Just about a year ago, Nancy Bates released her blockbuster pattern book, Knitting the National Parks. The book includes one hat pattern for each of the 63 national parks in the United States, and the response has been absolutely amazing. People knit hats for friends and family's favorite parks... or knit hats in anticipation of being able to wear them on their trip to those parks... or just to have some fun, eye-catching headgear for cool weather!
Our shop community is full of travelers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts of all stripes, so of course this book has been a hit for us, too. As of last week, we had had about 18 different hats brought to the shop to show them off - it's been awesome to see what people have been drawn to! (Far and away, Mount Rainier is the most popular hat as of this writing; North Cascades, Crater Lake, and Denali have been close behind.)
As you may know, I try to post customer work on as many Fridays as possible over on our Instagram account - the hats have featured prominently for much the past year. When Kris brought in her Shenandoah hat a few weeks ago, I grabbed a photo on the porch and then saved it to post last week. I wondered idly in the caption if perhaps - between now and the first day of spring in 2024 - the shop community could manage to complete at least 1 example of all 63 hats in the book.
And then this happened.
We are nothing if not up for a good challenge - especially with the reward of an amazing designer coming to visit us - and so the shop community leapt into action.
We're officially inviting all shop community members to participate in The Great National Parks Hat Challenge! Between now and March 18, 2024, pick any hat (or hats!) that you want to make, let us know which ones you're working on, and we'll get you on our spreadsheet. If you're looking to help us fill holes in the spreadsheet, you can see it here - with some help from generous shop community member JH, we even have difficulty ratings for each hat if you're having trouble figuring out which one might be a good starting point for you. (Difficulty ratings will be added to the spreadsheet during the week of September 25.)
Even if you see that the hat you want to make is already being worked on or completed, we want you to join us in this group effort - no one has exclusive dibs on any of the hats, no one gets a prize for completing the most, and we're not requiring that yarn be purchased through the shop. Of course that would be lovely, but we also know that everyone's budgets are running tighter than normal this year - use as much as you can from your stash, find a stash buddy to share partial skeins or split the cost of a single skein you can use in multiple hats, but most importantly... HAVE FUN!
Nancy Bates is ready to do this. Let's give her the chance to experience the unique welcome and community that you can only find at Stilly River Yarns.
One of the most common things we get asked is about how yarn is packaged - is there any difference between a ball and a cake of yarn? Is a hank the same thing as a skein? (Skeen? Skayne?) Where do "yarn donuts" come into the mix? These are all different ways of talking about what is called the yarn's physical "put-up."
The most common commercial “put-ups” by physical presentation are hanks, skeins, and donuts. Here's what they look like in the wild:
Hanks are the twisted presentation that you see in Berroco Vintage, Noro Sonata (shown at left above), and Malabrigo Rios, just to name a few examples. To avoid absolute madness, hanks need to be wound - either by hand into a ball or using a ball-winder to make a cake.
Skeins are the football- or cylinder-shaped presentations that you see for yarns like West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-Ply (shown in the middle above), Red Heart Super Saver, and Berroco Remix Light. These have already been wound at the mill in a configuration where you can pull the yarn from the center without requiring winding at the shop.
Donuts are… well, shaped like donuts. In our shop, you can find Berroco Coco (shown above at right), Gedifra Metal Tweed, and Gedifra Soffio/Soffio Colore. You can easily pull from the outside or inside of the ball, but they are hollow and usually have a label that goes through the middle of the ball. (They also shed layers of yarn like crazy and get “drippy” - they’re our least favorite put-up.)
A very few yarns come pre-wound into center-pull cakes or balls, but those are less prevalent in the American market; Juniper Moon Farms Cumulus Rainbow and yarns in the Zauberball family are examples of these.
So why do companies choose to ship their yarns in all these different formats?
Okay, so how *do* you pronounce the "skein" word? Excellent question - it's pronounced "skayne," with a long-a sound in the middle.
What about yarn cakes and yarn balls? These are generally terms used to describe how yarn is wound from a different form (usually a hank) to prepare it for use by crafters. A cake (at left below) is generally formed by winding yarn around some kind of cylinder, whether it be a mechanical ball-winder, a nostepinne, or a toilet paper tube; a yarn ball (at right below) can be created just by winding a yarn around your fingers, folding it into a nucleus, and then winding the yarn in different directions around the nucleus.
