This is the sixth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Spotlight, taking place from May 14-16, 2021.
We’ve loved teaming up with Jessica and Karen of New Hampshire Yarn shop Scratch Supply Co. (dig their new and improved logo!) on our events because their shop is filled with indie companies. In fact, they also carry, or will soon carry, several of the dyers and makers we featured at the Indie Spotlight show last weekend (if you missed it, you can still register to catch the recordings).
Check out their guide to the Spotlight indies they carry.
Augusta, based in Richmond, VA, creates a a fiber-inspired gift line that incorporates an earthy aesthetic, pops of color, and punny takes on yarn into a line of stickers, pins, project bags, stitch markers, and other fun items for knitters and makers.
“My goal is to connect knitters to nature and help them express their unique woods-walking, mountain-climbing, yarn-loving identity through my fiber-themed designs!”
Hudson + West
Hudson + West is a new yarn company dedicated to bringing innovative American-made yarns to the handknitting market, along with modern and wearable designs that highlight those yarns’ best qualities. Hudson + West was founded in 2019 by Meghan Babin, the former editor of Interweave Knits, and Sloane Rosenthal, a knitwear designer (and recovering litigator). Their name evokes our disparate locations: Meghan hails from New York’s Hudson River Valley, while Sloane calls the San Francisco Bay Area home.
“We’re both obsessed with ruggedly handsome yarns, practical design, and thoughtful, well-made goods. We’re serious students of yarn construction and knitwear design, and passionate about details. We’re also both lovers of the outdoors, and of the rugged, starkly beautiful landscapes of the American west that inspired and indeed, birthed, our first two yarns.”
The Wandering Flock
The Wandering Flock is a contemporary Knitwear design studio and hand dyed yarn line based in Brooklyn, NY. In the summer of 2019, using the experience she had gained from working in fashion. Geraldine took a leap of faith and started The Wandering Flock.
“Drawing my inspirations the runway to streetwear, I create colors that are fun, wearable and contemporary.”
Coming soon is yarn from:
Terra is a Georgia native now living in Louisiana for over a decade. Mitchell’s Creations started with cakes and project bags and years later grew into much more.
“When looking for yarn for the first ever KAL I participated in, I went to my LYS for yarn. While they had nice yarn, I just didn’t see what I was looking for and this is where yarn dyeing started and I haven’t looked back.”
Plied Yarns is a new venture from Karida Collins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. and Ann Weaver of Weaverknits! These two friends have worked with the mill at Harrisville Designs to create North Ave, an innovative woolen-spun, hand-dyed, marled yarn.
In the winter of 2020, while browsing at Backstory Books & Yarn, a local used book and yarn store in Portland, Oregon, I stumble across a giant hank of pale gray yarn lurking on a top shelf. I immediately pick it up and trace the softness of the Targhee strands with my fingers. The label states it’s from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, a local dyer I’m familiar with, and best of all, it’s enough to make a sweater. A quick peek at the price tag makes me even more jubilant — I have enough store credit to cover the purchase, basically making it free.
I find the perfect pattern for the yarn, Myrna by Andi Satterlund. Vintage-inspired, it’s cropped and form-fitting and will pair perfectly with dresses for the colder months. After almost a full episode of the BBC series “Pride and Prejudice” and numerous turns of the yarn winder, I have a ball of yarn the size of a newborn’s head that is ready to be knit. Once I have knit a swatch to figure out what size I need to knit, I cast 70 loops on my needles and start the sweater. The yarn is lovely to work with. Soft and supple, each stitch is clearly defined like a spider’s web in the rain.
After fits and starts and several weeks, I’m almost done with the back of the sweater. I hold it up to myself and grimace. Even accounting for the stretch, it simply looks too small. I put it aside to deal with it later. Every knitter is familiar with “frogging,” which means ripping back your work — you “rip it, rip it,” like the “ribbit” of a frog. And as accustomed as we are to frogging, it does not mean we dislike it any less. You can just see weeks of your time circling down the drain. But knitting is a wonderful craft because, as in life, you can almost always go back and fix your mistakes (except for mohair, but we will not speak of that).
I could ignore the mistake and try to convince myself that, “Oh, it will fit with some stretching and blocking,” but I know that I’ll be even more devastated to have finished the entire sweater and not have it fit. I tear the stitches off the needles and begin the process of undoing the rows, leaving a wave of crinkled wool in my wake. Knitting teaches us about falling and getting back up minus the bruises and scrapes, leaving just the toll it takes on our patience.
Then COVID-19 strikes in March. One day my knitting friends and I are huddled together in a car for 10 hours as we zigzag across the Portland area to participate in the annual Rose City Yarn Crawl. Then the next week, seemingly everything is shut down. Instead of seeing each other as people, all we see is potential virus vectors. The days blur into one giant loop. We are stuck in Groundhog Day with only slight variations letting us know that time has passed.
