I had returned home to Hinsdale, Illinois for two months. It was a short stint before flying back to our other home in Shillong, Meghalaya. A 10-month, 2-month travel pattern had become the norm since our daughter began her University studies. Upon arrival, I googled “yarn stores” and quickly discovered there were many in the greater Chicago area. I had come to the U.S. to sell yarn. This agenda quickly changed to a quest of discovery.
Yarn? What’s That?
Five months earlier the word yarn was not in my spoken vocabulary. What changed that? Epic journeys that my husband, CEO of Chillibreeze, initiated with employees who wanted to venture into the unknown and discover unique problems and opportunities in our state of Meghalaya. A mission to solve a problem with a profitable purpose-driven business.
I joined one of those epic trips. I left my comfort zone to seek what was beyond. To discover what we could not see. My first trip exposed the eco-system and village lifestyle around Eri silk. I was fascinated. I didn’t make myself interested. The interest manifested itself and gripped me. I made a choice to step out of my comfort zone of the “known” and joined what has become the Muezart team.
Our team is still walking into the unknown. The way is dark, but the call is strong because we are doing something that is beyond us. The journey is worthwhile because it is filled with meaning and the possibility of creating a better future. At my age, it is a meaning that fulfils me.
Meaning is What Connected Me to the Yarn Crawl
It is not an accident that I was in the US for the 10-day yarn crawl. I didn’t know what to expect. With my itinerary in hand, the fun began. You might wonder, like me, what is a yarn crawl? Urban Dictionary says:
My 5 Meaningful Takeaways of the Chicago Yarn Crawl
1. The Originality of Each Yarn Shop
I’m sure each owner had doubts when she decided to open a yarn store. I would love to read each start-up story. I can only imagine that she had a connection with local makers who helped her dive in and embrace her gifts of entrepreneurship and creativity to open a one-of-a-kind yarn store.
Firefly Fiber Arts fit the vibe of the Wicker Park neighbourhood. Firefly specializes in all-natural, organic, and sustainable fibers. Leslie Wood perked up and engaged with us about Eri silk since she had read that the fiber is known as non-violent silk. Sarah, co-owner, put her hand to the chakra to try spinning some of our Eri silk fiber.
I connected well with String Theory, another store with a focus. Their product focus is on fair trade and artisan yarns. Her store creates community through a comfortable maker space and classes. Janet Avila, the owner, finds other ways to create that connectedness with her “yarn people” through getaways, award nights, and knitting around the table.
Joanna talking with Janet, the owner of String Theory ~ Sahra, of Firefly Fiber Arts Studio, tries her hand at spinning with Eri silk roving.
Yarn stores are located in suburban shopping malls and city neighborhoods. Sister Arts Studio is located in the beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.
2. The Diversity of People and Generations
Firefly had a lovely living room ambiance. A mix of men and women from different generations knitting and talking. I saw the ethnic diversity across the suburb and urban stores. If you have a mental picture of your grandmother knitting. Forget that! These images of Yarn Crawls across America will break that stereotype.
3. Real Interactive and Engaged Community
How often do you walk into a brick and mortar retail store or coffee shop and experience human engagement? Welcome to the yarn store vibe. Each shop typically has a table to sit around, or comfortable living room furniture to relax and get busy making. The fact that men and women of all ages are working with both hands means that they can’t be engaged with their mobile devices. Instead, when you’re a maker, you can converse and make at the same time. Hands are occupied. The movement and focus on the art creates a relaxation in the mind which may intern help the mind communicate more freely.
The sense of community is healthy and alive in yarn stores. Read The Craft Yarn Council Report and you'll see why. Here's an excerpt of just one fact:
Knitters and crocheters experience many benefits from the craft. Top benefits include:
- Feeling of accomplishment (93%)
- Reduced Stress (85%)
- Improved Mood (68%)
- Sense of confidence (56%)
Almost all (90%) knitters and crocheters responded that the craft improves their mood. Similarly, nine-in ten knitters and crocheters claim the craft helps them to relax. Seventy-six percent of respondents who say they have health challenges answered that knit and crochet helps them cope. Of those who have health challenges, 85% say it helps them relax. For 81% it decreases stress and for 57% it decreases anxiety. (Source: The Craft Yarn Council)
The bizarre and lonely world that Eric Pickersgill’s photos depict doesn’t exist around the tables of yarn stores.
4. A Non-Compete Environment
The stores in Chicago do an amazing job of turning the product into a place of community. I almost feel like the stores should have “club memberships” because they do create that unique space of a learning and knowledge sharing environment. The fiber community seems inclusive and supportive.
The Yarn Crawl concept seems to be about collaborating instead of comparing. The once a year event can only happen through helping each other. Not competing, but instead highlighting the other. Instead of diminishing a competing yarn store, these women owners believe in empowering each other to create more opportunities to spread the artisan craft.
All the Yarn Crawl hosts pool together to create a bang of excitement through the passport itinerary and the Chicago Yarn Crawl website. This little booklet leads each participant to stores with pattern giveaways, raffles, store prizes, trunk shows, show and tell maker events, and parties. It is a Disney Land for Yarn People!
5. A Story That Goes Beyond Yarn
As I interacted with owners and visitors, they connected to the Muezart story. The smart and creative women who own these beautiful stores affirmed the true value behind our Eri silk yarn. That value being:
- Keeping a local artisan craft alive
- Creating sustainability through purposeful business
- Expanding opportunity for women and their families to flourish
Muezart received invitations to participate in future Yarn Crawl trunk shows. Why not aim for that next year? I have a dream to introduce our handspun yarn and 100% natural roving fiber for spinning. Eri silk has too many secrets to remain hidden. It’s time to let Eri silk shine. I better get busy and learn how to make with yarn!
Fun Fact: Top 6 Yarn Crawls in the USA
- Rose City Yarn Crawl (Portland area) - March
- San Diego Yarn Crawl - September
- LA Yarn Crawl - End of March, the beginning of April
- NYC Yarn Crawl - September
- Chicago Yarn Crawl - July
- The Best Little Yarn Crawl in Texas - October