Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Taste of Saturday

          When I tell people that I usually work all day on Saturdays, most look at me with sympathy thinking that I must be sacrificing a lot by “giving up” my weekend. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I recently spent a weekend away from Winona and though I enjoyed the time I had in my hometown with my family, I felt a void from missing one of the busiest days the shop experiences each week. It is a time when those who can’t visit the shop during the work week stop in to chat and catch us up on the goings on in their lives; it is a day when laughter can be heard from our couches, advice is exchanged both on knitting projects and life, and new things are learned by teachers and students. It is a day of happiness and camaraderie.  

            Today was a Saturday much like the one described above and though I left Yarnology quite tired at 5:00, I had spent the day smiling with friends and working with some people I truly love. I had the opportunity to teach a private lesson to two great ladies this afternoon (we made felted clogs, a wonderful project I have made many times and will again), and as I sat at the table in our “classroom” I couldn’t help but overhear some of the things going on in the rest of the shop. Our “living room” was occupied by some long-term friends and a few of those people who only get to the shop on rare occasions. Sitting on our second-hand floral couches, they had some surprisingly deep conversations for that sunny Saturday morning, swapping parenting advice and sharing personal stories. Though we often refer to knitting as therapeutic, this description became literal; it’s much cheaper to spend an hour or two at the yarn store than it is to pay for a therapy session.

            It’s always fun when you witness new friendships being made and with all the people who come and go on a Saturday, this happens often. An acquaintance of someone’s will come to sit, knit, chat, and drink coffee and in the process create new connections with others who have come to do the exact same thing. While bonding over their shared passion for knitting or crocheting, they will most likely find more common threads that exist between them. Without this yarn store many friendships would not be in existence, including some of my own, and Saturdays are the perfect time to strengthen or renew them.

            Some of the new visitors that we receive on Saturdays are parents or family members of students that go to one of our town’s colleges. Unfamiliar with Winona, they often wander downtown to see what it has to offer and we’re happy to be one of the places they stop to check out. Even if no one in the family works with yarn, Yarnology captivates their attention with its vibrant colors and interesting displays. I love hearing family members brag about their student, the happiness at being reunited with them evident. With my family far away, I know how much it means when someone you love comes to visit. It’s always a goal of mine to show visiting families and friends that Yarnology is a safe and fun place for people of all ages. I feel that we represent a piece of Winona, and I want to do this wonderful town justice.

            While my students were busily counting out stitches and rows, I became inspired to share, from my point of view, my favorite things about a Saturday at Yarnology. I quickly pulled the blank side of my pattern towards me and jotted down a list. Though I’ve just written about a few there are many more to share. It would take much longer for me write (and for you to read) all of them, so I’ll put the rest in list form, just like my untidy scribbling on the back of that pattern. So what do I love about Saturdays at Yarnology? I love…

-           parents visiting their children and discovering us for the first time.

-          teaching wonderful people something new and watching them succeed while they create something useful out of nothing.

-          seeing red-cold faces fresh from the last farmer’s market of the season.

-          people coming in with hopeless mistakes only to be reassured by the Yarnologists that actually, we CAN help you, do not be discouraged. We’ll work through this together.

-          listening to knitters talk through their Christmas knitting lists, planning special projects for special people.

-          hearing knitters say things like “I’m anti-gauge swatch” and “we have twenty four sheep” and not batting an eyelash.

-          forming and renewing connections; it’s what our store thrives on.

-          drinking 3:00 coffee with my coworkers.
-       knowing that I truly matter to so many people at this shop and assuring them that they matter to me.

           Do not pity me for having to work Saturdays. I confess if I wasn’t on the schedule I’d be down there anyway. Any day inspiring and being inspired is a day well spent. And I always leave smiling. That in itself is worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Windows, Brick, and Mortar: Shop Local!

          As many of our customers know, Yarnology takes its window displays seriously. We usually switch it up and create a new display every few weeks. Kelly, the mastermind behind them, researches on Pintrest and Facebook, and scopes out ideas from other retailers all to gain inspiration for the front of our store. In the past we’ve had balloon animals, miniature motorized vehicles, creatures made from hanks of yarn, and (my personal favorite) a Christmas tree and fireplace last winter to encourage holiday cheer and warm thoughts on cold days. In our new building the front windows are much smaller compared to our last location, and we don’t have as much space to fill. This is both a blessing and a curse. The big ideas have to be scaled down, but we no longer have to stretch our resources and ideas to fill up large windows.

            One of Kelly’s more recent creative brain surges resulted in dozens of Trolls (you know, the ones with the crazy hair!) set up to catch the attention of passersby. Kelly incorporated the trolls into a fiber holiday that we celebrated at the shop on September 15th: National Spin in Public Day. Dyed roving (wool before it’s made into yarn) connected the brightly colored hair of the trolls and was then fed into an antique spinning wheel to make it look like the little creatures were all spun together. That display was cute and quirky, so much so that we would often have families stopping on their way down the sidewalk to examine and exclaim over the trolls’ endearingly funny faces and clothing. Throughout the three weeks that the display was up we even had several people come in and ask if these vintage toys were for sale. Sorry, we had to tell them, they’re not even ours. A few of our wonderful friends and patrons lent them to Kelly so her vision could be realized.

            Just like she is known to do, Kelly came to the shop a few days back and told us that she had another great window display idea. To go along with the October theme of “You don’t have to travel far… Shop local!”, she decided to put a rickshaw in the window. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what that is, I only had a vague idea myself. A rickshaw is half bicycle and half carriage. You always see people in big cities, at least in movies and TV shows, being driven around in these things. To make all of this cooler than it already was, the rickshaw that is currently featured in our window is pink. Yes, a very awesome, attention grabbing, “big girl” pink. Since it went up last Wednesday the 3rd, I think we’ve had several comments a day on the “bicycle thing” that’s in the window. Sometimes I think we have the most unique front windows in all of Winona. And then I think about how cool that is.

            Like I said earlier, our theme for October is “Shop Local”. I feel strongly about this cause not only because I work at a local independent retailer, but also because I’ve seen the damage that can come to a small town when residents go elsewhere for their goods and services. I am originally from a small town in Illinois called Marengo, where the majority of store fronts are vacant and dark. Once a booming railroad town, Marengo has slowly declined due to economy and outsourcing. It really is heartbreaking to go home and see “for sale or rent” signs in window after window while walking down the main street. A large part of me believes that a community can help put a stop to declining local business. Instead of going to a big box store or ordering right off the internet, visit some of your local retailers and find out if you can give your business to them instead. It might take a few more minutes or a couple extra dollars, but I don’t think that’s a bad price to guarantee that our towns will be thriving, productive places. I totally agree that deals and sales should not be passed up, but there is a way we can all help without breaking the bank.

In our most recent Yarnology newsletter, Gaby wrote about something called the 3/50 Project. This is a movement encouraging people to sit down and think about the unique and essential local businesses in their towns. It instructs everyone to choose three businesses that they would miss if they suddenly went under. Then, try to spend at least $50 a month there. According to, “if half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue”. There’s more information on the website and I encourage everyone to visit and become inspired to shop locally! So much good can come of having a strong local economy. As the holidays start arriving, think about what shopping you can do at some of your local specialty shops (like a yarn store; hint, hint) or any independent business, and give them your support! You never know, you might see some fun and unique displays in their front windows.