JOCELYNN BROWN

Handmade: Woolly & Co. is dream come true for knitter

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Imagine being a mom and a passionate knitter who works 13 hours a week at a yarn shop with dreams of someday owning your own place for people to gather, “create, connect and unwind,” in a “homey” upscale setting filled with irresistible yarns.

Well, that was once Aviva Susser, until one day, with courage and “a good, supportive husband” (Steven), the Birmingham mother of two teenage boys learned dreams do come true, and they’re not always that far away – literally.

Last December, Susser opened a 1,700-square-foot yarn studio, Woolly&Co. (147 Pierce in downtown Birmingham), just three blocks away from her home, which affords her the opportunity to “save a lot of money on gas” because she’s able to walk to work.

Realizing her dream has been somewhat unbelievable. “I actually pinched myself,” recalls Susser, 45. “I can’t believe this is my store. It’s very exciting. It has a fireplace, and when you come in it’s very warm and inviting and very light. I put in all daylight (lighting) in my store, so we can see what colors look like, and it’s homey in the sense that the chairs are very comfortable. Everything is very designer. It has exposed concrete floors, and exposed brick, as well. We kept the walls so that it’s reminiscent of the old building.”

And whether you’re a beginner or advanced knitter/crocheter, everyone is given the same “service and attention” after being greeted at-the-door by “Ginger,” Susser’s Pomeranian who accompanies her to the shop every morning. “She’s my little greeter,” says Susser.

Once inside the shop, she says, it’s like being on a mini vacation for customers, who can then “relax and have a nice cup of coffee or tea, and things to eat, because no one wants to knit hungry. The only things they need to pay for are yarn and needles.”

Originally from New York, where she worked as a retail manager, Susser finds owning the shop to be an extension of her experience in the clothing business. “This is still in the fashion industry, but now I call it slow fashion because you’re knitting them yourself,” she says.

And, there’s a price point for yarn to fit practically every budget – from $7 for a ball of soft Baby Bamboo to $198 for a large ball of Loopy Mango (Merino wool), “enough to make a big throw.”

Beth Zoller, once a knitting student of Susser’s at another yarn shop, says she stocks her studio with the kind of wool she’s interested in using. “She gets some of her stuff from Wool and the Gang, and a lot of other shops were not willing to go there. It’s just a little out of the box,” explains the Huntington Woods resident, who used to order the yarn from England.

The exquisite yarn and techniques taught at Woolly&Co give Windsor resident Angie Santarossa a reason to visit weekly. “It’s brought knitting to another level. It’s given me the opportunity to knit with the most luxurious yarns,” she says, adding that “No YouTube or Internet can compete” with Aviva. “She brings her own style to knitting and her creativity to the studio, and that’s why it’s worth me crossing the border.”

The shop has four knitting instructors and weekly two-hour classes running four weeks at $60. Other activities include open knitting/crocheting, Wine and Unwind (held every first Wednesday), knitting/crocheting workshops and knitting celebrations for birthdays, brides-to-be, etc., that include a project for guests, sometimes created by Susser, who’s been designing patterns with the “Aviva flair” since learning to knit more than 30 years ago.

Susser’s plans for the future include Sunday afternoon workshops for children, and perhaps opening a yarn shop in Detroit! “I really, really, really want to open a downtown Detroit shop,” she enthuses. And what a welcome addition that would be for knitters/crocheters who have to travel miles to reach the nearest yarn shop!

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

Contact Woolly&Co. (147 Pierce, Birmingham) at (248) 480-4354, woollyandco.com, email: info@woollyandco.com, or on Facebook.