SHELBURNE, Vt. — Shop owners of Must Love Yarn are leveraging the podcast medium to eke out a profit and boost local products.
Knitting underwent a cultural shift in the last decade, moving from pastoral lady’s hobby to hipster occupation and activist tool. And as social media grew, fiber arts podcasts and apps have developed a following
The local brick and mortar Shelburne Road shop is getting in on the action.
The store sits just before the Shelburne Town sign. It’s got light, space, a cozy area for classes and all the colors yarn lovers swoon for.
The owners, Kelly Otty, Angela Zaikowski and Jennifer Arbuckle, met at a knitting circle at the Charlotte Library. The social aspect of knitting was part of their vision for the shop, as was championing local fiber products from farms, spinners and dyers.
Zaikowski and Arbuckle have other jobs, as a lawyer and an architect, respectively; Otty works full time at the shop.
“We knew from the beginning that we wanted a community of knitters,” Arbuckle said on Nov. 29 at a free mixed-level fiber circle that meets in the back of the shop on Wednesdays and Sundays. The store hasn’t yet turned a profit, though Arbuckle said it pays for itself.
The crafting subculture is worth about $1 billion a year, according to the Craft Yarn Council’s 2014 report. And over 1 million crafters sold $2.84 billion in products on Etsy, an online craft store, according to Etsy’s own count.
Ravelry, an online fabric arts community, launched in 2007 and there are now 12,294 groups with over a million members in the U.S. and another million members worldwide.
Vermont has 65 Ravelry groups with 8,479 members.
The subculture is deep and greedy for fresh products from “indie dyers” like Burlington’s own Legacy Fiber Artz, run by Chelsea Zachorewitz and her mother. The two women have a podcast, LegacyKnitz, that has close to 9,000 international followers.
Knitters at Must Love Yarn’s Wednesday group said they followed dozens of yarn blogs and podcasts, like The Yarn Horder.
Yarn podcasts, many of which can be viewed on Youtube, are a way fiber freaks can connect to trends while they commute, according to Zaikowski. Otty added that some people can’t come to their free fiber nights, so the shop brings it to them via social media.
The Must Love Yarn podcast owes its rapid growth of almost 3,000 subscribers over the past year to the popularity of the LegacyKnitz ladies, according to Otty.
“They have a really big following,” Otty said on Nov. 27 as she and Zaikowski showed off walls filled with local and regional products that they said people travel from as far as Maryland to purchase.
Vermont in 2012 produced about 100,000 pounds of sheep- and lambswool, an increase of about 20,000 pounds from 2007, according to USDA data.
But there are no wool-barons in Vermont. The total worth of Vermont’s raw sheep- and lambswool in 2012 was $65,000.
But an “indie-dyed” skein of yarn can cost $18 to $30 at Must Love Yarn. This leaves room for the sellers to find a profit — eventually.
Since Burlington’s yarn store Nido closed in October, there are fewer places to find indie products. Craft stores in South Burlington such as Michael’s and Joann Fabric sell Lion Brand and other national commercial yarns. The only other craft shop in Chittenden County selling local products is the Northeast Fiber Arts Center in Williston. The center has online classes but no podcast.
Those looking for yarn on a budget shouldn’t be discouraged, Otty said. The shop carries yarn for most budgets and sells washable nylon blends which are favored for children’s garments.
Otty said the knit-curious need not be shy. She’s ready for questions.
“Everyone needs to start somewhere and that’s what the local store should be for,” Otty said. …
Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com