Enter IKEA and take a quick left turn before escalating into the twisting maze of kitchen and bedroom vignettes, past the Bistro (okay, you can stop for a frozen yogurt), and head straight to the "As Is" room just on the other side of the checkout lines. Find discarded display furniture, overstock, and slightly dinged furniture and accessories. We found a fully assembled, lighted shelving unit with glass doors for $50, headboards for $5, thermal cotton bathrobes for $9, and a large solid wood kitchen island for $80. Aside from the price, the real bonus is that it's all already assembled! Bring a vehicle to transport your goods, though, as you must take the items the day you purchase them. No holds past the purchase date. We also found salespeople in this department willing to help load heavy items onto rolling carts (yes, you take them right through the checkout), and they were actually, on occasion, willing to mark down clearance merchandise even further!
422 Fine Furniture and Framing Gallery and Showroom
If you've been to a Valley gallery recently, there's a good chance that you saw some fine work, and we're not necessarily talking about the art thanks to John Kitts' custom framing store. The store provides professional services for artists, galleries, and corporate and private collections. Frames are handcrafted and milled in the shop. These people are so good that they possess exclusive rights to build and design the Weston Series frames for Kim Weston's center in Carmel, California. The main room features rotating photography shows opening with receptions every third Friday, and a tiny office houses silver gelatin prints from photography legends Alfred Stieglitz and Brett Weston. 422 also designs and builds contemporary furniture including cabinets and tables, as well as unique art displays such as sculpture pedestals and rare book stands.
Swatch out! There's a new kid in town, and "her" name is Jessica. This recent addition to Valley knit shops is a much-needed breath of fresh air with a warm, well-organized feeling. Yarns are attractively arranged in traditional baskets and bins throughout the store. Everywhere you look, the latest titles in knitting literature are prominently displayed, so you can gain inspiration while sneaking a touch of the latest cashmere. Comfy sofas provide another good reason to stay a while, and the communal work table always seems to be buzzing with a generous cross section of the new knitting generation. Even the Web site is a tribute to modernity. Jessica Knits successfully creates a cool environment where men, women, and children of all skill levels feel comfortable and welcome. The stitch is back!
Arizona Knitting and Needlepoint
Packed to overflowing with cool yarns and fibercraft implements, this Old Town Scottsdale staple is to local knitting stores what Durant's is to Phoenix restaurants. In terms of yarn selection, you won't find a more extensive array of commercial and hand-spun fibers. And while that's a definite plus, the thing that keeps yarn fanatics going back to AZ Knitting is the wealth of knowledge that dwells within this stitchin' grotto. You'd be hard-pressed to stump owner Rebecca with a project question, and if she's occupied (she has a legion of fans in fact, she refuses to give out her last name, because she'll get calls at home from eager knitters), her staff is among the friendliest and most helpful of any Phoenix business, graciously imparting "purls" of wisdom upon the masses.
Marjon Ceramics Inc.
A trip around this under-the-radar west-side shop quickly puts those overpriced pottery stores scattered around the Valley into immediate and lesser perspective. You'll know a potter's truly devoted to ceramics if he or she mentions Marjon's. It's hard to imagine a better selection of pottery wheels, molds, bisque wear, glazes, and, of course, the magical clay itself. But this joint ain't just for pros. If, like us, you utterly lack talent and experience, fear not. Buy an already "fired" mold, glaze it on the spot, and the staff will stick it in a kiln for you. Or better yet, take it home and paint it at your leisure. The results are guaranteed to make you appear "artistic." Maybe.
Beads Galore
You'll want to leave your purse in the car before entering this bead store (no large bags are allowed for fear you'll "accidentally" drop a few beads inside), but don't forget your wallet! Putting a crafter without cash in Beads Galore would be like shoving a plate of tiramisu in front of someone who just had gastric bypass surgery. This store a staple at the gem show held each winter in Tucson packs in a massive selection of bead strands, from freshwater pearls to malachite and jade to exotic baubles of carved bone and wood. The smiling staff is always ready to assist in picking good color combinations or point you in the direction of basics like wire and spacers. We've spent hours digging through the bulk bins for just the right shade of periwinkle Czech glass flowers, or drooling over semi-precious strands. When we had a question about some vintage beads we hadn't even purchased at Beads Galore, a staffer led us through a hallway to the back office, where Bernie, the proprietor, sat at a desk. He fingered the strand for a moment, then rattled off the bead, country of origin and year created. This is a bead shop that won't just string you along!
If you actually know what the term "findings" means, then you've come to the right category because our guess is that many of you won't, even if you've delved into the world of beading. It took us months before we figured out the term; we were too busy buying beads at gem shows, bead shops, on eBay. Then one day we realized we had pounds of beads, but no way to wear them. That's where findings come in clasps, wire, loops, tools all the stuff you use to make the stuff you wear. S II only sells wholesale, so you've gotta be hard-core (or, like us, have a friend who is), but trust us it's worth it for the friendly service, wide selection and great prices. And finally, you'll be able to display those cool vintage Czech buttons you bought in the middle of the night online last winter.
The Paper Studio
This place is a paper slut's dream and if you don't think such a person exists, head over to the Paper Studio, and you'll see them wandering the aisles, fingering the handmade paper and super-cute stationery. This store is a cut above the rest, featuring a gallery with rotating exhibits, and classes on topics including letterpress, papermaking and Polaroid transfers. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better paper shop!
If you're looking for the basics for hot pink envelopes with matching paper or brown paper bag cardstock head to Xpedx, where we've found the biggest selection and the friendliest staff in town. Call ahead; this place keeps odd hours, probably aimed at big business more than the little person (the store opens and closes early), but even you, looking for just one ream of pale pink paper that will offset your newborn's face just so, will get great service, good prices, and the prettiest paper we've found.
We love stamps. Not the cutesy ones you can buy at the craft store, but the kind we make ourselves sort of with the help of the kind folks at the Phoenix Rubber Stamp Company. Did you know that you can take your kids' artwork (or your own, for that matter), Xerox a black copy and get a stamp made out of it? You can, and at this place you can do it in almost every size. Okay, so now our holiday cards won't be quite so original, but we figure Best of Phoenix is all about sharing the love.

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