I simply cannot see the point in continuing with the sweater. Where would I wear it? There is nowhere to go. And how would I wash it? A handknit wool sweater is not meant to hold up to endless rounds of sanitizing in hot water and bleach. And who would see it to admire the handiwork? My knitting friends are huddled in their houses and not stirring, not even for yarn. My sweater is at a standstill, the needles silent, much like the outer world. I have trouble looking at either.
“Put the sweater down and start another project,” a friend advises. “Let it hibernate.”
I take half her advice, but have trouble figuring out what to do next. Numerous articles and studies have listed the physical and mental health benefits of knitting — it induces an enhanced sense of calm, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and boosts serotonin levels. That is great when all is said and done, but it does not solve the problem when you can’t even get motivated to start that first stitch.
April’s dog, Nandi, shows off an FO.
I’m doomscrolling when I get a text from a friend from high school.
“Sorry, this week has been kind of crazy. We actually just had our kid yesterday. Delivered a healthy baby girl. 8.6lb, 21 inches…”
Accompanying the text is a photo of my friend wearing a mask and cradling a newborn to her chest. I shoot off a text of congratulations and then immediately start browsing patterns for baby sweaters. I may not have anywhere to wear a handknit sweater, but this baby clearly needs a wool sweater to keep her warm. COVID-19 may reign, but new life continues. And human connections are so fraught right now, I grab at any strand that resembles hope.
I dive into my stash of yarn, stored under my bed in plastic bins, to discover that I have absolutely no yarn that is suitable. No sensible parent wants to carefully hand wash a delicate baby sweater every single time the baby throws up or drools. So, I make a rare trip into the outside world for yarn. I’m equipped with a handmade mask and hand sanitizer and mentally calculate how far 6 feet is from any person I see.
As I walk down Alberta Street, it’s a ghost town. Dark windows look forlornly out onto the street, and passersby walk by briskly with their heads down and masks on. But when I step inside Close Knit to look for the right yarn, it’s like stepping back into the past. Piles of brightly colored yarn dot the walls, and that slight hush you get from a space overly insulated with fiber prevails. Then I look again and see a jumbo-sized container of hand sanitizer and a giant sign at the entrance declaring the COVID-19 protocols. A plexiglass shield guards the staff from customers.
I debate between two vividly colored hanks of worsted and ultimately go with the coral. The shade, Malabrigo’s Living Coral, evokes eye-popping colored macaroons, which is fitting as the sweater pattern, by The Noble Thread, is named French Macaroon and I met the new mom in our high school French class.
It’s almost exactly the shade of the 2019 Pantone color of the year, living coral. The color was declared to be an “animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge.” Babies also affirm life while anchoring us to the future. Stepping back into time is a futile endeavor. But it reminds me that this too shall pass and one day we will gather together once more.
The bright coral stitches fly smoothly across the needles, leaving behind a gentle click-clack sound. It feels strangely foreign to be knitting again, but my hands remember what to do. Unlike the monotony of COVID-19 life, I can see visible progress as the sweater steadily grows, inch by inch. With each stitch, I knit in my thoughts and hopes for the future. As the ball of yarn dwindles, so do my troubled thoughts. The knitting blogger A Friend to Knit With once calculated the number of stitches in a sweater she was knitting: 70,532. If we were to think about that sheer number, we would never knit a sweater. We take it one stitch at a time. Like each stitch, we trudge forward to the next, waiting until the day when we are whole.
As I knit, I can feel the invisible threads connecting me to women of the past who used knitting to cope with the troubling times of their era. Knitting teacher and designer Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote, “Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises.” Women knitted through the two World Wars and the Spanish Flu and countless other crises and elections. And they likely will again in the future. Knitting leaves us with a tangible memory of time and helps us cope with our fears and anxieties. It reminds us that life goes on. There will always be a baby who needs warmth. And one day I will finish that gray sweater.
April Choi is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She has written for The Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian and Agence France-Presse (AFP). When not writing, she likes to read and knit, usually at the same time. She shares an affinity for indie yarns with her dog who is a noted yarn snob.
There are few New York knitters and crocheters who don’t know about the Manhattan yarn shop Knitty City. But beyond connecting the local yarn community, Knitty City‘s founder, Pearl Chin, has been instrumental in helping so many indie dyers and fiber business owners get their start and providing valuable advice as they move forward. Pearl has also been a role model for how to be a craftivist, using her platform as a leader to raise money and attention for important causes.
When I heard the devastating news about Pearl’s cancer diagnosis, I got in touch with a group of indie dyers that Pearl has been instrumental in guiding and championing. We thought it was fitting to turn our sadness into action. As we now grieve the loss of our friend and colleague, we can think of no better way to honor Pearl’s legacy.
