Grins and Needles

Grins and Needles

T his is not your grandmother’s knitting circle.

Okay. Maybe your grandmother does knit. And maybe there are actual grandmothers in attendance at The Yarn Barn’s “Knit With Friends,” a casual knitting event held every Wednesday afternoon from 2 p.m. on.

But it’s a point of the weekly get-together to make knitting—once thought of as an antisocial, uninspired and just plain boring activity—enticing to everyone, whether an eighty-year-old woman or her eight-year-old grandchild.

And it seems to be working. Today’s knitters are a motley and enthusiastic crew, if the clientele at the Woodbridge business is any indication. The place is hopping, with the bell on the front door signaling a new customer at a frequent clip and a steady stream of phone calls for the Barn’s mail-order business.

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Upon entering the store, you’re reasonably likely to meet twenty-four-year-old Brittany Perry. Her mother, Arabella, has run the business for over 20 years, but rather than shunning a craft she grew up identifying with her mom’s generation, Brittany’s embraced it, working at the store and knitting regularly herself. And she’s not the only one—she’s taught several friends to knit, and says she sees all ages (both women and men) come through the door of The Yarn Barn. “A lot of the older generation teach the younger generation,” she says.

That sort of interaction is what “Knit With Friends” is all about. Alice Faber, who attends the gathering as often as possible, says she looks forward to “bouncing ideas off others,” as well as simply spending quality time with other knitters who have become true friends thanks to the weekly sessions. Open to the public, anyone working on a project is welcome to bring it along and, as the Yarn Barn’s website urges, “Stay as long as you like!”

That invitation seems to extend to the store’s open hours in general. Even a non-knitter could understand why. The store is stacked with bins of yarn in colors from orange to hot pink to inky black, just begging you to reach out and touch the varying textures—which you can. Rough wools and feathery angora and everything in between.

When customers do come in with a specific idea in mind—The Yarn Barn has binders full of instructions for shawls, baby blankets, hats and plenty more—Arabella is quick to answer their questions or lead them to the right aisle.

More importantly, she’s created a popular haven for those who share the passion. The Yarn Barn caters to experienced and novice knitters alike, even those who have never before picked up a needle. In addition to the regular Wednesday knitting circle, the store offers classes and other events on a regular basis, geared to initiate new knitters or further educate those who are more advanced. Recent offerings have included a “Learn to Knit: The Scarf” class ($30), “Crochet a Cowl” class ($40) and the “S.O.S. Help” sessions on Thursday nights, for assistance on current projects ($10). Private classes are available for those looking for individual attention.

The benefits of knitting, too, apply to those of all levels, whether it’s someone knitting a simple solid-color scarf or someone knitting the most complicated patterned sweater. “It’s a very soothing thing,” Arabella says of the activity. For one thing, “A lot of people enjoy the feel of yarn in their hands.” There’s also a simple joy in the repetitions of knitting, and in giving someone a gift that you’ve made with your own hands (even if that someone is yourself).

The effort involved makes the satisfaction that much sweeter; knitting can be hard work, and following the rules is important. Making a mistake might mean undertaking painstaking recovery efforts, which could be the reason a novice knitter might throw in the towel, especially if they’re making a towel.

That’s where knitting with knowledgeable friends comes in. Even repair efforts are fun when you’re in good company. That kind of camaraderie is freely available Wednesday afternoons at The Yarn Barn, where fuzzy stacks of yarn, classical music and a steady stream of inquisitive customers make an excellent backdrop to the calming lull of conversation and helpful suggestions coming from the table at the front, participants each working on a solo effort, together.

The Yarn Barn
1666 Litchfield Turnpike (Route 69), Woodbridge (map)
Mon-Wed 11am-5pm, Thurs 11am-7pm, Fri 11am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm
(203) 389-5117 |

Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.


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Cara McDonough has been a journalist for over ten years. She writes regularly about family, parenting, religion and other issues for The Huffington Post and chronicles daily life on her personal blog. She lives in New Haven with her husband, two children and two dogs.

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