Handmade: Detroit crafters criticize lack of yarn shops

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
View Comments

A growing number of people everywhere are knitting and crocheting — even in Detroit. However, not since City Knits closed its doors in the Fisher Building in May 2012 has there been a yarn shop in the city of Detroit. Needlearts enthusiasts who live in Detroit are forced to travel outside city limits, usually quite a distance, to the nearest yarn shop to satisfy their need for fiber, unless they choose to make online purchases, which can be disappointing if it’s for a yarn new to the market.

Audrey Chatman, a crocheter who lives in Detroit, says, “Most of the times I get upset because I have to go out to the suburbs to get my yarn. I have to go outside the city limits because there are no stores in the area. People complain that we don’t support our city — well, how do you support the city if everything is in the suburbs? It’s very upsetting to me because sometimes you don’t feel like driving across town to get one ball of yarn to complete a project.”

Crocheter and knitter Deborah Vinson, who also lives in Detroit, remembers what crafting was like long ago in the city. “Even prior to City Knits, I cannot recall any individual yarn, knitting or specialty (craft) shops in Detroit,” she says. “When I started stitching, all your major retail stores had yarn — Hudson’s, Sears, Crowley’s, Montgomery Wards, and J.C. Penney’s — so maybe there was no need. Then after all the big box stores stopped carrying craft supplies, I guess there was a period where you had to go to Jo-Ann and Michaels, so other than going down to a ‘mom and pop’ (shop) in Hamtramck, you had no other choice than to go to Northland (Southfield), or Eastland (Harper Woods).”

Asked where she buys her yarn, Vinson remarks, “I treat myself to a road trip out to Crafty Lady at least once a year, and then (out there) you’ve got Hobby Lobby, a super Michaels and a super Jo-Ann’s.” And whenever she wants to take a class, Vinson attends one of the stitching conferences when they come to town. “What I’ve learned,” she says, “is that you can’t possibly grasp a whole concept in a three-hour or all-day class. It’s usually not enough, so I think right now, people are very happy with tutorials they see online.”

Detroiter Leigh Mosley, a knitter and crocheter who, two years ago, organized the well-received Detroit Knitting and Crochet Club that meets every fourth Saturday of the month at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, says she started the club because she recognized the “unfulfilled needs and services for knitters and crocheters in Detroit.”

She says, “We now have about 250 members who I definitely think would be able to support a yarn shop in the city. I think we filled a certain need because we’re teaching a lot of people to knit and crochet. I’m keeping track, and so far, we’ve taught 35 people to knit and crochet, and they’re coming to us because there’s no place in the actual city to take official classes.”

And other than the small yarn section at the Detroit Meijer location on Eight Mile, just east of Woodward, anyone wanting to purchase yarn at a nonspecialty store, like Michaels, Walmart, or Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft, still has to spend extra time and gas going out to the suburbs.

Bottom line: Detroit needs yarn shops (among other things, of course)! But for now, the “pattern” reads “yod” for “Yarn Over in Detroit.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. For more craft news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.

View Comments