A few years ago, I was wandering the aisles of the TNNA yarn industry trade show when I ran into Trish from my knitting group in New York City. It didn’t seem strange to see Trish at a yarn event, but then I realized it was unique that she was at a yarn industry event. Turned out she was opening a yarn shop in her home town of Kansas City, Missouri!
That shop is Yarn Social, which opened in 2018 with a mission to “build and support our community of people who make beautiful things with yarn.” Trish is committed to supporting indie businesses and providing a safe and welcoming space for all yarn lovers, and is a perfect partner for Indie Untangled.
Tell me about the decision to open Yarn Social. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop? What did you do before you became a yarn shop owner?
Opening a yarn shop supplanted my old answer to the question of what kind of work I’d do if money was no object; the previous answer was a stationery shop, but once I re-learned how to crochet and learned how to knit that changed everything!
I used to be an in-house attorney for Pfizer in New York; I learned to knit at Knit-a-way, a now-closed yarn shop in Brooklyn. There are amazing yarn shops in the five boroughs — for a while I lived at 81st and Broadway across the street from The Yarn Co. and just two blocks from Knitty City. I left NYC in early 2017 and moved back to my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, and I took some time off to figure out what I wanted to do next. I missed my old knit group terribly (which is how I know Lisa from Indie Untangled!), and was in search of a knitting community; at the same time, I realized there weren’t any yarn shops near where I lived in the heart of KCMO, and about 18 months after moving back to KC, I opened Yarn Social.
How did you choose the products that you carry?
When I first opened the shop, most of the yarns I chose were favorites of mine that I discovered at yarn shops, sheep and wool festivals and knitting friends. Figuring out which notions folks would be interested in was a fun experiment. In the nearly four years we’ve been open, our product list has evolved (and always will, I’m sure!) as I learn more about what our community likes and as I discover new yarns, notions and tools.
What makes your shop different from others?
Yarn Social is very much a product of the times we live in.
My yarn practice has always been social for me — my knitting flourished after I found my knit group in New York; attending retreats like Schoolhouse Press’s Knit Camp is similarly important to me. In the four years since Yarn Social opened, my commitment to creating a space and a community that is supportive and open to everyone, particularly to people who often don’t feel welcome in yarny spaces, has only become more important to me. The conversation around racism and white supremacy in the yarn community that started in early 2019, existing in the U.S. during the Trump presidency, the pandemic — all these things have shaped my business.
We prioritize customer service. We love to see what you’re working on (whether or not you got the yarn from us), we are here to cheer you on and commiserate when needed, we help you solve problems. Our community means everything to us, and we want everyone in it to flourish!
What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your business?
Most everything is better when you have a team of people working together. The folks I work with are amazing and creative and have such good ideas and are so generous with them.
Going from selling in person only to also selling online (our online shop opened shortly after Kansas City shut down in March 2020) complicates every aspect of the business. It’s worth the complications, for sure, but it changed the nature of the work it takes to keep things running smoothly. More than two years out, I’m still learning this lesson.
I knew opening a yarn shop would affect my relationship to my own knitting/crochet/weaving/spinning practice, but was not prepared for how significant that effect would be. When you own a business, the line between work and the rest of your life can be really blurry, and knitting et al. can feel a lot like work. I’m still learning to be much more intentional with my practice, making sure to set aside time for it.
When and how did you learn to knit?
In January 2009 I took a crochet class at Knit-a-Way in Brooklyn with an amazing woman named Tatyana Mirin. After helping me get reacquainted with crochet, I signed up for Tatyana’s knit class; I can honestly credit her with changing my life in the best way.
What’s currently on your needles?
I’m doing my first test knit for my friend Casey (aka Tangerine Designs); it’s a triangular shawl and I’m loving working on it. I have dozens of other WIPs and so few FOs…
Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.
My grandniece is nine, and since she was tiny, her favorite thing in the world was her duckie doll. I knit her a pair of duck foot socks (Blue-Footed Booby by Jeny Staiman) and they were such a hit.