Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Birthday to Us!

Ten years ago this month, Kim and I started Stitch Your Art Out.

Many of you have been with us the whole time. Others have joined us more recently. Let me tell you about a bit of our history, and please join me in either reminiscing--or learning a little more about us!

Kim and I met in a writing class that I was teaching at Penn State. (She was taking a few classes just for fun, and serendipitously happened into mine.) She always wrote about interesting things, and often about fabric or color. For obvious reasons, I enjoyed her papers.

After the class ended, we stayed in touch and became friends. We soon thereafter thought it might be a great idea to own a knitting and quilting shop.

People often ask me if I've always wanted to own a store. The answer is that it had intrigued me for much of my life. So in the late 1980s, thinking that I wanted a gift shop, I bought a book called Run Your Own Store. I started reading, and determined within a few pages that running my own store sounded like a horrible job. I threw the book away without finishing it, and continued teaching for the next 15 years.


When we started Stitch Your Art Out, I thought that maybe I should buy that old book again to learn what to do. But I decided not to; sometimes you know in your gut that ignorance is bliss, and that bliss is a great choice. 

And so we began putting together a business plan. (One detail that we never did get around to: "We will keep a basket of magazines for husbands:  Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, a current newspaper." Sorry, dudes.)

Even back then, however, we wanted Kaffe Fassett fabrics and Mountain Colors yarn. We still love them both; our vision, sans Sports Illustrated, has remained consistent.

The business plan took a back seat soon thereafter; we were quickly overwhelmed with simply getting our shop up and running! Things had happened faster than we expected, and on our opening day, we looked like this:

On that same day, we got our first sign. We didn't have time to go to a professional sign maker, so we used my Kevin. He made it by printing letters on laminated paper via a laser printer. He even found a quilty heart and some clip-art yarn--see bottom-right corner:

I knew that the store was going to look mighty bare, so I went out and bought two large vases of flowers to make things look a little more "filled in." You can see them here on each end of the table (Hi, Kim! Awesome white sneakers!): 

We had no phone line, and cell service was tricky in Pine Grove Mills. With my Sprint phone, which worked only on the back porch (about half the time, if the wind was blowing in the right direction) we made some phone calls to companies, and at last the yarn and fabric began rolling in. 


Remember this? 

This was from September 2003, when we held our first event--our grand opening! That side, which is all fabric now, was the whole store. Our office area was on the other side, where the yarn is now. There was a kitchen back in there--remember it? (Sorry, no photographic documentation.)

'Round about November, we decided that we were getting established and should write a brochure for the Visitor's Center. We had a random customer take our picture. I'm not sure that this is the one we used, but it was the best of the bunch. Kim had checked a mirror and primped her hair right before the shot. I thought that it wouldn't matter whether I did that or not.

While I am often cheerful, I had no idea that I could possibly even form such a smile. 

Awesome white collar and cuffs, Kim. 


Remember how computer monitors looked in 2005? 

We had a whole handful of buttons!

This was also the year of the scarf craze! Kim made a particular fuzzy black scarf with colorful eyelash held in it (far left in the picture below). I can't tell you just how many balls of yarn we sold for that scarf! We used to see people wearing them all over town!

We sadly don't have pictures of it, but we held an event that year called Scarf Fest. Scarf yarn was hard to get, and we desperately called all our distributors and got whatever colors they had of whatever scarf yarn we could find. We bought bag after bag of yarn. We excitedly hid all the yarn in the back closet and made a big fuss over how we were going to surprise everyone with our huge selection the night of Scarf Fest. 

Scarf Fest was to begin at 6:00. At 5:30, we locked the doors and covered all the windows to do our secret work. We took the yarn out from the back, and started unbagging it and putting it on the back table. Quickly we realized that it would never all fit nicely. So we started heaping it! 

At 6:00, we had a line at the door. We opened up, and the customers rushed in! They took one look at the heap of the yarn, became incredibly confused ... and all ran past it to buy their normal yarns that were on the shelves! 


Anyone remember the trend in hairpin lace? Lots of you took that class! Here is Kim at a trade show in 2006, wearing the hairpin-lace shawl she made:

(In the same picture, you can also see another great, but discontinued yarn, Oceania. And another--Sinsation.)

Our shop started to take shape by 2006 as well. Back then, we hung some of the yarn on grids. (They only fell over once or twice.) There are no words that could explain our display of a heap of fabric bundles on the floor.

Kim and I started out using mainly grid-cubes to hold our yarn. Did any of you buy these hand-dyed yarns from Steadfast Fibers? Sadly, they are out of business. But their yarns were beautiful!

I feel as if I must apologize for a moment. I'm showing you discontinued things as I reminisce. 

But don't be sad! I have learned over the years that there are so many beautiful yarns and fabrics that take the place of the discontinued ones. It gets better and better. Our yarns and fabrics today are the best we have ever had.

By 2007, we started getting rid of the grids. What a relief! (We have always built every shelf in our store, by the way.We know our way around Lowe's and Ikea pretty well.) Behold the new Ikea Billy shelf for yarn:

And by 2007, look at all the fabric!

I like seeing this picture. By now, we're starting to take shape. But isn't it interesting how much brighter our colors are today than back then? (Compare this to the fabric in the next picture.) At the time, however, our shop was radical! Quilters didn't know what to do with such contemporary fabrics! 

Oh, I should say here that many people have been telling me lately that they don't remember the color of the carpet before. You can see it in the above picture--kind of a brown. (If you look back through this blog entry, you'll see the many attempts I made through the years at covering the brown carpeting, none of which really worked!)

At that point, while there were certainly refinements to come, we had a store that was very much like the one we have today.

So let's fast-forward 5 years, and look at us today! If you're from out of town, this is your first glimpse of our latest incarnation! We were so happy that we were able to spiff up again just before our 10th anniversary!

And just look at all those buttons:

So that is our story. Despite all the fumbling--or actually because of it--we have had a lot of fun over the years. To me, that's the only thing that counts. I wouldn't change a thing about our little journey.

....Except maybe that time in New Jersey when we were driving a huge, yellow Penske rental truck, were starving, pulled up to a high-end restaurant, and Kim leaned over me to call to the valet, "Is this a dress-up place?"


Our anniversary celebration is the best we have ever had. It will run just a few more days, through June 15, so stop by soon! Be sure to pick up a Stitch Your Art Out tape measure!

Kim and I are grateful for all of you--for all the loyalty, love, and kindness you have shown us throughout the years. Before we owned a business, we never knew that these words were not a cliche at all--but instead, so literally true: "Without you, we wouldn't be here." Thank you so very, very much.

We look forward to many more years with you.