsin and the capital. In fact, the two are connected by State Street, a mostly pedestrian mall. The street is lined with both chain stores and local treasures, but most importantly the whole city supports a thriving DIY culture and any crafty lady will feel right at home in “Mad-town.”

Madison from across Lake Monona. Photo by author.

Hands-down, if you want to support local crafters, find the perfect gift, or just get inspired, get yourself to the Glitter Workshop (920 E. Johnson St.). Ladies Heather and Naomi run this consignment shop of DIY craftiness and organize several craft fairs a year, “Craftacular” and “Crafternoon.” Both are held at the High Noon Saloon (701 E. Washington Ave.), where you can drink a PBR while you shop your little crafty heart out.

Photo from Glitterworkshop.com.

If you want to make something of your own, stop into my favorite LYS in town, Lakeside Fibers (402 W. Lakeside St.). Housed in an old mill, the store has an amazing amount of space for both knitters and weavers delight. They now have a coffee shop too. Really, you can’t go wrong.
But a town like Madison can’t have just one LYS. Not far from Lakeside Fibers, in the Monroe Street neighborhood is The Knitting Tree (2614 Monroe St). Smaller than Lakeside, but jammed full of everything you can think of - it’s my source for supplies for my Jayne Cobb Cunning Hats.

A little bit afield is The Sow’s Ear (125 S. Main Street, Verona, WI) and Off the Beaten Path (215 Femrite Drive Monona, WI). They are worth the trip and have more liberal hours than the other LYS. The Sow’s Ear even has late nights!

You say you’re not a fiber artist? No problem!
While you are at the Glitter Workshop stop by Burnie’s Rock Shop (901 E. Johnson St.), a beader’s heaven.

While you are on State Street do not miss Little Luxuries on the 200 block (hopefully, they’ll have some gnomes in the window to point your way) and Pop Deluxe on the 300 block (the only place in town to buy Queen Bee wallets). Both stores have both local and non-local DIY products and lots of other fun stuff. And don’t miss the Soap Opera (300 block of State St.), a local bath and beauty store. I recommend their lemon oat soap and their cornflower lotion with any combination of hand picked scents added.

Other shops that honor DIY have started to pop up in Madison, including Daffodil Parker - primarily a florist with many handmade items, especially purses and bags (502 W. Main St.), Pick More Daisies - primarily an antique store, but with handcrafted jewelry from Madison and local jewelers (1216 Williamson St.), and The Bohemian Bauble - which carries a hodge podge of fun handmade and vintage stuff ( 404 W Lakeside St.).

The parking situation in Madison. Photo by author.

Madison is the kind of town where if you just ask around you are going to find your share of Stitch N’ Bitches or other crafty communities. Two communities with open membership and an online presence are Sip N’ Knits (a diverse group of knitters, crocheters, and other fiber artists) and the official Madison Stitch N’ Bitch.

Most meet at knitter friendly coffee shops like Escape, Mother Fool’s, Ground Zero and Lazy Jane’s (hmm... showing my bias - they are all on Williamson St., affectionately known as "Willy St.") or at member’s homes.

Eats and Drinks:
You might need a little introduction to the Wisconsin food pyramid - it is essentially made up of beer, brats, Friday fish fry, and cheese. You can really get any of them anywhere but I suggest having a “boot” of beer (not by yourself, silly - there’s a group game that goes along with it!) at the Essen Haus (514 East Wilsonstrasse), a brat at State Street Brats (603 State St.) - or, if you are here in the summer, at the Union Terrace (800 Langdon St.), fish fry - well, anywhere on a Friday night - and cheese in the form of fried cheese curds. If it’s your birthday, head to the Nitty Gritty (223 N. Frances St.) and have your fried cheese curds with free beer!

A "Boot" of beer at the Essen Haus. Photo by author.

And speaking of beer, Wisconsin has a proud brewing tradition, from Pabst and Miller to Madison locals Capital Brewery (7734 Terrace Avenue, Middleton, WI) and New Glarus (Cty Trk W & Hwy. 69, New Glarus, WI). You don’t like beer, don’t worry (but don’t say it out loud!), Wisconsin also has a surprisingly good winery scene. I suggest a tour of the Wollersheim Winery, a scenic drive northwest of the city (7876 State Rd 188, Prairie du Sac, WI).

Other Attractions:
Madison is a beautiful city thanks in large part to fortuitous location, but also due to some careful planning and local pride. A few special places I always include in a tour are the Monona Terrace (based on a Frank Lloyd Wright design), the Olbrich Gardens (especially the Thai Pavilion), the Vilas Zoo, and the Saturday Farmer’s Market. All are free and easily assessable by bike :)

Olbrich Gardens. Photo by author.

South Central Wisconsin has a lot to offer (and I'll leave a crafty guide to Milwaukee to more capable hands, but it's also a great city, where I often go for craft fairs like Art vs. Craft), but a few popular spots are The House On the Rock (if you are a Neil Gaiman fan, you know this place), Devil's Lake State Park, Cave of the Mounds, Taliesen, and the Wisconsin Dells.

Monona Terrace bike path. Photo by author.