We have created special colorways and designs, and are hosting giveaways to raise money for organizations she has supported:
• Julie Asselin has created a colorway called Dear Pearl, with proceeds donated to help budding knitwear entrepreneurs attend the CAN Retreat hosted by Marceline Smith and Anne Choi
• Christina of Chelsea Yarns has created a colorway called String of Pearls, with proceeds donated to Moms Demand Action
• Amanda of Hu Made has created a colorway called Pearl Power, with proceeds donated to the Asian Americans Arts Alliance
• I will be designing a hat pattern called Pearl’s Oyster, with proceeds donated to the NFC Momentum Fund (I’m still knitting up the sample and hope to publish it next week)
• Marian of Marianated Yarns has created a colorway called Thank You, Pearl, with proceeds donated to City Harvest
• Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks has created a colorway called Pearl of The West (Side), with proceeds donated to Womankind, an organization serving the Asian community in New York, helping survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual violence
• Mariana and Nick of Nooch Fiber will be hosting a series of mini-skein giveaways, with proceeds donated to Heifer International
This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.
Four years ago this month, Jessica Giordani and Karen Zook launched Scratch Supply Co., a craft store and inclusive home for makers in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Since then, they along with their partner Travis, have transformed the shop into a showcase for indie, women, POC/BIPOC, queer and otherwise underrepresented dyers and makers.
Scratch’s monthly Cast-On Club — I’ll be curating the October box! — celebrates the diversity of the fiber community with an exclusive colorway, and the shop features many indie brands that are familiar to Indie Untangled readers — Cat Sandwich Fibers, Fuzz Family, Julie Asselin — and some that may not be.
Since Petrina, Indie Untangled’s event producer, introduced me to the Scratch folks at Vogue Knitting Live NYC in January, I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and share in their enthusiasm for our amazing indie community (they’ll also be sponsoring the Bingo night that Petrina is hosting the Friday of Indie Untangled Everywhere, which means some great indie prizes!).
Tell me about the decision to open Scratch Supply Co. Did you ever think you’d own a yarn shop?
Not really! We didn’t even decide to open a yarn shop at first — we started as a multipurpose craft store with a handwork makerspace in the basement.
When we first opened the doors, we barely had any yarn at all. We had like two shelves with 40 skeins of yarn total and some hopeful shade card boxes — and we were SO proud of those two shelves. The best thing you could say about us was that we were scrappy. If you wanted to knit a sweater you could make something with stripes or wait for us to order a sweater’s quantity of one color. We were trying! Fortunately for us, our enthusiasm resonated with the knitting community, and they stuck with us through this awkward period while we found our footing, fine-tuned our offerings, and started stocking a full range of colorways in quantities large enough to make something bigger than a hat.
Over the last four years we’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to create a welcoming and inspiring space, and grow — with our amazing community of makers — into the LYS we were meant to be.
What you each of you do before you became yarn shop owners and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?
The three of us met after Travis and Jessica moved to Connecticut after Travis left the Marine Corps. Jessica opened a small bakery and Travis and Karen met while they were enrolled in a PhD program in Comparative Literature.
We all have experience with research and working independently, and we’ve all been teachers in some capacity at some point. Jessica has previous experiencing running a retail shop, Karen has a background as a freelance writer, and Travis has government training in getting shit done.
We bring a lot of flexibility and a can-do, make-it-work spirit to Scratch. Since we all live together this is truly a family business. We’ve put our hearts into creating a space and a community that reflects who we are, and we like to make the members of our community part of that in any way we can. Our path from idea to execution is lightning-fast — our real area of expertise is in Doing The Thing. (Sometimes the thing is fixing your knitting, sometimes the thing is installing light fixtures, sometimes the thing is finding a way to keep our community connected during a pandemic.)
Why did you choose the dyers and brands that you carry?
First and foremost, we fill our shop with the yarns that we want to knit with! We have a carefully-curated selection that is constantly evolving. We are committed to supporting small makers and small mills, and providing our community access to with quality materials that they won’t find in just any LYS. We are enthusiastic about working with talented people in our industry whether they are established or just starting out. The fiber industry is diverse, and we believe that the dyers and makers that we work with should reflect that.
For us, there’s no value in filling our shop with yarn that you can get everywhere else. Our favorite thing is when people walk into the shop and announce “You have all the yarns that I follow on Instagram!”
Who are some of your favorite designers?
We love designers who are doing interesting things! It’s cold in New Hampshire so we’re sweater knitters at heart. We love Jessie Mae, Fatimah Hinds, Shay Johnson, Lavanya Patricella, Isabelle Kraemer, Maxim Cyr and Jacqueline Cieslak.
Crochet designers we’re following are Toni Lipsey, Vincent Williams, Twinkie Chan and Stephanie Erin.
