If you're a knitter in a suburb or small town in Middle Tennessee, or even a Nashville neighborhood, the recent recession likely hit you hard — not (necessarily) because you lost your job or had to belt-tighten at home, but because your local yarn shop (LYS) closed its doors.
Every day the staff at the 10-year-old Haus of Yarn on White Bridge Road hears pleas to open an additional location in [fill-in-the-blank]. But it wasn't realistic for owner Carolyn Smith to hang a shingle in Gallatin, Monteagle, Donelson and everywhere else customers miss having a friendly neighborhood LYS.
After learning about a mobile yarn shop that was making the rounds in Los Angeles, Smith and Meg Strong, then assistant manager of the shop, set to work on plans for Haus of Yarn to Go. They bought a 27-foot van and spent six months outfitting it with clean, well-designed cubbies, racks for hanging knitting needles and crochet hooks, a full-length mirror and even a coffee maker. Affectionately called "The Yarn Bus," this climate-controlled knitters' paradise on wheels started cruising the streets on Nov. 2 at the Fiber in the 'Boro Festival.
"We want to bring fine fibers and the love of fine fibers to these communities," says Strong, who lists silk, mink, alpaca, cotton and cashmere among the many all-natural fine fibers she stocks in the mobile shop.
Strong, who grins about her new title, "yarn bus driver," takes the fully equipped mobile shop on the road Tuesday through Sunday. The schedule, which includes weekly stops in East Nashville, Lebanon and Hendersonville, is posted on the store's website and on social media (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), and also includes a handful of monthly excursions, including Monteagle and Jackson, where Strong says knitters have been vocal on Ravelry, a social networking site for crocheters and knitters. On Nov. 30, the Yarn Bus will join the What the Truck mobile fashion event in East Nashville.
The mobile shop accepts credit cards and checks (no cash, please), and stocks a variety of weights of all-natural yarns, plus needles, patterns and knitting accessories. Strong is available for knitting instruction and help and will wind yarn for customers when the bus isn't busy (although some days it's been busy enough that folks have had to wait to get on). The bus accepts gift certificates and returns from the store (and vice versa) and punches the frequent buyer card.
The inventory is well-curated: In addition to the all-natural yarns (including local wool and proprietary yarns), there are proprietary patterns for scarves and other projects that take only a few skeins of yarn. (Some patterns can be downloaded for free online.) Plenty of knitted models on display provide inspiration. Other products include locally made wooden swifts to wind yarn at home, Knitknotes gift enclosure cards, tote bags and more. Because Strong has the entire Haus of Yarn inventory available to the bus, she can add merchandise by request on a daily basis. "We want customers to be able to walk away with a complete package," she says.
Strong is planning to add mobile classes, private parties and other special events on the bus in the near future. For more information, visit hausofyarn.com.