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Handmade: Country Needleworks fills need for 38 years

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
Social knitting time.

When the fabric and yarn shop Cheryl Van Haitsma and Barb Langerak worked for went out of business in 1980, they sensed a void in their crafting community.

There was no longer a place for needlearts enthusiasts to shop, gather and exchange creative ideas. Something needed to be done, so the following year, the two crafters joined forces and opened Country Needleworks. And, after nearly four decades, the doors are still open! 

"We basically started as a yarn and cross-stitch shop, but now we're mostly yarn, and we still have cross-stitch, but we've added beading, stamping and giftware," said Van Haitsma, who lives in Marne. "We even had quilting when we opened, but we don't anymore. We stopped because a large chain fabric store moved in next to us."

Classes are offered for each of the different craft departments in the shop, which operates with 4,500 square feet, at 584 Chicago, #2, in Jenison. 

The mostly yarn shop caters to both knitters and crocheters. It even carries a collection of crocheting patterns, and some of the knitting patterns are created by its own "resident designer." They're designed by the son of one of the ladies who works at the store, and Country Needleworks has "exclusive rights to his knitting patterns."

Having been in business for 38 years, Van Haitsma attributes their success to listening to what customers, mostly women ages 40-80, have to say about their products. 

"We like to know what they want, and what they would like to see in our shop. We usually like to try and have our (yarn) reps come on Wednesday morning because our big knitting group is here, and we ask them, 'Is this a yarn you would buy?' They want to know price points, so they're very helpful to us, and they always like to see new things that might be coming in."

Some of the over 500 models  on display.

Plymouth Yarn is considered to be their staple yarn because "everybody does afghans and baby things out of Plymouth." Van Haitsma said, "We also carry a lot of hand-dyed yarns, (including) Malibrigo and Madelinetosh, and, we're a flagship store for yarns like Neighborhood Fiber Co., Dragonfly Fibers, and Barn Yard Knits."

Excitement filled her voice as she spoke about their large selection of needles. "We carry Addi Knitting and Addi Turbo, and all the Addi sets. We also have Hiya Hiya knitting needles in metal, sharp, wooden and bamboo. We have Lykke, a driftwood needle, and we carry Knitter's Pride, some are cubics in rosewood or metal. We also carry Zing's, and all the crochet hooks from different companies, including Susan Bates (yours truly's favorite!), Addi and bamboo hooks, as well!"

I asked Van Haitsma why she feels so many people are learning needlecrafts, especially knitting and crocheting. She thinks it's because they're starting to view them as an art form that their mothers and grandmothers once did, and they don't want them to become a dying art.

"Then, they saw all the beautiful yarns -- and the designs now are really great!" she added. "And, people like to say, 'I made it!'"

To assist customers with finding the perfect bag to carry their knitting and crocheting projects in, Van Haitsma and Langerak, who lives in Grand Rapids, hosted a trunk show just last week, featuring fabric totes, some with drawstrings, made by Mid-Mitten Designs. "She does beautiful work," said Van Haitsma.

And, although many knitting and crocheting bags are being used to carry the ever-popular socks, shawl and scarf projects, Van Haitsma said, "We've really educated people about sweater knitting. We have so many models in the store. When we get a new yarn in, we have a model, or sample, made out of it, so people can see how it knits up."

Owners Barb Langerak and Cheryl Van Haitsma.

The slide show on their webpage (countryneedleworks.net) shows a beautiful collection of stylish knitwear "models," and they're "just a few" of the 500 samples in the shop!

With so many forms of stitching at hand, Country Needleworks sounds like a wonderful place to unwind while being creative surrounded by fellow crafters!

Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon. through Fri., and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat. It's closed on Sundays.

Country Needleworks

(584 Chicago, #2, Jenison) at (616) 457-9410.

Email: sales@countryneedleworks.net.

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