Can you talk about any new products the shop is going to carry or special events in the works?
In September we just celebrated our fourth birthday, which is our biggest event of the year and kicks off a wildly-busy fall season!
We’ve been expanding our yarn selection since March to get ready for the long winter. We’ve recently brought in three bases by Julie Asselin, DK and bulky weight yarn from The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers, fresh Spincycle, lace mohair, worsted and fingering-weight yarn from SweetGeorgia Yarns, the Nightshades from Harrisville Designs and two new fingering-weight bases from Junkyarn.
One of the best things about Cast-on Club (our monthly subscription box) is that we always have something amazing on its way to us — every month a different dyer sends us something new and exclusive! Indie Untangled is curating our October box, and in November our featured dyer is Doug Lopez of Knittinbro.
The Scratch family, including Violet and Scarlet.
When and how did you learn to knit?
Karen learned as a child from her mom, and knit/unknit/reknit a rectangle from the same skein of red Red Heart until she left for college. She couldn’t tell the difference between the right side and the wrong side of her fabric, so she had a strip of masking tape wrapped around the bottom of one of the horrendous plastic straight needles to help her keep it straight. After college she started a post-bacc program with an endless workload. She was living in Philadelphia and there was an amazing LYS right around the corner, so she started obsessively knitting just to hold a finished object in her hands once in a while. (Fortunately by then YouTube had been invented, which gave her the opportunity to increase her skills!)
Jessica learned to knit when she moved to Minnesota for grad school. There was a woman in her program who would knit through seminars, and since she didn’t know anyone and it was very cold, this seemed like a great hobby to take up. She didn’t know that LYSs existed, so she picked up a Susan Bates pamphlet and some bouclé yarn and taught herself how to knit while watching Pulp Fiction on repeat. She had been knitting for three years before she could read a pattern and learned a lot of problem-fixing techniques through trial and error.
Travis doesn’t knit (we’re wearing him down!), but has a lot of opinions about color, fiber content and design.
Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.
The first sweater Karen ever knit for herself was bottom-up with seamed sleeves. She was very excited about knitting it and bought crazy-expensive alpaca yarn that wasn’t really suited to the pattern… it turned into such a fiasco that it’s currently stuffing a dog bed.
In 2011, Jessica promised her mom a sweater. She knit all but one sleeve, and that sweater lived in project bags until it was finally consigned to the bin in 2020. It just wasn’t meant to be… but don’t worry, mom will finally get her sweater this year.
Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.
Jessica is knitting the Ghost Ranch hat using Dyed in the Wool in Payback and Street Light in Nightshades. It’s the squishy, Halloween-y hat of her dreams!
Karen is working on a gift knit that she’s going to try to keep a surprise so won’t spill the beans on that just yet. She just cast on a Pressed Flowers shawl by designer Amy Christoffers in Juicy DK from The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers.
By now, many of us expected to be casting on projects to finish in time for the fall fiber festival season, when we could look forward to showing them off while doling out hugs and those appreciative pets that only our fellow yarn people understand.
2020 had other plans for us… A couple of months ago, after we realized that an in-person Indie Untangled trunk show was not in the cards, IU event producer Petrina and I kickstarted our idea for a virtual alternative that would provide the connections we’ve all been craving.
We’re excited to announce that Indie Untangled Everywhere will be taking place on October 15, 16 and 17 and you’re invited to join us from wherever you are!
Previously, we were limited in what we could do by space, time and cost. But now, no matter where you’re located or what your schedule is like, you can gather with us, our indie vendors and some special guests for three whole days of fiber fun.
I’m sure you’re asking: How will this work? Well, since you already follow Indie Untangled, it will feel a little familiar, but there are also many new, interactive things we’re excited to include.
General Admission tickets will go on sale next Friday, August 7. Your $5 ticket will take you to a special section of the Indie Untangled website. From there, you’ll be able to browse virtual vendor booths that will feature video introductions and tours, photo galleries, and access to special products and discounts. You’ll also be able to meet dyers and makers during interactive shopping sessions and pop into a virtual lounge where you can connect with fiber friends old and new.
Once you purchase your ticket, you’ll be able to preorder mini boxes that will let you feel and squish our vendors’ Superwash and rustic yarns before you buy full skeins online, purchase Indie Untangled tote bags and swag, and register to attend events, including interactive chats with guest designers.
Additionally, because we know this year in particular has been economically challenging for many people, we are also partnering with one of our generous sponsors, New Hampshire yarn shop Scratch Supply Co., to provide financial assistance to six members of our community.
The shop will have extended weekend hours during the festival:
Friday, October 18, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, October 19, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, October 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
On Friday from noon-3 p.m., there will be special appearances by Becky and Melissa from Nomadic Knits, along with designer Laura Dobratz and a trunk show from Emma’s Yarn, which is run by Laura’s daughters, Emma and Aspen.
