From Dream to Reality: Tolt Yarn and Wool
Originally published in knitscene Handmade 2016
Carnation, Washington’s Main Street is just a few blocks long, or as Tolt Yarn and Wool proprietor Anna Dianich puts it, it runs “from the bridge to the strawberry fields.” There’s a realty company, a mercantile, an Ace Hardware, a tattoo parlor, a bar, and a Mexican restaurant. Until about two years ago, there was also a big, beautiful, empty building next door to the Ace.
Anna was one of the Crafty Aunties, a group of crafters who got together each week to knit and crochet, laugh and cry, and help each other out in countless ways. There seemed to be a lot of women who were hungry for that, and Anna wanted to create a place that was all about providing just that sort of community to the whole town, so she began picturing a yarn store in that empty old building.
An LYS Is Born
When Tolt Yarn and Wool held its grand opening on November 9, 2013, the town had never seen anything like it—people were lined up and down the street waiting for the doors to open. Anna had envisioned a local shop for her little town, but while planning and building it, she had amassed a significant online following. Her Pinterest boards and Instagram photos foretold a beautifully designed and stocked shop—the kind many of us dream of. For the opening, people came from nearby Seattle and farther afield to see it, and they’ve been doing so ever since.
I asked Anna what was most unexpected about the reality of owning a yarn store. She said that in addition to the interest from beyond Carnation’s boundaries, she was surprised to realize that she needed to extend herself beyond those boundaries, in a couple of ways. One way is the behind-the-scenes travel that comes with the job, including trade shows and other special events around the country.
And the other is the financial necessity of that outside interest. Despite its warm embrace and support, Carnation is simply too tiny to keep the store afloat on its own. For that reason and by popular demand, Anna created an online store that features her favorite yarns—chiefly farm yarns with traceable origins.
Anna learned to knit after college at an area yarn store and later inherited her grandmother’s spinning wheel. She fell in love with wool and with traditional, rustic yarns, and she had dreamed of sheep, if not yet of a yarn store. “I’m a hobby farmer,” she says, but sheep are her passion; she loves talking with and supporting farmers. “That’s why I love carrying brands like Imperial, Cestari, and Twirl,” she said. Now she’s in the process of creating her own yarn.
One day, when passing a field of sheep she’d passed many times before, she spotted the farmer, Jeff Rogers, and stopped the car. Jeff and his wife, Katya, raise sheep for meat. Anna asked what happens to the fleece from the sheep, which are a cross between the Clun Forest and Bluefaced Leicester breeds, and before long they’d struck a deal to spin it into yarn. Anna had had her own sheep’s fleece spun before and tagged with the Tolt brand, but the Rogers’ fleece will amount to about 400 skeins—“Our first real yarn line,” she says.
Meanwhile, her goal of creating a crafty community space for the town of Carnation (formerly known as Tolt) has definitely been met. On the night I visited the store in the spring of 2014, she was eager to introduce me to Tami, who comes to the shop every day to knit—the embodiment of Anna’s dream coming to fruition. People ask Anna if she shouldn’t have a store in Seattle instead of outside of it, but that’s not for her: “Here, I don’t have to commute. My kids can walk to the shop after school. It’s perfect.”
Header Image: Carnation Tree Farm in bucolic Carnation, Washington reflects the charm of Tolt Yarn & Wool’s Northwest setting. Photo Credit | Anna Danish