Shelley Stone, founder and owner of The Yarn Underground and the Palouse Yarn Company, has been knitting for more than 30 years. She opened her storefront in downtown Moscow seven years ago, and has been a fixture of the local fiber arts community ever since.
“I opened the store in part as an outlet for my dyed yarn,” Stone said.
She said she decided to avoid work that would require her to sit in front of a computer all day. She preferred to pursue a creative passion.
“I decided to push my dyed yarn and become better,” Stone said. “At first, you’re still trying to understand the process, and now I’m just playing with color.”
The business world was an entirely new beast for Stone, but with time, practice and word of mouth, Stone’s yarn is now sold in stores across the country.
“I’m still learning things I didn’t realize,” she said.
Once she grew more comfortable as a business owner, however, Stone said she started to see ways her work could be a force for good.
“At a certain point, part of what I realized I could give back to the community is Knit-Nite,” Stone said.
Knit-Nite occurs every Thursday. The store is open until 8 p.m., two and a half hours later than the normal closing time. During the extra hours, The Yarn Underground is host to an open and free knitting group.
Jen Lewis, a clerk at The Yarn Underground, said Knit-Nite has grown from a “handful of people” to a completely packed house.
“People keep coming,” Lewis said.
Part of what brings people back week after week may be the sense of community and support the business encourages — Lewis said part of her job is “un-freaking people out” about knitting.
“We cater to all different kinds of things you can do with fiber,” Lewis said.
Lewis said this policy most frequently applies to customers interested in knitting and crocheting, but The Yarn Underground takes fiber arts a step further and has spinning wheels available for customers who might find themselves with a fleece.
Stone said she loves helping people with their projects, and this year she started a tradition of Free-Help Fridays which brings in “a whole different clientele.” Regardless of whether a client bought their yarn from Stone’s store, she and her staff will help them sort out whatever challenges they run into in their fiber art.
“I don’t want to be that exclusive,” Stone said, explaining her decision to help non-customers with their projects.
Stone said her experience has been that the goodwill usually comes back around, as people become intrigued by the high-quality yarn their neighbors are knitting with.
“I hope people understand the mindfulness we’re trying to create here,” Stone said.
Prioritizing local, small-mill and American-made products wherever possible, Stone said she tries to buy from “companies with a conscience.”
“I’m just not in it for the fast dollar,” she said. “That doesn’t help me sleep at night.”
Instead, Stone said she wants to encourage her Moscow community to take up fiber arts for the social aspect of knitting circles and for the mental de-stressing benefits they provide.
“I think it is a great thing to pick up in times of stress,” Stone said. “I stress-knit — keeping my hands busy helps me process things.”
With knitting, spinning and crocheting classes for all experience levels, The Yarn Underground offers education for long-time and new hobbyists alike.
January marks the beginning of a new “semester” of classes at the store, with opportunities to learn the basics of knitting, spinning or crocheting, in addition to learn how to complete more complicated projects such as sweaters, mittens, cowls and hats.
“We’re all on this journey, experiencing our creativity in a tangible method,” Stone said. “I’m here to help people with their creativity.”
For more information about what The Yarn Underground has to offer, visit www.yarnunderground.com.
Beth Hoots can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org