Thread Handmade Consignment

Walk into Thread, and you'll see why it won the Denver Best of Local Business Award given for successful marketing across the nation by the U.S. Commerce Association: Owner Ellis Ann McClung has put together an ever-changing mix of fetching hand-knit ear hats and fingerless gloves, feather earrings, stained-glass jewelry, savvy handbags in bright prints, droll handmade dolls, knitted panda dolls, skirts in fabulous fabrics and more, by depending on a healthy roster of consignment artists to keep the shop stocked. And to further good, the combined boutique and craft store also carries hand-sewn items — from aprons to computer bags — made by women participating in the Denver African Community Center's "We Made This" life-skills program for refugees. Another in this year's large crop of indie boutiques encouraging commerce on a person-to-person, local level, Thread truly hangs its heart in its hole-in-the-wall endeavors.

Fabric Bliss

Fabric Bliss rose up out of one of those corporate drone-gone-indie stories: One day, database administrator Aurora Sisneros decided to jump ship and open Fabric Bliss, a cozy, crafty place where you can choose the perfect yarn or fabric for your next project, pick up a pattern, buy a beautiful hand-sewn tote, take a class or just take advantage of the sewing studio's equipment. It's all in the mix at Fabric Bliss — a supply shop, boutique, classroom and workshop — and at your fingertips, along with all the thimbles and notions you could possibly need or want. Classes go from basic (Intro to Sewing) to whimsical (ultra-cute knitted Amigurumi animals) to practical (Pajama Pants), and at $7 an hour, sewing-studio time, which includes use of all studio machines and tools, is a deal. And Sisneros is happy to personalize by offering private lessons and private craft parties. Check it out: Fabric Bliss is just so sew!

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Cherry Creek Shopping Center, which opened a little over twenty years ago, is, was and will always be the quintessential Colorado mall. It sways with the trends, but still boasts strong anchors (in spite of the ones — Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue — that slipped away), and it's ever-elegant and up-to-the-minute. One of the mall's strongest attractions remains the play area, which teems with children for hours on end, and its mix of stores is a beautiful balancing act that blends The Limited and Neiman Marcus, the Apple Store and Brookstone, all while fleshing things out with smaller trendy boutiques like Juicy Couture and Free People, and niche chains like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. In a word: perfect. When you want to waste an afternoon with a shopping bag and a loaded wallet, this is the place to do it.

Readers' Choice: Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Anna Newell Jones, a queen of thrift who counsels people on how to get out of debt and stay out, might just be the most brilliant fashionista in town. The evidence? Bringing the East Coast concept of the clothing swap to Denver, with help from gallery owner, local fashion maven and Handbags.com social-media princess Tran Wills. The And Then She Saved Clothing Swap is now a two-time success. Here's how it works: You bring ten high-quality garments or accessories — the kind of used clothing you might lay on someone close to you — hang it on a rack, pay a small fee to participate, and then let the swapping begin. Ideally, you, along with everyone else, will end up with ten items new to your wardrobe. Anything that's left over is donated to charity. Not only is swapping hella fun, but it's an easy way to brighten up a stale closet. This trend is just getting started, with more to come!

Hazel & Dewey

Don't go into Hazel & Dewey looking for the ordinary: Clean, sparse and, oh, maybe a little bit precious, the independent kitchen shop sports a Scandinavian aura, though it's not specifically Scandinavian in scope. Billing itself as a "modern mercantile," the foodie-forward boutique carries everything from Helvetica-character cookie cutters and Moroccan glassware to elegant Japanese wooden dishes and stylish La Théière cast-iron tea kettles in cool green shades; these wares, hand-picked by owner Jenna Miles according to her own discerning taste, are served like cake on round tabletops and tidy shelves. It's the perfect place to buy a memorable hostess gift or a be-good-to-yourself secret splurge. (While not bargain-priced, most of the merchandise costs less than $100.) Coming up this spring? Fresh-cut flowers, sold out of the shop's wood-paneled walk-in cooler. Broadway will be blooming!

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

The staff at Cherry Creek's LEGO Minifigures Collector kiosk — located not-so-serendipitously close to the shopping center's famed play area — doesn't need to hustle to lure fast-walking shoppers; the shoppers come to them. The kiosk sells a wide variety of minifigs, those tiny, intricate LEGO figures, and models currently specializing in Star Wars and Harry Potter — who knew there could be so many different Hagrids? — many of which have been discontinued, are hard to find or aren't available separately. The prices will set you back a ways, but collectors young and old who love their bricks will be used to that.

Ink Lounge

Stuart Alden, who, along with his wife, Nicky, runs the local screen-printing studio Ink Lounge, got it into his head that men are crafty, too. After working one too many girly craft fairs, he found himself asking, what about the guys? There are plenty of men hand-crafting products with man appeal, he reasoned, so why isn't either male constituency — the makers or the buyers — represented at a typical holiday market? Last December's Holiday Mancraft was the upshot of that lightbulb moment, featuring merchandise for men from an all-male pride of artists at a reception flowing with beer and — concession to the ladies? — cupcakes. Are you listening, Stuart Alden? Please bring back Mancraft! Do it for the guys!

SoBo, which incorrectly begins at First Avenue and Broadway and works its way south to Alameda, has been a work in progress. But a few crowning touches — a slow influx of new and trendy restaurants, a stabilized lineup of boutiques and the recent instigation of the Tigalo block of shared quarters for Buffalo Exchange and Fancy Tiger — have made all the difference between its designation as a street with a few shops one sees while rushing by and that of a real shopping destination. People are stopping more than they did before, and they're going to do that more and more. The charm is already there, and the variety is plentiful. If the Broadway stretch can address its cons in the future — narrow sidewalks, fierce traffic and parking nightmares — with a project like the one just finishing up on Tennyson Street, there's no telling how high this district can fly.

Readers' Choice: South Pearl Street

Cured

For years, Boulderites have eyed Denver enviously, wishing they had an equivalent to the big city's cheese shops. Then, last summer, Coral and Will Frischkorn opened Cured a few blocks off the Pearl Street Mall. Coral and Will are young, newly married and in love not just with each other, but with all things cheese. Convinced that the United States now produces some of the best cheeses in the world, they travel, sample, experiment and select the very best of what they taste. In addition to cheese, their store carries a selection of cured meats, honeys, chocolates, vinegars, salts, olive oils and any other foodstuff that piques the Frischkorns' palates, as well as baguettes that take you right back to Paris, whether you've been there or not. That would be more than enough to satisfy most Boulderites, but the well-stocked wine store in the back pushes Cured over the top.

Sugar Plum Bazaar

The Sugar Plum, housed in the nooks and crannies of the Parkside Mansion, a charming old house-for-hire, is as sweet as its namesake and filled with beautiful things at every turn. Half the fun is wending one's way up the stairs or out back and into the carriage house in search of jewels and shoe ornaments, and clothes handmade from vintage fabrics, and china bluebird salt shakers in every room. Organized by craft-market veterans Alissa Bush of Twirl Girl, Jennifer Carabetta of Dizzie Izzie and Mandy Yocom of Fern and Sprout, Sugar Plum not only boasts a well-curated mixture of vendors, but it's loaded with atmosphere and the lovely buzz of deals being made and beautiful things being considered, coveted and bought. And, you know, there's just something old-fashioned and sweet about that. Here's hoping the Sugar Plums dance on!

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