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Handspun Yarns: Home sweet home

Oct 17th, 2014 | Category: Crafts

by Jessamyn Tuttle

BELLINGHAM – If you’re into yarn, then all yarn stores are addictive, but NW Handspun in downtown Bellingham is particularly dangerous. The main floor is stuffed with yarn and notions, while the upstairs loft holds combed fleece, spinning wheels and looms, plus a comfortable sitting circle for knitters. Large windows let in plenty of light, and Esse the shop dog adds a homelike feel. It’s the kind of place you could easily get used to spending time in. The friendly ambience is a conscious choice by owner Meg Jobe.

Owner Meg Jobe (center, above) and crew at Northwest Handspun Yarns, offering a variety of yarn, fleece, tools and more. PHOTOS BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Owner Meg Jobe (center, above) and crew at Northwest Handspun Yarns, offering a variety of yarn, fleece, tools and more. PHOTOS BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Self-described “yarn maven” Jobe bought her first spinning wheel in her early 20s. She had been working as a woodworking teacher, but discovering fiber changed her direction completely. “I didn’t know how to knit or crochet or weave,” she said. “I saw that spinning wheel and knew I had to learn how to use it.”

After taking an intensive 10-week course in spinning, she moved on to other fiber arts like knitting and weaving, and when NW Handspun opened in Bellingham ten years ago she began working there immediately. Five years later she took over the business herself.

The shop offers yarn of all kinds, from basic knitting wool to fancy, multicolored yarns in silk or cashmere, as well as less common items like carded wool for spinning and weaving yarn on cones. It also carries equipment for every application: spinning wheels, looms, carding equipment and rughooking supplies. Jobe tries to offer a wide color selection for every yarn she carries. “We’re meeting people’s needs with a depth of inventory,” she said.

Still, for Jobe, it’s not just about yarn, it’s about people. “The thing that keeps me really curious is that hobbies such as these can create a community,” she said. “That aspect for me is what pulled me in.” For many new arrivals to Bellingham, the yarn store is their first stop. “They’re looking for their people,” said Jobe, likening the fiber arts community to a non-denominational church. NW Handspun by Jessamyn Tuttle web

To foster that sense of community, the yarn store hosts open knitting circles twice a week (there’s also a group that meets at The Shakedown, a local music venue, on Sundays.) People can bring whatever project they’re working on, from knitting and crochet to spinning or tatting, ask for advice or show off completed projects. They also offer free classes twice a week: one for crochet and another for knitting. Classes are free because Jobe feels that a skill like knitting ought to be available to everyone, not just those with money, but anyone in search of help with particular skills can sign up for reasonably priced private lessons.

Jobe employs about seven people, and takes her responsibilities as an employer seriously. “What impact do we have?” she asked. “I start with my employees. I like to create a collaborative environment.”

She attributes the shop’s appeal to every employee making a contribution. She is very aware of the importance of the customer experience, and she and her staff try to make their shop welcoming without being overbearing. “We have an ethic in this store.”

She has made a strong effort to source “fresh local sustainable yarn”. As much of her stock as possible is American grown and spun, and some comes from more immediate sources, like Spin Cycle Yarn and Huckleberry Knits in Bellingham, or the Pacific Northwest Llama Fiber Cooperative. “[We want] more product that we know its history,” said Jobe. “We’re getting an increased awareness of sourcing…customers are interested in that.”

Around the holidays they may sell hats and scarves and other handmade items, but their focus is on giving people their own tools. weaving yarn at NW Handspun by Jessamyn Tuttle web

“If we match somebody up with what they want we feel pretty victorious,” she said.

NW Handspun Yarns is located at 1401 Commercial St. in Bellingham. Call (360) 738-0167 or visit www.nwhandspunyarns.com.

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