Mindy McTernan opened her own business, Fiddlehead Yarns at 7511 26th Ave. in 2006. The name “Fiddlehead” comes from her biology background, as fiddleheads are ferns. Her store sees a wide range of customers, visiting for a variety of reasons. That includes fly fishermen looking for certain yarns to fish with! What’s some of the shop’s busiest days? Right before a big snowstorm! That’s right, people stock up on supplies – even knitting supplies – when a big one is predicted!
Mindy first started knitting in 2003. She was a biology teacher until she quit teaching when she had her first of three children. She was home a year, knitting a lot, she says. At the time there was not a lot of options in the area for knitters, so she decided to open up her own shop. It is in the same building as her husband’s business, which makes it convenient.
Fiddlehead Yarns offers a wide selection of yarn, books, patterns, needles and hooks to encourage customers’ creative spirit. Mostly natural fibers are offered, which is different than what big box stores offer. Some cottons and acrylics are available. The shop has expanded since it opened. Once adjacent space became available, a classroom was added as well as a library to hold all the patterns and books.
What does one do with yarn? There is knitting and crocheting. There is a small group of weavers in the area, Mindy says. Then there is the occasional fly fisherman. She sees all different ages, including children. Children’s knitting classes are offered in the summer. She also sees both genders – shopping at the store and taking the classes.
Some customers only knit for charity – such as prayer shawls, and hats for soldiers. There are such humanitarian projects as afghans for Afghans. Fiddlehead Yarns is also a drop-off site for yarn donations. Whether people have leftover yarn from a project, or have changed the material they work with over time, they can bring what they don’t want to the shop. Mindy sends the yarn to people who knit for charities. It’s a form of recycling.
The projects Mindy hears about or sees are varied. Dog sweaters are popular. Socks, shawls, cowls, and hats are very popular. She’s seen customers who knit undergarments even. Some knitters only do a certain item, such as sweaters or socks. With others, there is a natural progression. They start with hats, move on to scarves, then mittens. Some use only fine yarn, some only chunky.
Some customers come into the store knowing what they want, while others are looking for help. Some times a little inspiration is merely needed. Staff assists the customers with what they need, including with fixing problems in a project. In addition, private lessons and classes are available. This customer service is one of the ways that sets Fiddlehead Yarn apart from big-box stores, Mindy believes.
New classes are offered each month – taught by Mindy, her staff, and others. Instructors each have their own area of expertise. The time commitment for the classes vary – some are one session, while others are two or four. Beginning knitting and advanced beginning knitting are two popular classes that are regularly offered. Others are changed up. Project based classes such as how to make socks (many different kinds!) and sweaters tend to be better well received than technique classes. Spinning, fixing mistakes, and intro to crochet are other classes.
Mindy says it’s fun with the classes to see the same project being done with different yarns and knitters. The classes are a social activity, with support and encouragement given to each other. Social gatherings of another sort are also offered: Ditch n' Stitch. On the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 6 p.m., all are invited to bring a project and a beverage to enjoy the company of other knitters at the open work table.
Mindy says it’s fun to see the “pile of yarn turn into something beautiful.” Some customers will bring in their finished product, especially for the classes. The finished projects are all inspiration for others. It’s different to see a pattern in real life, rather than just in a book or magazine.
It’s been busier at the shop the past few summers than in the past. Traditionally the shop is busier in the fall, once the kids go back to school and knitters have more free time. In the summer, they have customers who buy yarn to work on projects during family trips.
The shop draws customers from northeast Illinois who hear about Fiddlehead Yarns by word-of-mouth. Kenosha residents who work in Illinois are spreading the word. There are not a lot of shops like hers over the border, Mindy says. Many travelers also stop by the store. It’s something knitters do: stop at local yarn shops, see what’s different, and buy what Mindy calls “souvenir yarn”.
Mindy says knitting is a form of entertainment. You can make items for yourself or give it all away. Either way, you’ve enjoyed the product for a little while, as you’ve knitted or crocheted it. Knitting picks up when economic times are not that great, because of this entertainment factor. One can spend eight hours knitting a pair of socks.
Mindy loves to create sweaters. She’ll do socks, but isn’t into making blankets or aphgans. She’s usually always knitting something, she says. It’s easy to shove into a bag and do in the car while waiting, or as a passenger in the car while traveling, or while enjoying a Peanut Butter & Jam concert. She usually gets up really early in the morning to knit. She and her staff make many knitting samples for the store.
The KACVB welcomes Fiddlehead Yarns as a new Tourism Partner this year. Mindy wasn’t familiar with us until our own Laura Tyunaitis started taking classes there. Mindy thought partnering with us would be an effective way to get the shop’s name out there, leading to a “good chance of being seen if you don’t know about us already.”
Next time you or someone you know is looking for knitting supplies, be sure to think of Fiddlehead Yarns. And Fiddlehead gift cards make great gifts!!
For more information: (262) 925-6487, www.fiddleheadyarns.com