The shop will also have a special souvenir edition of its Perfect Blend Inspirations Yarn Box, featuring a beautiful collaboration with Nomadic knits and Whole Knit n’ Caboodle.
Autumn Hearth from Pandia’s Jewels.
From 4-9 p.m. on Friday, the shop will welcome Julia of Pandia’s Jewels with a special pop-up.
Self-striping yarn from Whole Knit n’ Caboodle.
On Saturday, Terri of Whole Knit n’ Caboodle will be at the shop with a trunk show from 1 p.m.-8 p.m.
The shop will also be showcasing Cocoknits and Kelbourne Woolens trunk shows throughout the weekend.
The Saugerties merchants will join Mary in welcoming everyone to the village! Be on the lookout for yarn embellishments throughout, make dinner reservations and be sure check out Destination Saugerties for additional adventuring while you’re there.
You can always depend on Heather and Cathy, the owners of The Knot House yarn shop in Frederick, Maryland, to stay on top of trends in the fiber world. Their shop always features the hottest indie dyers and they themselves are prolific sweater knitters.
I asked them to walk us through their preparations for Rhinebeck and Indie Untangled, and give a look at what’s new for their in-house yarn line.
Who are you both most looking forward to seeing at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show?
I don’t think there is anyone specific we look forward to seeing. The biggest treat is meeting the customers that don’t live locally that support us! We get to put faces with names and hopefully get to see some of their FOs. I love it when Mom and I are separated and people say, “Oh, hi, Heather, where’s your Mom?” Everyone loves Mom. We also love to see other LYS owners, indie dyers, podcasters and designers.
Tell me about some of the most recent dyers that you’ve stocked your shop with.
Thanks for asking about our Knot House Yarns line! I have added La Di Da Worsted base for the 2019/2020 season. It is a 4-ply (plied twice) 100% Superwash Merino (same as the La Di Da DK). Mom and I are currently looking at new bases to add in the spring.
I should also add that Mom and I will be vending at the Black Mountain Indie Extravaganza the weekend following Rhinebeck! It will be our first event out of The Knot House and we are both excited and nervous. Dates for the event are October 25th and 26th it will be held during SAFF at Black Mountain Yarn Shop.
What are your favorite projects that customers have made with your hand-dyed yarn?
Oh my. There are a couple of favorites. I don’t know how many people have made the Ranunculus, but it has been a favorite this summer, along with the Soldotna Crop. It is so fun to see the color combos.
What are you each planning to wear to both Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival?
I remember my first visit to fibre space. It was at the tail end of a fall 2012 road trip I took with my husband that started in Maryland at the Verdant Gryphon open house and included Charleston, Savannah and Colonial Williamsburg. I had already bought plenty of yarn at the beginning of the trip, but when I realized that our drive home would be taking us right past Alexandria, Virginia, and it would be the perfect midpoint for lunch, I knew I had to go to the shop. I ended up getting my first skeins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. and a recommendation of where to get some delicious cupcakes that fueled our drive back to NYC through the pouring rain.
Danielle Romanetti’s shop has moved locations a couple of times since that visit, but it still retains what I consider yarn store perfection: a welcoming atmosphere with plenty of comfy seating, great lighting and design, and a commitment to indie brands, with a focus on local businesses.
Tell me the story of how fibre space came to be. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop?
My shop is really an extension of my original business – Knit-a-Gogo, Inc., which I opened in October of 2006 to offer knitting classes in the DC metro area. Initially, I taught beginner and intermediate classes at coffee shops, bakeries and even public libraries in and around Washington, DC. Utilizing these spaces required a solid relationship with the businesses that hosted us and has led to the collaborative philosophy that fibre space now maintains. As my customers grew in number, so did the community of knitters and crocheters, as well as the number of classes being offered and my staff of instructors.
Eventually, the Knit-a-Gogo community really needed a permanent home – a place where stitchers could meet outside of classes, buy quality supplies and and share with other stitchers. In 2009, this dream became a reality when Knit-a-Gogo became fibre space and opened its doors in historic Alexandria, VA. I am so excited to have finally put down permanent roots at our new building, 1319 Prince Street.
What did you do before you became a yarn shop owner and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?
I was a professional fundraiser and event planner for international nonprofit organizations. I have a background in international development, with a specialization in Latin America. The event planning and marketing background is certainly a huge asset to my business. Working for a rather large international organization helped me to learn a ton about marketing campaigns and how to effectively implement them. I use that experience in planning all of our seasonal marketing, events, etc.
How do you choose the dyers and brands that you carry?