I wish we weren't still in such limited operation... alas, we are hitting our third peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we're still unable to welcome visitors and social times as we would normally be enjoying doing at the busy intersection of cooler weather and the winter holiday season.
That being said, Small Business Saturday is still happening this year, and we're extending it for an entire week so that we can observe all the necessary public health guidelines to keep our shop staff, families, and community safe. Our Week of Small Business Saturday will run from Saturday, November 28 through Saturday, December 5... and that means all our deals and special activities will run for the entire week, too!
Here's what you can plan on:
And as always, thank you for supporting Stilly River Yarns (and all of your other favorite local small, independent businesses). It's been a heck of a year, but we're grateful to still be able to be here serving you.
The top two questions I get these days (and have been getting pretty much since early April): How is the shop doing? And how are YOU?
The brief responses: right now, the shop is still doing okay. I'm hanging in there.
But I'm not going to lie to you all. This is hard. Working to keep the shop open and even vaguely functional during the COVID-19 pandemic is so much harder than anything that I did to get the shop ready to open back in 2017.
I'm writing this post right now because we're getting these questions more and more as we see small businesses closing. Researchers at Harvard estimate that over 110,000 small businesses nationwide have closed since March 1. The in-person local yarn shop community in our area is already getting a little smaller, as Churchmouse Yarns & Teas (Bainbridge Island), Serial Knitters (Kirkland), and The Sock Peddlers (Lakewood) have all announced that they're closing their brick-and-mortar shops. And this combination of circumstances naturally makes people a little panicky about how their favorite spots are holding up. So here's the deal as of this moment:
Stilly River Yarns is extraordinarily lucky on many counts. Our shop exists in a location where commercial space is fairly affordable. Our shop space is *ahem* cozy, but we chose shop displays and fixtures that have made it easy to change the space to meet requirements on social distancing and discouraging people from lingering too long... plus we have what I refer to as our "warm-weather bonus room" (aka the porch) for brief help sessions and tutorials. I'm comfortable with technology, so it was not a huge stretch to get our online shop stocked with our most-requested items, nor to work with virtual shopping appointments on FaceTime, Instagram, and Zoom. We've managed to keep a sense of community going through those same online channels. We didn't get a bank loan for starting the shop, so we aren't burdened with those monthly payments. We have suppliers who pivoted quickly to make alternate arrangements so that we could continue to get customers the yarn they needed or wanted. And The Resident Engineer and I have been able to somewhat arrange our schedules to make sure that the Shop Kids don't run totally feral while we're both working. As long as we're not bleeding red ink by the end of the year, there's a really good chance that the shop will survive to see its fourth Shopiversary in 2021. You as a community have made it eminently clear that Stilly River Yarns is important to you, and you want to see us here and thriving at the end of the pandemic. I cannot fully explain with words how grateful I am for that, and it's made me cry more often than anything else during this weird time in history.
Me, personally? It's a little rougher going. Moments of fear have been tempered with waves of gratitude to know that our shop community is pulling for us. Frustration and anger show up more regularly for me than they did during non-pandemic life. I'm spinning huge hanks of yarn because it's a great coping strategy for my flavor of anxiety. On the flip side, I lose myself in shop tasks or fiber projects and realize that I'm doing that to avoid doing shop tasks I don't love or enjoy (hellooooooo, bookkeeping and taxes!). There are days where I just don't feel like coming into the shop, and days where even looking at yarn feels like a chore. Seeing the owners of Churchmouse and Serial Knitters make their announcements on the same day was a huge punch to the gut... because if they're making that call, how do we make it through this? It's overwhelming to consider the ramifications.
And yet, at the end of the day... we've made it to another day. We still don't have any idea of how much longer we're on this path, or what "normal" will look like from here on out, or so many other things. There's so much that is simply beyond our control. The best we can do is to continue doing what we excel at: offering amazing yarn (and fun project ideas), creating educational opportunities to you as lifelong learners, and supporting and building our community, even if there's not always as much yarn talk as usual.
I'm going to close with what has become a sort of mantra in my weekly Instagram Live broadcasts. It's silly, but I feel like it's getting increasingly important the longer this continues: Be well. Be excellent to others and kind to yourself. Get some rest (ideally, sleep). Eat something that sounds good to you - it doesn't have to BE good for you, it just has to sound good. (It could be greens. It could be chocolate. It could be green chocolate.) Stay hydrated. And get some crafting in, because crafting is good for us on so many levels. Stay healthy and safe, and we'll look forward to seeing you or hearing from you soon, in whatever form that may take.
