I've been to all of Madison's and the area's (west side) knitting shops within the last two months and I've decided to write a review. I don't really travel to the east side of Madison, so the knitting shops in Stoughton and Sun Prairie have not been reviewed.
Just to let you know what we are working with - my map is from Knitmap.
The order of appearance is from the best shop to the, well, you can get the hint.
The Sow's Ear - S Main St, Verona WI
Excellent knitting selection and has tons of yarn (natural fibers). I was surprised to see yarn from School House Press there in addition to roving. They have enough yarn in one color so you could make a large project if you wanted to, which is always great. In addition, the coffee shop is really nice, there is enough room to sit and knit. The Sow's Ear has a lot of bamboo knitting needles and the workers are good natured and pleased to help you out. When I walk inside and look around, I feel all warm inside and can drool over tons of yarn, which in my book makes this a good yarn shop.
The Knitting Tree - Monroe St, Madison WI
The shop has tons of yarn, a great selection, and a variety. The staff is willing to help out with any problems or whatnot and they have a ton of drooling yarn. Unfortunately, this shop is one where you wouldn't go to sit and knit.
Stitcher's Crossing - Mineral Point Rd, Madison WI
This store is also a quilt shop, and that is the main emphasis of the store. They have lots of bamboo needles and a good yarn selection. It's not as big as the Sow's Ear or The Knitting Tree, but it is the closest shop in reference to where I live and they tend to have what I need of am looking for, which is always a good thing.
Lakeside Fibers - W Lakeside St, Madison WI
This used to be my favorite store, but it is no more. I do love the building, the old displays and the coffee shop, where there is lots of room to sit and knit, in addition it being next to the lake. The store used to have loads of yarn (they had a large baby and hat portion in the coffee area in addition to lots of Brown Sheep yarn), but in October I went, it downsized a ton. I also went a week ago and the yarn selection is horrible. There is a lot of Cascade and they probably have a larger Cascade selection than the other yarn stores, but the other yarn selection lacks severely. The sock yarn is horrible. Some say that the store is closing, but others say it isn't - which is it? If it's not closing, then they the horrible yarn selection? What happened to all of the drooling yarn? They have lots of bamboo needles and the staff is helpful, but the store just isn't the same.
Tis The Season - Hubbard Ave, Middleton WI
This shop is not really a yarn shop at all, more of a seasonal shop, but they do have a small selection of natural fibers and have bamboo needles.
Cat and Crow - E Main St, Mt Horeb WI
This store emphasizes on local yarns from farms, which is great. The thing is they don't have enough yarn for a project larger than 1 or 2 skeins - not good. With that said, I probably won't go again.
Off the Beaten Path - Williamson St, Madison WI
This store emphasizes on green, which again is great, but I got a weird vibe about the staff. I don't think that they were the most pleasant, in addition one of the workers followed me around the store like a hound and was a little too stern on trying to sell me something. I didn't find any drooling yarns either. I will not return.
I know my review probably isn't the best on a technical standpoint, but oh well, it is what it is.