I have a commitment to supporting small and indie brands as much as possible. I often make decisions on a brand because of their origin story or even their owner. I like to support businesses whose owners are amazing, engaging and forward-thinking women. In general, you will find many brands at our shop that aren’t in many other places. I like to keep things unique, as we have so many yarn shops in our area. It helps us to be a destination.
You were carrying indie dyers since the beginning. How would you say the explosion of indie dyers has changed your business?
It’s interesting. We went through a few years of carrying a ton of indie hand dye from many, many different dyers, including international. I made a shift a few years back to focusing on fewer of the dyers but having a wider range of yarns from the ones that we do stock. This seems to be working right now. Our customers know that we are a destination for Neighborhood Fiber Co. [editor’s note: Neighborhood Fiber Co. is also an Indie Untangled sponsor], Miss Babs, Hazel Knits, Freia, the Periwinkle Sheep and Knerd String and more as we get orders from them almost monthly to restock. We also have a good inventory of our locals (Neighborhood Fiber Co. again), Havirland, Fully Spun [an Indie Untangled vendor] and the Fiberists.
Despite the hand dye explosion, we are still a huge stockist of traditional beautiful wool yarns. Our customers buy a lot of De Rerum Natura, Brooklyn Tweed, Kelbourne Woolens and Stonehedge Fiber Mill.
Can you talk about any new products the shop is going to carry or special events in the works?
I am really excited about the new yarn project that Karida Collins and Ann Weaver are working on. We will be launching Plied Yarn at our shop on November 9th. The wool is hand dyed by the Plied team and then plied to create a marled yarn in fingering weight [Plied is also an Indie Untangled sponsor].
We are also hosting Miss Babs for our annual Mega Miss Babs Trunk Show on September 14-15. It is a wonderful event, where Miss Babs brings up a huge quantity of yarn and takes over our store space with yarn, kits and samples made from her yarn.
When and how did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was very young. I made a scarf for my Cabbage Patch doll. I relearned from her when I was in graduate school and visiting. Their dial-up internet access wasn’t sufficient and I was bored! It quickly became a huge part of my life and my therapy for anxiety.
Artwork lines the walls at fibre space.
Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?
I do also crochet, although certainly not as much as knitting. I also sew and run, although its been a few years since I ran a marathon!
Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.
Well before I opened the shop, I used to attend the trade show with Karida of Neighborhood Fiber Co. to help her sell to yarn shops. Olga Buraya-Kefelian was working on a design in two of her yarns, and I volunteered to do the knitting. It was the Murasaki Pullover. It was amazing to see Olga’s creation process first hand and to be part of it. I was still knitting it on the early morning flight to the show with Olga but we got it done, and I was able to wear it at the show.
It should come as no surprise that I’ve been to a lot of yarn shops. Aside from being spoiled for choice in New York City, I try to make it to an LYS whenever I’m traveling. Even though many of us have enough yarn in our stashes to open up our own storefronts, there’s nothing like going into a shop even when halfway around the world and feeling like you’re “home.”
Recently, Thao of Nerd Bird Makery asked me to rank my top five shops (how very High Fidelity/Rob Gordon!). It was pretty much impossible to narrow it down, but the question got me thinking about exactly what would put a yarn shop on my list if I could actually manage to make one.
So, instead, here’s a list of the top 10 things that make a yarn shop awesome, and how my LYSs, and the ones I’ve visited while on the road, fit in.
Felicia Eve, the owner of String Thing Studio in Brooklyn, NY.
This is perhaps the most important thing on the list. A shop can have the most beautiful yarn on the planet, but no knitter/crocheter/spinner/weaver/pick-your-fiber-crafter should feel unwelcome or out of place.
When I think of a warm atmosphere, two of my locals come to mind: String Thing Studio and Knitty City. While String Thing is relatively new — it will be two years old in June — owner Felicia Eve has created what feels like a second home, just with a much bigger stash. Whether I’m coming for an indie trunk show, for the jam-packed Friday knit night or just to sit and knit in the back garden on an early spring day, it’s clear that this is a community space. Pearl Chin’s Knitty City is a longer trip, but it has the same Cheers-like feeling and commitment to inclusivity. I remember when I first started promoting the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show in 2014, I went up to Knitty City to ask if I could put a flier for it on their bulletin board and they were happy to let me. Thinking back, it was a bit presumptuous of me to ask a yarn shop to support my nascent enterprise, but it just shows their commitment to small fiber businesses and how the shop epitomizes the supportiveness that this community is known for.
Similarly, Mary Ebel of The Perfect Blend in Saugerties, New York, was tremendously supportive with last year’s Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, helping me find local resources for parking and rallying the local merchants together, allowing space for people to sit and knit during that frenzied day.
The latest location of Fibre Space in Alexandria, VA, makes good use of a fan-shaped space.