When I wrote my previous blog post six weeks ago, I knew that shutting the shop's doors to public traffic for an indeterminate period of time would be difficult. I don't think I realized how deeply the shop's operations and operating philosophy would be tested by the pandemic and subsequent shutdown... or how much our shop's operating philosophy would inform changes to operations, and how strongly that would all resonate with customers and the fiber arts community.
Before anyone panics: the shop is okay. The Shop Kids, The Resident Engineer, and I are okay. We are still in Extreme Blanket Fort Mode, though we have gingerly moved back into offering porch and curbside pickup during slightly abbreviated business hours.
I realize, though, that we have a LOT of new people in our audience and a WHOLE LOT of interest in what we're doing to continue to build community, sling yarn/fiber, and serve our customers in new and innovative ways. So first and foremost - welcome to all newcomers! We are so glad you're here, and we hope that you'll join us around our (currently virtual) social table and settle into our (currently socially distanced) shop community a little better in the weeks and months to come. So here's a quick-start guide to how to find the Stilly River Yarns community in its current form:
So - welcome to the community, and we hope you'll be able to pop in and introduce yourself! If you need anything at all, drop me a line through any of the methods listed above; you can also simply call the shop at (360) 631-5801 or email us at Lindsey [at] stillyriveryarns [dot] com.
Thank you all again so much for your support and encouragement. It's going to be a long road ahead for all of us, and we're pleased to continue to be able to be here as your local (or long-distance local) yarn shop.
Stilly River Yarns is located in the state of Washington, one of the initial epicenters of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States. Yesterday afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee announced a mandatory stay-at-home order for the entire state that will take effect today at 8 PM PST.
Just like the rest of you, we’ve been trying to roll with all of the changes happening due to COVID-19. It’s not easy when information changes every few hours, the kids are two weeks in to a rather freeform version of homeschooling, and business is anything but usual. (It should take me maybe 10 minutes to create coupon codes for the website and pay for a month of Zoom. It took me 45 minutes yesterday morning between refereeing fights, making oatmeal for family breakfast, trying to drink tea in peace, and keeping the kids from interrupting a teleconference in our home office.)
Governor Inslee’s stay-home order is going to impact all of us in different ways. And we’re all doing the best we can with a situation that is unpredictable in so many ways. There are incredibly wrenching decisions being made at all levels of life across the world.
The best thing we can do right now: hunker down and tighten up operations. We’re going into #ExtremeBlanketFortMode starting at 8 PM tonight (March 25, 2020). What does that look like?
We got this. We’re in this together, and we’re carrying each other as best we can. There are a lot of unknowns out there, but the Stilly River Yarns community is stepping up to handle it with its usual amount of class and heart.
Take care, be well, and know that we miss you. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Shop contact information:
We've likely all seen the memes going around about how the COVID-19 outbreak and the resultant quarantines/sheltering in place are exactly what introverts and crafters have been preparing for. And while, yes, this feels true... we also know that we have a lot of community members who are in high-risk groups because of their age and/or health conditions and are self-quarantined or in quarantine at assisted living/senior living facilities. Crafting can play an important part in mental health care strategies and self-care in times of stress and anxiety.
Customers have asked what they can do to help community members who may not be able or willing to get out right now, or who may not be able to afford crafting supplies (either in full or in part). So... here's what I've got to offer on that front. This is subject to change as events develop.
1. I contacted two locations that have confirmed that they will accept donations of yarn crafting materials, and/or will send residents the shop's contact information if they would like supplies. I'll be contacting a couple of other places this coming week.
2. If you have yarn/hooks/needles languishing in your stash and you'd like to have them go to use with some of our community members in need, please bring them by the shop between 11 AM and 4 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday (3/24 and 3/25). PLEASE NOTE - this is a test run. DO NOT leave things on the shop porch outside those hours, as we have roaming neighborhood cats, springtime bugs, and rain in the forecast this week; I don't have space or energy for the shop to become a dumping ground, and I have no storage space for overflow items. The Shop Kids and I will organize the yarn and yarn tools for more effective distribution. Please make sure the yarn is in good condition - think about what you'd want to use if you were stuck in your home for three or four weeks!
