LYS Reflections: Wool & Honey
We remember exactly where we were when we first read about Jared Flood releasing his brand new yarn line Brooklyn Tweed into the world. Sitting in front of our office computer with a cup of coffee, we opened Clara Parkes' October 7th, 2010 installment of the Knitter's Review, and were simply blown away. This was Shelter's unveiling — its birth day — and until that very instant, we didn't know that the knitting world had been missing its cornerstone.
In 2010, beautiful yarn was having a moment. There were gorgeous, indie handpaints that, between high demand, low output, clunky internet shopping carts and ill-placed alarms, you could rarely get your hands on (Blue Moon Fiber Arts! Sundara! Sanguine Gryphon! Mama Blue!) Buttery-soft Malabrigo Worsted was popping up in yarn shops everywhere, bringing a depth to full-sized garments with the painterly concept of kettle-dyeing. Noro was nailing the ombré game, and to this day, we don't think there's anyone better at creating an epic fade. There were yarn shop staples — Cascade 220, Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride, Plymouth Galway — yarns that were steady, constant companions in wool shops everywhere, whether you were making a stop in Ashland or Tulsa. (A shout-out to fellow BT stockist, the dear Web-sters, a huge part of my life throughout the fall of 2002. I knit 21 hats while living on the Cascade-Siskiyou range for four months, and would come down the mountain to Ashland once a week for a wool fix. You're an incredibly important part of my personal wool story. Thank you for being there--then and now. -Melissa)
But. Brooklyn Tweed was something else. Is something else. It's tweedy and rustic and soothing and light and warm and toothy and comforting and full of memory. Memories of the sheep that grew the wool on their bodies, memories of the land that cultivated their pasture, memories of the dyers who measured and stirred and twisted the skeins with their hands, memories of the grandmother who taught you to cast on with straight wooden needles and red lambswool. Brooklyn Tweed was — and continues to be, with every painstakingly developed line, every nuanced colorway, every passing season — yarn that knitterly dreams are made of.
If only, we thought. If only we could be a Brooklyn Tweed flagship store, then. Well. That's when we'll be able to say that we've made a place for ourselves among Makers.
On that day, back in October 2010, we immediately emailed customer service at BT HQ to ask about a flagship opportunity, and the request was politely declined. A year later, we asked again. And the next. And so it went.
We continued to grow the shop, adding yarns and notions and bags and gifts, focusing all the while on thoughtful companies who add their own voice to the din of our little shop. But we were always, always, always thinking about Brooklyn Tweed, and how nice the yarns would look in this old-fashioned general store, bathed in late afternoon sunlight. How our customers would feel, stumbling in on an icy February morning, instantly transported to somewhere warm and cozy by the vision of flecked skeins lined up on the shelves. Liz went on a trip to Seattle, in large part to spend time at Churchmouse Yarns, one of the original BT flagships, to get a glimpse of this sheepy goodness in its full glory. We continued to dream and wish and hope. Someday. Maybe.
But. In February of 2016, we composed a brave email, held our breath and pushed send.
And they said yes. Not only, yes, we'd love to talk more about a flagship opportunity, but also, yes. We'd love you to be a part of the surprise release of the newest yarn we've been working on behind the scenes. And yes, Jared would love to be there with you in October to help you launch it in your store.
*angels erupt in heavenly chorus*
We say this — multiple times a week — that this company is Magic. From the moment we began picking out a color palette for our bricks-and-mortar storefront (okay, we just ordered them all!), to our time spent knitting and chatting with Jared in our shop and our home, to the years ordering and merchandising and selling and knitting and designing with each and every one of their yarns, we felt special. We felt seen. We felt, as LYS owners, as important to the Brooklyn Tweed team as they — and their yarn — are to us. The more time that went by, we began to notice — to feel on a cellular level — that this business isn't transactional. This isn't about sales and launches and the bottom line. Yes. We all love yarn. We love to sell yarn. But this is more. This is a relationship. A relationship between many, many people who care deeply about human connection — American wool just happens to be the vehicle.
And then? 2020.
This year has been tougher than we can say. That is: we've said it, that it's spiny and jagged from every angle, and that all we want — all we need — is the occasional soft place to land. We've been pushed to the edge as business owners, as mothers, in our relationships, with our inner selves. Some days are easier than others, some days this is downright excruciating. We are okay — and we are fully not okay. Often the only spark that keeps us moving forward is the knowledge that we are not alone.
It is very, very possible we would not be here today — either as a full-fledged yarn shop, or as two human beings who manage to (mostly) stand upright — without Brooklyn Tweed's Apart Together initiative. Between phone calls and texts with Luigi at all hours of the day and night, emails back and forth with Kel on a daily (hourly!) basis, Brooklyn Tweed yarn became intricately, personally, profoundly woven into everything we do. The kindness, the generosity, the mindfulness of their sentiments, their gestures and their actions, have shown us what we've known all along: that they're not just a vendor, not just a purveyor of things, not only a brand with products to push. These are our people. People who have led this industry into the next decade by writing a story that has changed the American wool narrative forever. It's not about the yarn. It never was. It's about the people.
Melissa & Liz