Borrowing lyrics from the post-war Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!, the yarn is “as high as an elephant’s eye!”
Needles in the Hay, the local yarn shop on Water Street in downtown Peterborough, is about to add a long-sought addition to its flock: the store is preparing to stock the famous Brooklyn Tweed woolen yarns, in a move that is exciting customers near and far.
“We’ve been working on this plan for months,” says Needles in the Hay owner Deanna Guttman. “Brooklyn Tweed doesn’t want a retailer to just dip a toe in, so it took quite a bit of business planning to make this happen. I’m so excited about it.”
Guttman, who is also the fulltime executive director of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra, bought the six-year-old yarn shop — dubbed “the preeminent destination for Kawartha’s knitting needs” — from store founder Bridget Allin in the summer of 2016.
“I wanted to continue with Bridget’s vision to provide high quality, good value natural-fiber yarns paired with experienced staff,” Guttman says. “Adding Brooklyn Tweed seemed like a natural choice.”
Brooklyn Tweed is a flagship American design house and yarn manufacturer that specializes in woolen yarn that is grown and manufactured domestically. It positions itself as a contemporary choice within the growing movement of traditional hand-knitting, providing exquisitely constructed patterns to accompany its selection of highly sought yarn.
In Canada, there are only seven other retail outlets, including two in Ontario, that carry Brooklyn Tweed. Needles in the Hay will become the third retail outlet in Ontario and the eighth in Canada.
It’s their sheep-to-skein philosophy that drew Guttman to Brooklyn Tweed, she says. The company prides itself on its practice of helping to sustain the tradition of U.S. textile production. While still rather young, Brooklyn Tweed has gathered momentum since its first 100% American-made wool yarn, Shelter, launched in 2010.
Now the company offers five wools in various weights. And Needles in the Hay will stock all five in plenty, Guttman says: 20 colours of Shelter, Loft, and Arbor, and seven colours in the Quarry and Vale lines.
Some of the 1,200 skeins she has on order will be displayed on a floor-to-ceiling cube wall that will replace the current six-foot high cubby shelf. The renovation is set for the last week of September — the shop will be closed from Sunday, September 24th to Friday, September 29th.
The launch of the newly renovated and stocked Needles in the Hay is set for Saturday, September 30th — just as the busiest knitting season of the year kicks off.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September 30th, Needles in the Hay will be giving away door prizes, providing a blocking demonstration, and hosting a sidewalk sale with a selection of yarns at 50 per cent off.
“I want people to come in and see an entire wall of yarn,” Guttman says, adding that arriving at a yarn shop to an “entire wall of yarn” is every knitter’s dream.
For many of the customers Guttman has come to know over the past year, Brooklyn Tweed will be a welcome addition.
“If they don’t already know it, they will fall in love with Brooklyn Tweed yarn and designs,” she says. “Our clientele are knitters who really care about where their yarn comes from, and design-wise, they want something a little challenging, something that pushes them a little. I’m really excited to share this with them.”
Guttman’s own knitting journey began only three years ago. Like many knitters, she learned the basic stitches from her mother, and the rest with the help from what is sometimes called a knitter’s best friend: YouTube.
“I love that knitting is meditative,” Guttman says. “I love that it’s a mix of creativity and logic, that it’s left brain and right brain.
It’s a great way to slow down after a busy day, to just reflect, recharge.”
And while some consider knitting a solo or independent endeavour, traditionally knitting has often been done in circles as a community-enriching activity.
That’s something Guttman fosters with a Tuesday evening knitting social called Purlez-Vous (7 to 9 p.m. each Tuesday evening at the store), with classes, and with what knitters lovingly refer to as “knit-a-longs” (KALs). Those are regularly advertised on the Needles in the Hay website at needlesinthehay.ca, and Guttman says there will be more coming once the Brooklyn Tweed renovation is complete.
As a hub for knitting socials, the store is a trove of tips and tricks for new and experienced knitters alike, Guttman says. It’s also a one-stop shop for any instruction or help a client may require on a specific project.
“We have a terrific balance of talent on our staff,” she says. Along with Guttman, Grace Mahoney provides artistic and technical help to crocheters and needle-felters, and Ethan Barclay-Ennew provides experience in knitting techniques, pattern realignment, and yarn choices.
“If you have questions about your project, or any project, you can lean on our knowledge,” Guttman says. “Knitters are special — it’s like we all speak a common language. Here, you’ll find someone who understands you.”
That reputation is serving Guttman well. In her first year, she doubled the stock in the shop and continues to grow the clientele.
“We have quite a following,” she says. “Knitters like to go on expeditions to find the best knitting shops. We find people will drive from Ottawa or Durham just to come into the shop. They say it’s worth the drive.
“So we’re already a bit of a destination store. Brooklyn Tweed is going to build on that.”
Needles in the Hay is located at 385 Water Street in downtown Peterborough. For more information, call 705-740-0667 or visit needlesinthehay.ca. You can also follow Needles in the Hay on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.