3. We have a generous benefactor who has offered to donate seed money to start a Crafters' Assistance fund. I'm setting up a separate PayPal account so that we can easily track donations and our fund levels, and I'll post a link here when we have it. You may also donate your shop coupons to the cause - just let us know when we issue one to you, and we'll note that it can go to the Crafters' Assistance fund.
4. Finally, we have someone who has requested to be a Yarn Fairy for customers considering making purchases. Starting on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the first 10 orders of $50 or more (before shipping) will receive an additional $10 of shop credit. This is good for orders coming in any form, first come, first serve.
It is truly our pleasure to be your #fullserviceyarnshop - and in many cases, your #longdistancelocalyarnshop ! We are so grateful for your camaraderie, checking in, and support of all stripes while we weather this situation; having the shop community approach us with ideas to reach out and support others has been extraordinary, and we want to thank you all for being rockstars and excellent human beings.
As many of you know, I've been running a nightly Instagram Live at 8:30 PM PST since the COVID-19 really started shutting down everyone's daily routines. We've had some resources that I wanted to make sure to highlight, as it's a little too hard for me to get a bunch of pattern names/designers out there while we're talking. I've broken the resources down by day below.
Day 2: mindless projects/simple patterns
How to add applied i-cord edging, either during the project or picked up later: La Maison Rililie (PDF)
Purchase gift cards for the shop at our online shop
Burn chart for testing unknown fibers/yarns
Bleach test chart for unknown fibers/yarns
First and foremost, I hope you and your families and friends and community members are well. The past two weeks have been… I don’t even know what adjective I should choose. Nothing seems surreal or serious enough to describe what’s happening in our area and around the world with the COVID-19 outbreak.
But - as so many of you have shared - crafting is becoming a focal point of how you get through your days and evenings. And Stilly River Yarns is playing a major role in keeping you and your families busy and healthy… and connected.
That’s what makes the next part of this all the more gut-wrenching. I’ve literally had to start and scrap and restart this newsletter six times in the past four days - the situation has changed on a daily basis, and we’ve been strategizing for as many “what if”s as we can. We are a close-knit community (yeah, I went there) - but to do our part to keep our community safe, I’ve made the decision to close our brick-and-mortar storefront to the public until further notice.
We are still open for business. It’s just going to be a different business model for a while. Here’s how it’s going to work:
1. Our core hours are going to go from 11 AM - 4 PM, Tuesday through Saturday, if you need to call or video-conference with us (more details below). Since the Shop Kids are doing school from home for the next several weeks, I’m going to be taking a few extra hours each week to help supervise that process so the Resident Engineer can get some more of his day job’s work done in the Stilly River Yarns Blanket Fort.
2. Know what you need? Call or email us. We’ll package your order and have it ready for you to pick up at the shop or with one of our Roving Volunteers at their pick-up points, or we can ship it. These volunteers will have stations on Camano, at Smokey Point, and in the Burlington/Mount Vernon area where you can meet them at least once a week. Want to make your pick-up no-contact? Just let us know in the order notes section.
3. The online shop is up and open! We don’t have all of our inventory up there… yet. But we are working to get it there. You can choose to have us ship it to you, you can choose to pick it up curbside, or you can choose to meet one of our Roving Volunteers.
4. Don’t see something you’re looking for? Call us, email us, or text us! (I’m going to keep all of the contact information at the bottom of this message for ease of reference.) We can take credit cards over the phone, and we can also issue invoices via Square and PayPal.
5. Need help figuring out exactly which yarns to pick to use together? Or want to see things side by side? Or just “can you show me what you’ve got in a machine washable worsted weight?” We now offer yarn concierge service via Skype, Facetime, or Zoom: video conferencing that will allow you to consult with us in real time and give us feedback on yarn combinations and color choices. Email, call, or text, and we’ll set up an appointment with you using the service of your choice.
6. Need help with your project? Yarn concierge service works for that, too! Again, email, call, or text us and we’ll set up an appointment.
What else is going to happen? How about social night?
Social night will be going virtual, starting tomorrow night (Tuesday, March 17, 2020)! We’ll be using Zoom to hang out from 7 - 7:30 PM PST - join us by visiting zoom.us/join or downloading the free app, then entering our meeting ID. It’s 982 383 7840. (I’m hoping to move to a longer session next week… I just want to make sure this week’s session works well enough first.)
