Yarn Shop Finds Its Knitting Niche
Local knitters addicted to Unwind on Post Road.
Jeanne Silag is never alone at Unwind, her yarn shop next to Sienna in Benny’s Plaza at 5600 Post Road. There are always knitters sitting around the table in the middle of the store.
If a new customer comes in and asks for some help, it often comes from the people at the table and sometimes that person is absorbed into the group.
Knitting, it turns out, has a huge social component. Silag says it is a hobby that turns into a community. Some of the people are at the table every day. Others show up every couple of days.
Some just like to knit. Some are caretakers for family members and knitting plus the give and take of the group give them a needed break from the stress of that routine.
The store’s youngest customer is 8 and the oldest is 89. People around the table usually fall into the 30 to 70 year old range.
Silag went into the knitting business about a year and a half ago. She had been considering buying an existing shop, but when she saw the space was available she grabbed it. She says she built a shop just for her, putting in what she liked and felt was missing at other stores.
She says she was smart in that she grabbed some of the best knitting instructors in the state, Karen Bottomley, Merissa Shindell and Gretchen Pickard.
There is competition from other knitting shops as well as the big fabric and hobby stores. She says the big stores sell to the masses and she has yarns that compete with their prices, starting at $3 a skein. But she considers her store a high end shop, with yarn up to $60 a skein.
“I try to give people yarns they haven’t seen, or are just lovely to knit with,” she says. “I have yarn from a young woman in Canada who dyes in her house. I’m the only one in the US carrying her yarn. Everyone loves it.”
Silag believes in finding unique products and wants to be the first store and if possible, the only store, with a new product.
Using her marketing background, she creates events that draw in knitters.
The “Yarn Tasters” on the third Thursday of every month pulls in up to 50 people. Because of fire codes that’s all she can handle.
She and her instructors pick a theme, choose several yarns and knit up small projects. The presentation takes about a half-hour followed by a big yarn party and cake. It starts at 6:30, but some people show up at 2:00 to get a seat. At first about 15 people showed up, but the crowd grew. One night she had to buy extra chairs from Benny’s.
A customer who thought it would be fun to get together for the holidays suggested what developed into the biggest event so far, a knitters lunch and 2011 preview at Sienna on Sunday. Originally it was planned for 38 people, but sold out with 62.
Silag and her instructors worked for weeks getting ready. On the big day they presented the schedule of major classes for the new year and displayed their project ideas.
Even the old art of knitting gets new ideas from the internet at www.ravelry.com. Created by knitters for knitters, it offers a wide variety of help and ideas. Silag has her own page there, sort of a social networking concept where her customers post pictures of themselves and their projects.
Because her aunts have alzheimers, as did her mother, Silag works as a volunteer with patients who have the disease.
“It’s a motor skill”, she says, “once you get them going they do fine.
She added, "If they stop they forget and you have to start them again. They get so excited when they make something, but then put it down and don’t remember or believe they made it. One woman died and her family found a drawer full of scarves they didn’t know about because she couldn’t remember to tell them.”
For Silag, like her customers, knitting is addictive.
“We are very enthusiastic, and buy yarn even through we already have a house full,” she said, “We knit every day. We have to knit every day.”