Good lighting and organization
When it comes to brick and mortar businesses, a good location with plenty of natural light is hard to find, and supplemental lighting is its own special art form. Yarn shops with the perfect combination of both are the holy grail. There should also be some rhyme or reason to how the yarn is organized.
I’ve been fortunate to visit all three incarnations of Fibre Space in Alexandria, Virginia, and was always impressed with how well lit they’ve been and how they manage to create a nice flow when perusing their inventory. Similarly, Knotty Lamb in Forest Grove, Oregon, seen in the main photo above, arranges its massive space by yarn weight, so it’s easy to know where to go when you’re thinking about knitting a sportweight sweater, or know you need to stay away from the fingering.
Since I’m all about the indie dyers, and a yarn purchase while I’m on vacation is the best souvenir, I appreciate when yarn shops highlight their locally-made or dyed products. Retrosaria Rosa Pomar in Lisbon, Portugal, was the perfect example of that, with an impressive array of yarn sourced from Portuguese sheep that made me want to create a woolly colorwork sweater right then and there.
Most of us are suckers for exclusive colorways or products, so shops that have these — such as Loop London‘s special pattern books or project bags, or the exclusive Spincycle colorway at Starlight Knitting Society in Portland, Oregon — can just take all my money.
Starlight Knitting Society in Portland, OR, which has since expanded into the adjacent space to the right in this photo.
Room to sit and knit
Whether it’s a long table with room for just one more chair or a cozy leather sofa, a shop needs to invite you to sit and knit for a while, even if it’s just for 10 minutes while your non-knitting partner is at the comic book store. It’s ideal if the seating is communal and spaced out enough so you can look at people while you’re stitching. String Thing’s garden is the perfect warm-weather knitting spot, and I love the big sofas at Fibre Space, Starlight and Knotty Lamb.
Caitlin Hunter’s Time Trades shawl at Knotty Lamb.
Who hasn’t fallen for a sample, especially when you’re browsing without a plan in mind? I’ll have to call out Knotty Lamb again, as being Caitlin Hunter’s LYS means that there were so many drool-worthy samples.
Just one of the non-yarn goodies at The Observatory Shop. This candle smells amazing.
I know it sounds crazy… but sometimes you’re just… not in the market for yarn. Or, at least you don’t want to get more than a couple of skeins. I appreciate shops that have a well curated selection of non-yarn items, like bags, T-shirts, enamel pins and things you may never have thought of. At Retrosaria Rosa Pomar, I bought a beautiful woven throw pillow, and The Observatory in Hastings On Hudson, New York, has home items, regular bags, jewelry and even clothing.
Clara Parkes reading from A Stash of One’s Own at Knitty City in fall 2017.
Classes and events
Trunk shows, workshops, maker presentations and author talks are a big part of what makes a LYS a community space. The HereNowSpace run by Paola Vanzo of mYak has many of these special events, as does Knitty City.
Weaving represented in the window at Woolyn in Brooklyn.
Enticing window displays
Since fiber folks are so creative, most shops I’ve been to take special care with their window displays. Woolyn in Brooklyn has had some of my favorites.
Pull up a chair and knit at Brooklyn General.
Especially when you’re visiting a shop as a “yarn tourist,” you want a cool way to document your visit. Aside from having an enviable selection, Brooklyn General provides that with its charming, homespun atmosphere that seems made for social media.
Tell us about your favorite yarn shop, and how it fits the criteria of this Top 10 list, in the comments!
Last November, after I checked out the Saugerties Performing Arts Center and decided it was the perfect new venue for Indie Untangled, I paid a visit to The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop. First of all, I couldn’t not pay a visit to a well-regarded LYS less than a mile down the road. But, I mainly wanted to see what the shop was like before reaching out to the owner, Mary Ebel, about collaborating on the show, which I knew would bring quite a lot of visitors to the little town. Since I hadn’t yet signed the contract for the new venue, I went “incognito,” and didn’t reveal the real reason I was there.
Mary welcomed me and my mother-in-law warmly, and she and I chatted like knitting-obsessed folks do about the projects we were working on and hoping to make one day. I learned about the yarn club the store runs, with hand-dyed colorways inspired by the beauty of the Hudson Valley. Mary brewed some Harney & Sons tea for us to sample and I picked out a colorful navy, teal and orange basket that now holds all my WIPs by my living room sofa.
Later, after I reached out to Mary and revealed the true reason for my visit that day, she became an indispensable part of the planning team for the fifth annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show, connecting me to local resources and rallying together the local merchants to give Indie Untangled visitors a warm welcome not unlike the one I received during my first visit, with a free shuttle service, sit ‘n’ knit stations and even an after party — plus a little yarny surprise.
I recently learned a little bit more Mary about how she became the owner of one of the Hudson Valley’s loveliest yarn shops.
