It's Difficult to Believe,
But We've Been At This
For Almost 14 years!
When we (Sandra and Larry) started this venture we had just a few basic goals. The most basic of these was, and still is, to be more than be just another yarn shop.
And, we think we've succeeded in that.
To learn more about us, just click the tabs above.
When just 7, Sandra's very grumpy maternal grandmother put a steel crochet hook in her hand, and it was off to the races – tablecloths, curtains, on and on – though mostly home goods. That’s what has made thread crochet the darling of men and women without much money: You can buy a spool of inexpensive cotton thread and make drop-dead-beautiful home accessories. At about that time, her mother began to teach her to make garments from fabric. So, by the time she was a teenager, she was a pretty-good wool tailor and a pretty-fast thread crocheter. But she didn’t know how to knit. Nobody in the family knitted in a serious way.
Years passed until, in her mid-20s, she found a department store with a yarn department. She bought some Brunswick Pomfret – a sport-weight wool that made very, very, very beautiful lightweight fabric. She made a vest for her younger brother. He loved it – until she told him she had made it – whereupon he declared it “homemade” and refused to have anything to do with it. When her family returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, she found a "yarny" ally in her godmother, Doris, who corrected some of the things she had been doing wrong…..and she discovered a yarn store near Macalester College. More Brunswick, this time worsted-weight. And, again, she was off to the races.
Knit and crochet became sidelines in a very busy life, until Sandra’s first husband died. She used knitting to stay alive – and began to take it more seriously. She took workshops, classes, seminars from some of the country’s very best knitters and crocheters. Some of those friendships survive to this day. She began to design her own garments. She also joined a number of local knitting groups, initially on Detroit’s east side. She had learned the hard way that knitting can save your life – quite literally. Later, she learned that those effects were physical: Brain chemistry improves while knitting!
Some years later, she met Larry Hart – a photographer, writer, and marketing and customer-relations expert who had been done in by the economy. So they opened Artisán Knitworks in a small shop on Jefferson Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park. For the third time, Sandra was off and running – this time straight into the Great Recession. The shop survived largely by specializing in handcrafted goods – many from the makers at fiber festivals across the country. This has meant summer and autumn drives to Maryland, New York, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Along the way, she and Larry discovered hidden antique stores loaded with exquisite vintage buttons and jewelry.
Sandra takes justifiable pride in the women, girls, men, and boys (such as the wonderful Alex, who came to learn knitting at age 12) who she taught has to knit, crochet, or both. She also has been glad to bring friends into the shop to teach as visiting experts. Sandra was particularly proud to host, alongside Larry, two years of an event that may well reappear in Chelsea – the Third Coast Fiber-Arts Festival, which attracted dozens of vendors and some of the finest instructors in the United States and Canada.
… and in her spare time, she is Professor of History at Wayne State University, where she writes books and teaches and attends far too many committee meetings. The books can be found on Amazon. The rest can be explored during your first visit to Artisán Knitworks – though not for long. She likes to think of the shop as a “history-free zone.”
One of the things Larry takes personal pride in is being the "face" of Artisán Knitworks most days as Sandra continues her work as a scholar. Admittedly, running the shop was to be a gig that lasted a couple of years ... until Sandra retired from Wayne State. Then the Great Recession. (Sigh.) A couple of years turned into well over a dozen..
Larry is the first to admit, much to his surprise, how quickly he began to love being in the shop -- often seven days a week. It took him about a year to figure out his instant comfort with the business.
Larry had been a writer and photographer who worked with ad agencies and art studios. While looking at all the colors and textures, he realized that fundamentally knitting and crochet are as much a part of the graphic arts as painting and photography. Techniques and media are different, but that's about it.
He also realized that he enjoyed the daily interactions with the women, men, and kids w come into the shop. It's fun.
Frankly, he’s not best knitter around. However, he does understand why customers buy, how they select stores, and what creates customer loyalty. His philosophy is clear: it’s not just the yarn, it’s the customer’s entire experience buying that is important.
Larry produces the marketing and customer communications materials for Artisán Knitworks. He does all the photography and layouts for the the shop's patterns and writes the Purl Daily newsletter.
He has become an advocate for quality customer service and increased male participation in yarn shops. He has taught seminars at The National Needle Arts convention and will bend the ear of anyone who wishes to listen.
Larry's interest in writing and, especially, photography hasn't gone away. In fact, one of the things on his "agenda" is to open up a small gallery/studio at the shop. In the meantime, feel free to check out some of his work. Just click the Larry's Album tab.