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Think of the countless times we've seen someone knitting or crocheting with yarn we'd love to have in our stash. There's usually something about the look, feel, texture and drape that captures our attention.

"People always covet other people's yarn," said Toledo, Ohio, resident Tracey Maris. "You see someone with nice yarn and you want it."

That's how she and business partner Candy Fink of Sylvania, Ohio, came up with the name for their shop -- Yarn Envy, at 4570 Sterns in Ottawa Lake. The two had worked together at a bead shop in Toledo  and later opened their business in October 2009.

"We (also) worked for someone who owned a yarn shop in Lamberville, and when she went out of business, we figured we could have our own yarn shop," explained Maris. "We are actually inside a place that's a huge green house. We rent space in there. It's a very large building that has a green house and garden supply. It's an unusual combination. The building has a lot of natural light and we have 8 -foot tables for people to sit and knit. We have Open Knit all day, three times a week -- Monday (noon-5 p.m.), Wednesday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) -- and it's free!"

Fink said, "It gives them a chance to see what other projects people are working on. It's just a form for them to get together and meet new people, and help each other. It gets you out of the house to be with other women who have similar hobbies. But people are welcome any time to come sit and knit." 

Maris and Fink are both knitters who each have some crocheting skills. "We have knitting and crocheting at the shop, but we have people who can teach crocheting classes for us. We have four employees who come in and teach crocheting and knitting. One teacher is exclusively crochet, and the three others teach knitting -- anywhere from beginning knitting up to sweater projects."

Because knitting is seemingly more popular than crocheting, I asked Maris to shed some light on the subject.

"There's probably more knitting patterns for one, and crochet tends to be a little thicker. Knitting has more patterning in it, so it gets a different look. Crochet almost looks like it's chained. Knitting has different stitches. Crochet recently has kind of come back because there are new patterns that are more delicate, and they're now kind of mixing crocheting with knitting. The crocheted edging gives it (knitted fabric) a more lacey look."

Maris, 61, learned to knit when she was 8, and is, therefore, well-aware of the role technology has played in the yarn/needleart industry. She said, "There's different types of equipment. Now you have circular needles. As technology changes, the needles have changed. It's easier to knit with the present equipment that's available."

Most of Yarn Envy's customers are women, including young mothers. "I have some in their 30s - moms who knit for their kids. For Open Knit, I have mostly retired women because they have the time to sit. The younger ones tend to get yarn and take it home to knit." A few men frequent the shop, as well, to purchase yarn for their weaving projects. 

Customers come from all over to shop at Yarn Envy. "A lot come from Toledo, Ohio, but we do have people from Detroit and Grosse Ile. I get some from Ann Arbor and Monroe," said Maris. "It's proof that people will travel a distance to get yarn."

Popular brand names sold in the shop include Berroco, Plymouth, Noro, Cascade and Malibrigo. "We work with all the major brands, but we also work with some smaller companies that dye their own yarn," said Fink. "Sock yarn is real popular right now."  

I'm always curious to know what projects are trending among knitters and crocheters, so I asked Maris. "People have always continued to knit socks. People love to knit socks. It's portable, and you can have a pair in a month," she stated. "But, right now, we've had this surge of people knitting hats (yours truly's favorite thing to make). Hats are the trend right now, but socks have always been the constant."

Along with classes for learning to knit socks and hats, Yarn Envy has also offered lessons for making top-down sweaters, beginner sweaters and Christmas stockings. 

Business for the shop has been "good," thanks, in part, to the annual I-75 Yarn Crawl, a 10-day event that's held every year in August, with yarn enthusiasts traveling from shop to shop. Maris said, "The Yarn Crawl is definitely a real boost for us in the fall because most start knitting in September. It's a big season for us. We've already gotten in most of our fall and winter yarn."  

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 Yarn Envy (4570 Sterns, Ottawa Lake) at (734) 856-1015 or yarnenvy.com. Email: office@yarnenvy.com. 

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