I’m also hosting an Instagram Live broadcast each evening at 8:30 PM PST, and I’ll be hosting “office hours” live on YouTube starting on Tuesday, March 23. (Still ironing out logistics, but I’ll give them to you when I know them). I’m working on a guide to help you navigate both of those platforms and opportunities!
Obviously, all of our other social groups (spinning, Intrepid Sweater Brigade, etc.) are on hiatus until we can safely open the shop back up to you.
We’re going to be doing some test work to bring you lessons and mini-classes via Zoom as well. It’s not a permanent substitute for our normal interactions, but we know that some of you are going to need help (and would probably relish the opportunity to learn something new) over the next few weeks.
What can we do to help?
First and foremost, if you are in a position to help us financially, please consider making a purchase. If you’re stashbusting or on a yarn diet, I’ve set up a Ko-Fi page so that you can donate money directly to the shop. Our rent is still due. Utility payments still need to be paid. We have orders that were made prior to the outbreak that still need to be taken care of. And if you’re finding value in the nightly Instagram Live broadcasts, our virtual social night, and/or are planning on taking advantage of our yarn concierge services, now would be an awesome time to show that with your financial support. (I feel like I should offer you a mug or a tote bag at this point, but that’s a little beyond my means right now.)
I recognize that not everyone is in a position to help financially, and there are options there, too. You can share our social media posts and link to our online shop with your crafty friends - this goes for other shops, indie dyers, instructors, and artists who might need a signal boost. Get the word out about the food distribution that’s happening for students and families in need in your areas (or volunteer if you’re able!).
And - for everyone - keep washing your hands, keep practicing social distancing, and keep spreading around the kindness and compassion.
I’m incredibly grateful for the community that’s been growing around this shop for three years. The camaraderie and kindness you find here are going to be the things that sustain through this - as the U2 song goes, “we get to carry each other.”
Thanks, everyone. We appreciate you, and we look forward to serving you and helping sustain you through this unprecedented time.
With all of our best wishes for you and your near and dear ones,
Owner, Stilly River Yarns.
RECAP: Contact information and online social times
Hi everyone - Lindsey (shop owner) here.
We’ve been fielding a LOT of questions about our plans while the COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak is happening, and I wanted to take a few minutes to write and let you know what’s going on.
You may have heard that, earlier today, Stanwood’s mayor declared a state of emergency for the city of Stanwood. This is true, and it was done to be able to proactively secure extra resources for any potential outbreak of the virus if one happens in Stanwood. (Per the statement from the Stanwood city administrator, one case has been reported in Stanwood, and there are “no known exposures at this time.”)
This declaration does not change our fundamental operations at Stilly River Yarns. We have been monitoring the situation via the Centers for Disease Control and Snohomish County Health District since last week, and we do not feel - given those organizations’ current guidelines and recommendations - that there is any need at this time to alter our shop schedule or our usual social events. If something happens and we need to make changes to operations, we will let you know as soon as possible.
And, as we’ve been stressing since the beginning - wash your hands. Stay home (if at all possible) if you or a family member are sick. Wash your hands again. If you (or someone close to you) are a member of a highly vulnerable group, please limit your exposure to crowds.
In the shop, we’re wiping down high-touch-frequency surfaces and points several times each day, and we’re washing our hands more than Lady Macbeth does in an entire run of “that Scottish play.” We’ve also temporarily quarantined Skittles the Llama and removed our tester lotion bars from the shop counter. (Fear not - Skittles will be back for your sweet tooth’s satisfaction after we empty him, wash him thoroughly, and run to the thrift shop to buy a ladle before refilling him with fresh candy.)
If you don’t feel like visiting the shop is a great idea right now, we still have ways of getting you hooked up with yarn, fiber, and other supplies. Give us a call (360.631.5801), send us an email (Lindsey [at] stillyriveryarns [dot] com), or send in a representative. We can also text with you via the shop’s Google Voice number during regular business hours (515.833.0689)... and I’m considering setting up virtual office hours via Discord/FaceTime.
Thank you for all of your support of your local small businesses every day, but especially when we’re in a rough spot like this one. We depend on your continued patronage and referrals for our survival, and we’re working hard to make sure that we keep earning your business and that #fullserviceyarnshop title and hashtag.
Be well and take care,
Owner, Stilly River Yarns
Lindsey Spoor is the owner of Stilly River Yarns in Stanwood, WA.