Love Your LYS: Churchmouse Yarns & Teas
Kit Hutchin opened Churchmouse Yarns in September 2000 on Bainbridge Island, just west of Downtown Seattle. For the next ten years, Kit and her staff served a growing number of local, national, and international visitors to the shop who appreciated knitting, crochet, stitching, and the comfort of everyday teas.
In 2010, her husband John closed his own business to join his wife full time. He came on board to build Churchmouse’s website channel. That same year, Churchmouse Yarns & Teas began publishing the knitting and crochet patterns Kit and her team had been designing to help visitors to the shop. Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed shot beautiful photos for each one. Today, more than 80 Churchmouse Classics, Wee Ones, At Home, and Classroom patterns are sold in more than 700 yarn shops across North America and around the world.
What is it like to make it your life’s work to curate craft products and bring them to a passionate audience?
One of the best things about this business is the people I meet: customers, staff, teachers, fellow shop owners, sales reps. The knitting world just seems to self-select good, smart women and men.
Our amazing staff loves fiber, loves customers, and loves helping people make beautiful things with their hands. Being a part of that community—and actually supporting it with great ideas, well-edited products, tried-and-true patterns, and a patient staff that genuinely cares about your success—well, let’s just say that it’s very rewarding.
How have the Internet and social media driven or impacted your work?
We wanted to bring the Bainbridge Island store experience and the sense of community to more and more people, and technology allows us to reach people almost anywhere, and certainly anytime.
It took us several years to create a digital platform that we felt was right. I didn’t want to add just another website to the overloaded online mix. I wanted our site to be a welcoming, calming, and inspiring experience.
As for social media, we brought in a part-time employee in 2011 to start and manage a group on Ravelry, that wonderful online resource for knitters, crocheters, and stitchers. Today, she is a key team member in building and improving churchmouseyarns.com. Another part-timer, a longtime team member, handles our community connections on social media, responding to comments, shooting photos, planning content, organizing moderators, and implementing strategies—in short, creating communities.
What does it mean to be a yarn shop owner in the digital age?
Though some yarn shops are going … online-only, our shop on Bainbridge Island is our flagship, our heart and soul. Our online presence builds on that.
But we see how we can reach people who might be too far away to ever visit, and bring them into our supportive community with today’s digital opportunities.
We started publishing Churchmouse patterns just about the time we started our website. We knew that many knitters and crocheters would enjoy working from digital patterns on their tablets and phones, and we’re pleased to offer that. But our first love is print, so we use a 5-color Kumori offset press to print on sturdy 110-pound card stock. We’re knitters—how things feel in our hands is important.
What do you love most about the industry?
Running a small business takes hard work and dedication. If we were making widgets, we probably would be doing something else by now. But we’re making knitters. We’re helping knitters make beautiful things. We’re showing them how to do things better. That’s worth doing.
What do you want your customers to take away from your work?
In a word: success. We want them to be successful. Oh, and happy. I guess that’s two words!
(Header Images by Jared Flood)
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