Tell me about the decision to open The Perfect Blend. Was running a yarn shop a longtime dream of yours?
Yes it was a long term plan — as I imagine lots of knitters have dreams of opening a yarn shop, too!
Fortunately for me, I had the support of my family and friends to make it happen. My husband retiring early from law enforcement and taking on a second career in sales allowed me to leave my full-time job and pursue this yarn shop dream job (though I dreamed it much differently… I thought there would be time to sit and knit).
After eight years of teaching friends at home and my husband settling into his new career, I “retired” and opened a shop. Seemed everything fell into place as I worked towards the opening. The location, in the small village of Saugerties, was the only storefront I looked at. And it’s perfect – a bit rustic with brick wall and charming atmosphere.
Why did you decide to focus on yarn and tea?
Growing up with a family of makers, my mother was always knitting, but she also, sewed, crafted, tried just about everything — except cooking. My dad, an engineer, loved building, woodworking, fixing things, problem solving. He and friends built our family cottage in Maine in 1950s. There are seven of us “kids” and we were all encouraged to learn a craft. For the last 30 years or so, our family Christmas has been handmade. We make something six times, one for each family member. It’s creative and fun!
Though each of my siblings have some sort of hands-on crafting talent, mine was knitting. I have sweet memories of knitting with my mother during quiet early mornings in Maine. I love knitting, and teaching people to knit.
And the tea: well, a few reasons. First reason was I wanted something other than yarn to bring people into the shop. Turns out, that was a good decision — they’re looking for tea, and wouldn’t normally walk in a yarn shop, then discover the beautiful yarns, and talk about how they “always wanted to learn” … ”Oh, and you teach classes?” And bam — new knitter!
We’re Irish and there are lots of tea drinkers in the family. The tea kettle is ON when we’re together, from early morning to late at night!
As with knitting and crocheting, making tea is slow process – it’s peaceful and calming. It’s what you do to relax and unwind, or to help you feel better. And it all works with The Perfect Blend: of yarn, or tea blends, or of the community of knitters and crocheters.
What you do before you became a yarn shop owner and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?
Prior to opening the shop, my career was in human resources. The last 13 years in benefits and employee relations for our local hospital system. Though my background did not include retail or anything in the fiber world, I’m a good listener, confidential and love to help people.
My position at the hospital was to serve the people that took care of people, helping them resolve an issue so that they could get back to their jobs of patient care. That’s why an LYS is better for me than an online store. Though we tried for a few months last year, it’s not for me, and most of our online sales happened in the shop. We like the interaction with our customers and have fun! And just like HR, we don’t discuss politics and we’re confidential — I won’t tell anyone how much yarn you bought!
Why did you choose the dyers and brands that you carry?
The brands and the products change over the years and will continue to. We started carrying basic, core brands that I was familiar with: Cascade, Noro, Classic Elite, etc. In the beginning, I used the advice and guidance of reps for what to buy and what was trending. Now, I research myself, attend TNNA and always listen to my customers.
As we evolve and grow our shop, the yarn choices will change too. There’s always something new that we must have! Although we carry many classic yarns for the projects you’ll have 10 years from now, we do carry a variety of yarns, not novelty, but some trendy yarns for our adventurous knitters and crocheters. From Cashmere and yak to cotton and wool, and lots of perfect blends in between.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
Hardest question right here! There are so many talented designers, who could ever pick a favorite?
Let me say this though, we just had two days of classes with Ann Budd (she’s amazing!). Her Intro to Sweater Design Class – wow! We all know that there’s tons of math in knitting, but now I have a whole new respect for what it takes to design it, from concept, to gauging, choosing the right yarn, sizing… there are so many factors. It was an amazing class! One person commented that “We don’t pay enough for patterns.”
Can you talk about any new products the shop is going to carry or special events in the works?
We met a few new vendors at TNNA trade show in June. Gleeners recently arrived and we’re planning a demo day soon. We’re also bringing in some fun products from Knit Baah Purl — sheep-y wine glasses, mugs and notecards. We’re also xcited to bring in Dragonfly Fibers.
As for special events, it doesn’t get any better than having Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show a half-mile away from the shop! We’re thrilled and super exited to have this event come to Saugerties!
When and how did you learn to knit?
I was taught by my mother on the porch of our summer cottage in Maine. Not sure of my age, I think around nine, but I remember where I was sitting and the yarn (split-y cotton) and the big wooden needles. Pretty sure there were other neighborhood kids learning at the same time, but I clearly remember where I was sitting and the moment I “got it!”
Is there an FO that you’re particularly proud of?
Through the years there were definitely many proud moments when I discovered a new technique, such as German short rows, or when I made my first sweater, or did Fair Isle for the first time, and a cabled sweater. After all these years there’s always something new to learn — that only another knitter can be excited about, too!