Book reviews on the Marly Bird site are written by team member Kathryn unless otherwise noted. Today’s book review is of Move The Needle: Yarns from an Unlikely Entrepreneur by Shelley Brander.
Shelley Brander has a successful, creative job in the advertising business when life threw her some curve balls and opportunities and she decided to switch gears and open a yarn store. That led to more yarn stores, more opportunities, scaling back, zigzagging, and moving forward. The Loops Yarn Store led to Knit Stars, as well as the Move the Needle Movement. This book is the story of that journey.
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Falling In Love With Yarn
There is a lot of smart information about this book about the business of yarn. It also has a lot to share about about women-owned small businesses, the challenges of entrepreneurship, turning your hobby into a job and more. It’s all valuable information. But it all starts with the best part, which is that the author is clearly in love with yarn. And her stories of falling in love with yarn are a delight.
I believe wholly in craft as therapy, so I immediately noticed the ways in which she mentions this along her yarn journey. For example, there’s a whole section devoted to her stress and anxiety she felt during her third pregnancy and how only knitting could calm her down, even in the delivery room between pushing! She discusses how the tactile nature of the yarn and the repetitive motion of the needles helped her get through labor.
In other parts of the book she talks about the creative process. She explores the idea of knitting as “painting with yarn.” She could take “nothing” and make something and it was beautiful and satisfying. This, combined with the endless ways to change up a pattern to make it your own (such as through yarn color choices), made it a satisfying creative outlet for her.
Building a Yarn Store For Everyone
How do you feel when you enter your local yarn store? Hopefully, you feel welcome. You see people sitting in there crafting and know that you can ask them for assistance. You get excited to share what you’re working on, get information about the latest yarns, etc. In my experience, we’ve come a long way towards welcoming all different types of people. For example, many yarn stores used to have a snobby attitude towards crocheters, deterring them from shopping at those places, something that has shifted a bit in recent years. That said, we also have a long way to go.
When Shelley was starting out, she experienced some negativity. For example, she took her children into a yarn store. The other people there were appalled that she would bring them with her. They treated her terribly. When she started her own yarn store, she was deeply committed to making it welcoming and inviting for everyone. She wanted it to be accessible and to reflect the joy people take in crafting. This would set her store apart from others. When other stores weren’t doing so, she made yarn winders available so that people could choose luxury yarn and not have to figure out how to wind it at home. She says that she wanted people who came to her store to feel like “yarn should be the happiest part of your day.”
Some Solid Business Sense From Move The Needle
Brander wasn’t successful by pure luck or even just because of her passion. She was also willing to learn how to do business. Here are a few tips from her journey:
- Perfection is the enemy of progress. You can learn this through knitting or crochet; if you’re not willing to make mistakes and frog your work then you’re not going to get very far in learning the craft. The lesson applies to business as well.
- Stick to a creative plan. Put a lot of thought into it. Stick to it. You might have to pivot down the road but don’t rush to pivot too quickly. Trust your gut as well as the evidence. Eventually you will know that you do have to frog or unravel your plans and that’s okay but give it time to work out the kinks first.
- Advocate for yourself, especially financially. The knitting/crochet/yarn business is heavily dominated by women who in our society have often been deterred from advocating for financial compensation for their work. She gives the example of knitters who say, “oh you don’t have to pay me much for that sweater, I just made it while watching TV.” This downplays our value, the value of the craft, and the value of handmade items. Don’t underestimate your value.
- Work on deals that are good for everyone. First, advocate for yourself. But then try to find ways to make that a win for everyone involved whether that’s your customers, the people your collaborate with, your social media fans, or your family.
- Find mentors. We all need them.
Favorite Illustration From Move The Needle
She goes on to say that when a stitch is happy, it’s neither pulling tightly on the stitch next to it nor laying there loose. Many lessons that apply to yarn also apply to life.
Final Fun Fact From Move The Needle
There’s a moving section about the experience that Shelley and her family have with their dog. The dog’s name is Purl. As you may know, Marly has a dog named Purl as well. Meet the pets on the Marly Bird team here.
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