Handmade: Threadbender Yarn Shop marks 35th year
Threadbender Yarn Shop is one such store in Michigan that has long stood the test of time. And to celebrate its 35th anniversary, general manager Becca Anderson, will treat customers to cake, door prizes, and the chance to purchase commerorative items, and yarn she and her mother hand-dyed for the special event, set for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 4. The shop is located at 5570 Wilson, S. W., Suite B, in Grandville.
Anderson, 42, may very well be one of few store managers who spent part of her childhood "hiding under the counter doing her homework" in the business she now operates. The shop was a dream come true for her mother, Juliane Anderson, who started the successful business May 1, 1984, when her daughter was just 7.
"I would hang out sometimes under the counter, and sometimes in the back room," recalls Anderson, who lives in Wyoming. "The bus dropped me off right at the mall, and I would just go to Threadbender and do my homework, or sometimes customers would come in and we would play cards." A lot of those customers, she said, have remained loyal to the shop to this day.
Anderson was 8 when her maternal grandmother taught her how to knit, but she didn't get hooked on crocheting until three or four years ago, after becoming general manager when her mother retired. "I was inspired (to crochet) by the business because we like to specialize in as many fiber arts as we can," she said. "Crocheting is a lot faster. I also spin, weave, dye and felt -- all types of felting."
She said, her mother's retirement was a "slow progression," however, she still goes into the shop on Wednesdays to teach weaving for a few hours. She even teaches free-form knitting, and has won awards for some of her pieces. She also joins the social knitting group on Thursdays.
All five staff members are instructors, and classes are available to children, as well. "There's not really an age limit on our classes, other than some of the more complicated ones," said Anderson. "We also offer custom classes. (For instance), a few months ago, a mother and her four daughters came in to learn how to knit."
With just 1,450 square feet, there's a lot of "shuffling around with class tables and looms," but the staff has found a way to make it all work. "We have nine looms on the floor that we use for our weaving class. We also have two spinning wheels (in the shop) right now -- mine and my mother's." They're there for customers to try out before placing an order.
Longtime customers have continued to patronize the shop, even after its recent move a few miles from the original location in Wyoming, where it had been 33 1/2 years. Anderson said, "In September of 2017, we moved to our current location. The strip mall was purchased, and there was going to be a lot of construction. Our building was run down a bit, and we didn't want to be in the construction zone."
Anderson believes the success of Threadbender is the result of "great customer service" and its big selection of merchandise. "We get compliments on our customer service regularly, and we carry a pretty wide variety of yarns and products. We try to carry some local fiber artists' products, and we have locally-sourced wool roving from two different farms. We also have a couple ladies who do their own dying of fiber.
"We're friendly, and it's a good atmosphere. People love the vive when they walk in, as well as our knowledge. We have a staff that's knowledgeable in so many fiber art areas. The majority of our customers are knitters, but weaving is growing, and crocheting is growing."
She credits the internet for the growing interest in arts and crafts. "I think Pinterest probably helps people see something on there they want to make, and that works for crafts, as well as fiber arts," she remarked. "There's something really satisfying about taking a ball of yarn, and in a few months, you have a sweater."
Last August, Anderson created a Web store for Threadbender (threadbenderinc.com), and said, so far, it's going well, even though she hasn't done "a ton of marketing," other than to existing customers because she's still in the process of adding products.
In a growing world of fiber artists, Anderson is looking forward to someday expanding the business and having a larger weaving studio.
Threadbender Yarn Shop
(5570 Wilson, S.W., Suite B, Grandville)
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is alongtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.