Handmade: Dream becomes 'Labor of Love' on wheels

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
Tina Salgado of New Haven sits inside her Labor of Love Rolling Yarn Store, ready to greet customers.

Tina Salgado, a longtime yarn enthusiast and knitter, dreamed of someday owning her own yarn shop. She realized her dream in 2009, but this past spring, after "seeing the writing on the wall," she sold the "big Victorian in Romeo on Main Street," that housed her 11-year-old business ("Labor of Love"), took the shop on the road with a tractor trailer emblazoned with the words "Labor of Love Rolling Yarn Store," and hasn't looked back!

"I went to a fiber festival a year ago and got this idea for the trailer, and right after that, a lady, who wanted to open a restaurant, put in an offer on my building. I thought -- maybe this is the time to make some changes," recalled the venturesome New Haven resident. "I sold her the building, liquidated most of the stock, and carefully curated the (remaining) stock for the truck, and moved everything out of the other store.

Inside the Labor of Love yarn truck.

"Most of the yarn shops are suffering from online sales now. I know because I'm friends with other yarn shop owners in the area. I was still making money. It was still profitable, but I could see the writing on the wall," she continued. "I think every knitter has the dream of having a yarn shop. I've heard many people say, 'I'd love to have a yarn shop.' I don't think yarn shops are going to go away completely, but it'll be 'survival of the fittest.'"

Salgado, 61, and her husband, Ricardo, who learned to knit about three years ago, purchased the trailer in Georgia, where they also had it customized. "We wanted extra heavy duty axles, tires and framing, and we had it wired and insulated with wood walls. We did the shelving, the floor, the ceiling and the lighting. We tweak it every time we go out. We have figured out some ingenious ways to secure all the stock. At first, we would open the back and say, 'Oh, my goodness!' because things had rolled around and fallen off shelves."

The shelves are stocked with mostly hand-dyed yarns, priced from $10 to $60 a skein, with most under $20. There's also a nice selection of needles and notions. "We have almost every color of Shepherd's Wool," she enthused, "and, ninety percent of the stuff on my truck is from Michigan and the U.S."

However, the Labor of Love Rolling Yarn Store is about more than selling. "What we're trying to do is not just sell yarn, but teach people to knit for free, and then send them to their local yarn shop to continue learning the craft," explained Salgado. "We want to keep it going. We want young people to learn. I learned as a young person." 

In just five months, business has been "really good," although sometimes "it's hit or miss," depending on the places they go. She said they had a "fabulous response from customers and other vendors" at the recent "Textile Takeover" event, hosted by Post in Detroit, where I had the pleasure of browsing through her beautifully "curated" yarn display. She said, "About 20 percent (of the people) said they'd heard about us." 

The knitting couple have taken their shop on wheels to many sites and events, including the Detroit Institute of Arts for "Knit in Public Day," the Shelby Farmers Market, Maker Faire at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, where they won the "Maker of Merit" Blue Ribbon; Blakes Apple Orchard & Cider Mill in Armada, and knitting retreats, guild meetings, and more. "We've kept it in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and St. Clair counties to see what our local people are doing. We're booked up to January, at this point, but I have a couple weekends open."

She doesn't charge a fee for traveling to a particular location. "I just ask that there are at least five people. (How generous!) We have fun doing this," she said. Although her husband goes with her "most of the time," Salgado said she can drive the trailer. The two have grown accustomed to folks honking their horns and giving them the thumbs up whenever they're out on the road. 

The “Labor of Love Rolling Yarn Store” is a welcome site for yarn lovers.

So far, with only one exception, cities have been welcoming. Salgado said, "The only negative response was from one of the local Macomb County cities that made an ordinance against pop-up shops. It was directly correlated with my inquiry. We just wanted to park in front of a shop. We checked to see if we needed a permit to do it. I tried to educate them, but nobody wanted to hear about it."

Despite that bit of a road block, things have been "rolling" right along! In fact, you can shop the "Labor of Love Rolling Yarn Store" at the Fiber Expo in Saline, set for Oct. 27-28, on the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, 5055 Ann Arbor Saline Road, Ann Arbor. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun. The cash only admission fee is $4 ($6 both days), and free for children 12 and younger. 

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Labor of Love Rolling Yarn Store at (586) 246-4724, or on Facebook. Email: laborofloveyarn@yahoo.com.