Handmade: Stitch in Time yarn shop has charming appeal
You never know where love will lead you. Just ask Charlene Hatfield, who fell "in love with knitting" in the late '80s, and by the early 90's had opened Stitch in Time, a yarn shop in downtown Howell.
The shop was recently voted "Best Local Yarn Shop" for 2019 in a contest hosted by Brew City Yarns in Wisconsin, that had "shops even out of the country in the running, including Canada," said Hatfield.
"I learned to knit two years before I opened the shop," said Hatfield, who was inspired to try her hand at the needleart after watching a woman knit.
"I was in a craft show one day with a friend selling sewing things. The lady across from us was knitting away without looking, making baby things. My little sister, Michelle, had (already) learned to knit, so I took lessons in a shop in Brighton. The first thing I knitted is the same slipper pattern I teach now in my beginner classes. My students start with slippers."
Stitch in Time, which opened in 1991, was originally "across the street and down a little ways" from its current location at 722 E. Grand River. "Then we bought this house," said Hatfield. "It was a rental house and it came up for sale. We gutted it down to the two by fours and had it bricked on the outside. We put in all new windows, an air conditioner, new plumbing and wiring. We live upstairs, which now has one bedroom. It used to be a four-bedroom house. There were three bedrooms upstairs."
The shop area is approximately 1,200 square feet, and well-stocked with gorgeous yarns, including specialty brands and some exclusive to Stitch in Time, all displayed in antique cabinets. "We have lots of antique cupboards in here. I found them all over the place. One is from England, and we have a buffet from Austria, and one from Italy. My husband, Randy, and I both love antiques."
Yarn is definitely the biggest selling item at the shop, but there are also fibers for cross-stitch and needlepoint, in addition to Rigid Heddle weaving looms. New customers are often amazed at the amount of yarn and other merchandise in the store. "(They) always say, "'Wow! you have a lot more in here than it seems from the outside," said Hatfield. "Everyone wonders how it's possible to fit more yarn in, but we always find a way!"
Customers come from all over Michigan, and even Ohio, to the quaint and inviting shop. "If you have a lot of yarn, people come and want to see what you have," said Hatfield, who does live Facebook posts, showing her opening boxes of new yarn to be sold in the shop. People respond to the posts by letting her know what they want.
Hatfield, a certified knitting instructor with the Yarn Council of America, said one of her favorite things about owning the shop is her classes because she has "awesome" students. "The way I do classes is not typical of most shops. Everyone does what they want. I do have students who have been coming for over 15 years. I just help them whenever they have a question."
Along with knitting, there are also classes in crocheting and weaving. "Classes are a great time for everyone to enjoy each other's company and to receive inspiration from the many projects we are all working on. It's just a lot of fun and many times, we have homemade treats and wine tastings for the adult students!"
Last year, to make stitching together even more fun and exciting, Hatfield decided to start putting together group trips that include visiting yarn shops, sightseeing and doing needlearts together in faraway places. For the first trip, which took place in 2018, a group of customers and friends joined her on a journey to Kenya and Tanzania, which turned out to be her "favorite trip ever!"
Earlier this month, she and a group traveled to Scotland, where they visited local yarn shops and enjoyed a presentation by knitwear designer Lucy Hague, known for her textured creations. Plans for next year's journey to South Africa with Johannesburg & Victoria Falls Extension are already in the making, and anyone interested in joining Hatfield on the trip should call the shop at (517) 546-0769 for more information.
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Stitch in Time (722 E. Grand River, Howell) at (517) 546-0769, stitchintimemi.com or on Facebook. Email: email@example.com.